By Mairgread Gray
WORCESTER – The role of fathers has changed, says Christopher Nelson of Pernet Family Health Service.
“It used to be ‘provide and protect.’ Now, fathers are expected to share in all the responsibility. That has to become more normal. Taking care of children has become more normal,” he said.
Mr. Nelson, director of Family and Support Services, and coordinator of the Fathers and Family Program at Pernet, in a phone interview, described some of what Pernet does for fathers. One of the events hosted by Pernet, Fathers Fest, took place on Saturday. There was fun for all family members, especially for the fathers, who turned out at Institute Park on Salisbury Street.
“Fathers Fest is a celebration of responsible fatherhood. The importance of fathers – they are increasingly important to the lives of their children. Their role has changed; now they are expected to play more of a role in the day-to-day care of children,” Mr. Nelson said.
Fathers, at this time, have greater responsibility to teach and promote healthy masculinity.
There are three groups for fathers at Pernet. Paul Mina, a former participant in the Fathers Parenting Support group, now runs it. Another group is at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction where Pernet runs a 10-week parenting group that is part of a substance abuse treatment opportunity program, called STOP. Mr. Nelson runs this group.
Another group run by Mr. Mina, is for the residents of Hector Reyes House, a residential house for Latino men.
“One other additional thing we do is offer individual short-term case management and support services,” Mr. Nelson said. He himself is a father to three children. The eldest is a son, 16; a son, 15; and the youngest is a daughter, 12.
When fathers play a role in a healthy relationship, the children do better in school and have a higher self-esteem, according to Mr. Nelson. He added that boys are less likely to commit crimes if the father is involved in a healthy relationship with them.
“Skills and knowledge – it’s learning as you go. It’s amazing – I never met a man that doesn’t want to be a good father (even if he is) incarcerated, he still wants to be a good father. It’s not the case that they don’t want to be a good father – it’s emotional – they want to be a good father. A lot of them can be reached,” Mr. Nelson said.
“One of the things happening in this group – men need to become emotionally literate. Men need to understand if they can express their emotions; they will not be seen as less of a man,” Mr. Nelson emphasized.