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24/7 DAD takes on fatherhood trials

contributed photos A new session of 24-7 DAD will begin on Sept. 8. The group is designed to help Marshall County dads with the challenges of fatherhood.

A new session of 24-7 DAD, a free 11-week group designed to help Marshall County dads with the challenges of fatherhood, will begin Sept. 8.

David Hicks of YSS of Marshall County and Ron Eberline of Center Associates, are the facilitators of the group. Hicks said 24-7 DAD is a national organization that helps new fathers.

“24-7 DAD is a national, science-based curriculum that we follow. It has chapters with specific topics, activities, and discussion points to encourage dialogue, discovery, and growth,” Hicks said. “We utilize their life experience to understand how they see and practice parenting, discuss other options, and guide them towards what may work – and what doesn’t. We don’t tell them what to do or force our beliefs on them as a lot of this class is education through self-discovery.”

Hicks said fatherhood initiatives and parental support were identified as a community gap many years ago and he and Eberline partnered to fill this need. Eberline has been facilitating 24-7 DAD for the past six years in Marshall and Hardin counties, and has been doing the group with Hicks for the past four years.

The group deals with topics such as learning what it takes to become a good role model for your child, exploring ways to improve communication with your child and other family members, learning effective fathering practices, and learning skills to help manage co-parenting situations. Hicks and Eberline said they felt the group was important and needed.

“There are very few — if any — support groups for fathers,” Hicks said. “There should always be opportunities for men/fathers to become better versions of themselves, learn applicable skills to build confidence, and to increase their understanding about their impact on their child(ren).”

The group seeks to help fathers understand their children better and how to co-parent effectively.

“This group can help fathers understand child development, learn age-appropriate expectations of their children, and being able to effectively co-parent when there is a divorce or separation with the mother,” Hicks said.

He said men can struggle with admitting they need assistance, and the group’s discussions can help fathers learn new approaches and practices in a friendly environment.

“Parenting doesn’t end at age 18 – it’s a lifetime commitment. Men often have too much pride to admit they need help or ask for assistance,” Hicks said, “Through our discussions and activities, fathers can learn new approaches and practices through a better understanding of how they were raised. Sharing a meal prior to the group creates a very friendly environment for men to talk without judgement.”

Eberline said the group is looking to help the community in central Iowa. Hicks and Eberline said the 24-7 DAD support group typically sees around three to eight men in each group.

“In previous groups we’ve had brand new dads, fathers attempting to reconnect with their children after an absence, men becoming stepfathers, and a few grandfathers now having to raise grandchildren,” Hicks said. “We’ve had dads who just want to learn as much as they can – especially when children turn into teenagers!”

He hopes men can walk out of the group confident in their parenting abilities.

“While no parent is perfect, knowledge is power,” Hicks said. “Fatherhood is the only job that nearly all of us men feel completely unqualified for — but we do it anyway. We want them to be good co-parents and understand how influential they are with their children.”

Eberline hopes the family life of the fathers that attend the 24-7 group will be impacted for the better.

“Less incidents of domestic violence, less incidents of child abuse and neglect, and improved father-child relations and co-parenting with the mothers of the children,” he said. “This has been accomplished with many fathers over the years.”

24-7 DAD is a collaborative project of Child Abuse Prevention Services and is funded by the Marshall and Hardin County Community Partnerships for Protecting Children (CPPC) and community donations. .

Fathers interested in the program should call Marshalltown YSS at 641-752-2300 or go to YSS.com.

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Contact Marquetta Evans at 641-753-6611 or mevans@timesrepublican.com.

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