BCAPOP Conference Highlight: Jeff McLean “Supporting Dads: Tips, Tricks and Strategies 101”
Jeff McLean has been professionally involved with families for the past 15 years in both BC and Alberta and has presented workshops on healthy paternal involvement across western Canada. He understands many of the current issues faced by parents and families, as he and his wife Kristi have three children, ages 13, 11 and 9. He currently supervises Abby Dads, and has worked with fathers directly for the last 10 years. “What gets dads through the door? How do we make them feel a part of the solution and not part of the problem? What could ‘Supporting Dads’ look like in your community?” In his interactive workshop at the BCAPOP 2013 Conference in October, “Supporting Dads: Tips, Tricks and Strategies 101”, Jeff will provide tools and strategies to help encourage dads in the midst of pregnancy and beyond.
Jeff’s passion is to encourage men to take a risk and participate actively in the lives of their children. Jeff started his career working with at-risk adolescents in Alberta. He says that he “grew up with them” as they became young dads, and as he and his wife started their own family. The move to Abbotsford ten years ago was prompted by a desire to be able to have their grandparents be able to be an active part of his own children’s lives, and it was then that Jeff started working with Abby Dads.
The Abby Dads Father Involvement Program was founded in the mid-1990’s by Deb Jarvis of Abbotsford Community Services to run in parallel with their successful New Beginnings Young Parent Program. Deb was one of the co-authors of the PHAC NPF “My Daddy Matters Because” Report that led to the creation of the PHAC NPF “My Daddy Matters Because” Fatherhood Toolkit available here.
There are multiple threads to Abby Dads:
- The New Beginnings School Completion Program supports fathers who desire to complete high school or upgrade for college or university. Classroom facilities are hosted onsite at WJ Mouat Secondary School in Abbotsford, and quality childcare facilities are available for children up to 3 years old.
- Courses and groups are offered throughout the school year to provide help, support and encouragement for fathers and families. Anger Awareness Level I, II and III groups were created in the summer of 2005 at the request of some fathers who struggled with healthy ways to manage and release their anger and frustration. Topics include sharing your own story and the impact it has had; conflict resolution styles; and triggers, coping mechanisms and healthy diffusion strategies. These highly interactive groups are run on request. The Triple P Parenting Program is a fun, interactive parenting group that allows parents to explore and learn from other parents in similar situations. The seven sessions explore significant areas of parenting young children such as: positive parenting, mind and body development, managing misbehavior, and planning ahead. At least two Triple P Parenting programs are run per year for both fathers and mothers, with food, transportation and childcare provided.
- My Daddy & Me is a Saturday morning drop-in program, held at the New Beginnings Daycare, and was created with father friendliness in mind, creating a comfortable and safe atmosphere for fathers to interact positively with their kids. The morning starts with a King’s breakfast, usually consisting of bacon, pancakes, eggs and sausages, and then continues with all sorts of different interactive events to keep father and child connecting. Depending on the weather, much of the second half of the session is spent outside, racing tricycles, playing on the playground equipment, and connecting together. The Daddy & Me breakfast offers lots of opportunities for learning by osmosis; observing examples of other parents in action gives both positive and negative examples of parenting interactions and allows participants to observe, learn from others and make choices that work for them individually. The program has demonstrated success in building strong relational links.
- The Fathers’ Support Worker is available for individual support on topics such as: relationships, employment, housing needs, parenting, anger and frustration, legal issues, health, social assistance, etc. The discussions are confidential, unbiased, and coffee is included.
- Monday Night Hockey is a pivotal gateway program that helps many dads through the door of Abby Dads: “I’m not coming for help; I’m just coming to get to know these guys.” Every Monday evening, fathers of young children congregate at the Ag-Rec in Abbotford to don a jersey in a recreational game of floor hockey. The goalies are in full gear, and skills range from NHL stars to backyard “wanna be’s”. Monday Night Hockey is an excellent entry point for high-risk guys. There is lots of informal mentoring, chatting, encouragement and positive examples. Jeff says that experience has taught him, “That’s how most guys learn, is by watching others and interacting.”
Jeff also works as a co-facilitator in the Abbotsford Community Services Best for Babies program, which welcomes dads as well as mums. In his BCAPOP workshop, he and his colleagues from the Best for Babies program will talk about how the interaction works in this setting, and the learning there is for new parents seeing a male presenter and role-model in this context.
Check out the Abby Dads website: http://www.abbydads.ca/