On April 22 and 23, the Detroit Fathers and Families Coalition will host a conference titled “Strong Fathers/Strong Families” at the Samaritan Center, 5555 Conner. The theme is “Building, Renewing and Healing the Connection.”

Robin Wright King, Detroit Fathers and Families Coalition executive director and author of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone: A Daughter’s Journey to Forgiveness,” said the conference will have three workshop areas: healthy fathers/healthy families; responsible fatherhood; and father/daughter relationships.  A special highlight of the conference will be a banquet on the evening of April 23 called the All Star Dads Father and Daughter Banquet.

King expects 10 to 15 men who have who have fathered their daughters through a variety of means (ranging from the traditional nuclear family to challenges such as unemployment or incarceration) to attend the banquet and be honored.

With regard to men who are doing their best to be a father to their children while incarcerated, King participated in a program earlier this year where children were brought into prison to visit their fathers for a full day of activity. She learned that some fathers are able to maintain relationship with their children because the children’s guardians will bring them in for visitation two to three times a month. The fathers are also able to keep connected with their children through e-mail and/or phone calls.

“It’s creative parenting, but it’s fathers who want to stay in touch with their children,” King said.

This maiden conference will be an annual event of the Detroit Fathers and Families Coalition. King said the organization’s main focus is to try to bring educational resources to fatherhood practitioners  as well as to fathers and families in the Metro Detroit area.

“We’re trying to get fathers to fully understand the value they bring to their children’s lives,” King said. “In doing that, our hope is that some relationship can be reconciled, because father absence is a strong contributor to children living in poverty.”

While the Detroit Fathers and Families Coalition doesn’t mediate between estranged parents of a child, it does have workshops and educational programs where women attend. Those workshops involve talk about how important it is to have positive relationship with the father, because children come first.

“If parents can set aside their issues and center their activities around their children, then obviously we’re all better served, including the children,” she said.

King added that they do the same thing for fathers.

“Research says that the relationship the father has with their children has everything to do with their relationship that the dad has with the children’s mom,” she said. “So if it is a relationship with the mom that doesn’t exist at all, then nine times out of ten, this father isn’t going to have contact with the children.”

She also said the better the relationship between the mother and father, the more likely it is that fathers will be present in their children’s lives.

With regard to the banquet, King would like the community to nominate some of the fathers who will be awarded. Nominations can be made on the Detroit Fathers and Families Coalition website.

To register for the conference, visit www.detroitfathersandfamiliescoalition.org.

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