Central Connecticut State University was the site of the 5th Annual Dads Matter Too! Conference to bring state organizations together for a summit on fatherhood.
The two-day event took place Thursday and Friday in CCSU’s Alumni Hall from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Department of Children and Families organized the event, with help from other state organizations. Their collaboration with the Department of Social Services this year made the conference a two-day event for the first time.
Anthony Gay, who has worked at DCF for 16 years, created the event to promote fatherhood engagement and bridge the gap between services for mothers and fathers.
“We want equal support for dads,” Gay said. “We just want to level the playing field.”
Gay explained that there are a plethora of services for mothers, but not many offered for fathers.
“At some point fathers just give up,” Gay said.
A fatherless home will have a negative impact on the child, Gay said.
According to statistics provided by DCF, 90% of homeless and runaway children, 63% of youth suicides, 71% of high school dropouts, and 85% of youths in prison all come from fatherless homes.
These are statistics that Gay and state agencies are actively trying to combat with the Dads Matter Too! initiative.
“Our agency at DCF has taken on the responsibility of helping dads,” Gay said.
Vannessa Dorantes is the commissioner of DCF. She has been an employee with DCF for 27 years, and was a professor of social work at CCSU for 14 years. Dorantes opened up Friday’s festivities with an address to the near 300 person crowd.
Dorantes said this event is a unique way to bring state agencies together and to bring discussions to public entities.
“We are looking internally into what we can do and what our services provide,” Dorantes said. “If someone needs help, this conference lets them know what’s out there.”
DCF helps 14,500 families on any given day across their 14 area offices around the state, and are always willing to help more, Dorantes said.
One program that DCF has to target the issue of fatherhood engagement is the Fatherhood Engagement Leadership Team (FELT).
Paul Daigle, who works at the New Britain DCF office, is the co-head of the regional FELT office.
Daigle attended the conference and revered the opportunity to collaborate.
“The collaboration piece is the most important,” Daigle said. “We are trying to see what we can bring to New Britain.”
While he said that networking and learning new techniques are important aspects of the conference, Daigle stressed the importance of sharing the work DCF does to the other state organizations that attended.
“This gives them the opportunity to see the work we do with fathers,” Daigle said.
Some of the agencies with representatives in attendance at the conference were the Department of Public Health, Office of Early Childhood, the Department of Correction, the Department of Education and the Department of Labor.
“All of these organizations are important to collaborate with,” Gay said.
Gay used the example of a father who is out of work and cannot support his child, could turn to the Department of Labor for assistance.
Friday morning’s itinerary included documentary viewings about two men who were wrongly convicted of crimes and the impact the wrongful conviction and subsequent incarceration had on their lives and the lives of their families.
The documentary viewings were followed by Q&A sessions with the now-exonerated men and their now-adult sons.
“These documentaries highlight the systematic challenges that these agencies deal with,” Dorantes said.
More information about both documentaries, 120 Years, and Tre Maison Dasan, can be found online.
The next Dad’s Matter Too! event is a community field day and food truck festival at Sharshon Park in Windsor on Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
More information can be found on the My People Clinical Services Facebook page.
Also coming up is the 7th Annual Community Awareness Day and 5k race. The event takes place on Sept. 21 beginning at 8 a.m. at Hamilton Park in Waterbury.
For more information you can visit www.RunSignUp.com/dads .
Adam Hushin can be reached at 860-801-5046 or at email@example.com.