This years recipient of the Lozier Award for Excellence in Father Involvement Practice is the
Engaging fathers takes intentional decisions that begin to open doors for opportunities to support fathers in communities. With much foresight, in 2002 the Board of the LAMP CHC made a conscious decision to become a leader in engaging fathers in Ontario. This coincided with the introduction of Ontario Early Years Centres (OEYC), of which LAMP was the lead agency in south Etobicoke (Toronto). The decision was made to hire a male staff worker as the Fathering Lead since they believed that reaching men required a male presence. This was an ambitious and courageous decision. In 2003, Brian Russell was hired into the position and the Dads Today program was born.
Over the past number of years, LAMP has been true to its initial vision. They consistently give support and resources to the fathering initiative in south Etobicoke by allowing new ideas and programs to be introduced. This has allowed for the development of a variety of connection points for fathers.
- Dads Time has been running since 2004. This is a bi-monthly drop-in for dads and their children on Tuesday evenings. It gives them a chance to play together, share some dinner, and connect with other dads.
- Dads and Kids: In Action is a Saturday morning program run once a month. This offered a variety of activities, like hikes, gym days, read ’n’ swims, and picnics in the park.
- Three parenting programs for fathers are delivered each year. These allow dads to discuss issues with their children, their relationships, and their role as a father with other men. Many of these fathers are involved in family court, custody decisions, or probation.
- From 2008 –2011, one of the fathers who was highly involved in the Dads Today programs worked with Brian to organize Dads Count, an annual conference for fathers that took place in early June in honour of Father’s Day.
- Since 2012, LAMP has hosted the Father’s Day Family Festival. There were lots of activities for families to take part in: jumping castle, games, crafts, face painting, classic car show, climbing wall, and a bar-b-q. The hit of the day was the Dads Olympics, where fathers raced to change a diaper on a doll, hang some laundry, install a car seat, ride a tricycle, and feed toddler food into a melon.
- Online connection with dads is done through www.dadstoday.org and through a Facebook page and Twitter account.
But not only does LAMP serve the fathers in its local community, but in their efforts to be a leader in father involvement they hosted and funded four Strategies for Working with Fathers conferences. Beginning in 2004 and being offered every 18 months, these conferences saw people from across Canada gather to learn about engaging fathers, discovering innovative programming for reaching fathers, and networking around the issue. Around 100 people attended each of the conferences.
LAMP has also been an invaluable support for Dad Central Ontario. Since 2006, LAMP has provided four hours per week for Brian to take leadership in the Steering Committee. It also provided use of office space, phone, and other logistics that supported the efforts and goals of Dad Central.
It just goes to show that intentional decisions held onto over the long haul are how we leave an impression when engaging fathers in our communities. LAMP’s commitment and persistence is a model. They deserve the recognition of the Lozier Award of Excellence in Father Involvement Programming.