Ben Wilkes is a Young Fathers Worker at the charity Romsey Mill in Cambridge. Here he shares why he loves working with young dads and explains the difference his work makes.
I have been working with young fathers (14 to 25 years old) for a little over two years now and I consider it a privilege supporting these young lads, walking with them through a small section of their life aiding them in making the transition from being someone who is often still learning to look out for themselves, to one who is competent in caring for a fully dependent human being.
1. It brings new perspectives
Young Fathers approach their role in such a fresh way, expressing new ways of thinking, feeling and ideas about how to raise a child in the modern world. As is the case with other similar supporting roles, the learning that takes place is often both ways!
2. It's inspiring
Having a baby can be a real catalyst for change. I have seen first-hand a young father that is experiencing significant multiple personal challenges yet still be passionately consistent in his desire to be a part of his child's life, which has actually spurred him on to seek and accept help.
3. It gives young dads a voice
Another part of this role that I love is being able to give a voice to the voiceless. Whether in meetings with professionals, negotiating with the mother of the child or simply sharing personal stories of the young fathers, this role enables me to speak up for a part of society which rarely gets a voice. I revel in challenging the common stereotype of young fathers, since what I see on a regular basis is genuine enthusiasm, a sense of purpose and a desire to embrace a new found role in order to be the best father they know how to be.
4. It benefits children
There is a lot of research that shows when the father is actively involved, the child flourishes in many ways. By coming alongside the young father to support their involvement in the child's life there is already the potential for huge benefits. Often this group can feel invisible or insignificant, so by having a dedicated worker, it communicates that they have a very important part to play.
5. It makes a difference to young dads
It would not be right to exclude the young fathers' voice from this article... so the following is a snapshot of comments that I have collected from young fathers who feel they have benefitted from accessing the support of a dedicated Young Fathers Worker:
‘If [this service] wasn’t there, it would be a struggle to communicate and get my point across to the mother of my daughter. I think it’s made the mother a bit more understanding about the situation.’
‘My confidence is a lot better at doing things, I’m more confident around him[baby] I know what to do and what not to do. I’m a better person and a better dad than what I was at the start.’
‘Yea I definitely feel better supported for the birth of my child and raising my child and knowing whatever problem I have I can call up and sort it with him [Young Fathers Worker].’
To mark the launch of the film Down Dog, insideMAN is running a series of articles about fatherhood throughout February and we'd love you to get involved. You can join the conversation on twitter by using the hashtag #MenBehavingDADly; leave a comment in the section below or email us with your thoughts and ideas for articles to insideMANeditor@gmail.com.
For more information about the film see www.downdogfilm.com