San Bernardino Fatherhood aims to address Black infant mortality, helps dads build their skills
Recognizing higher rates of Black infant mortality in California, the Perinatal Equity Initiative, or PEI, was launched in 2018 to address causes of this disparity and look at best practices. Under the PEI, San Bernardino Fatherhood, a nonprofit based in Highland, was contracted by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health to provide fatherhood services. Working with the fathers and partners of pregnant and parenting African American women with a child under a year old, the organization aims to assist in the elimination of Black infant mortality.
Recognized by the state as an impactful intervention, the organization’s 24/7 Dad program, educates men on the tools, behaviors and attitudes needed for fathers to help their children thrive. The program provides 12 group sessions that each last two hours. Participants explore their family history and experiences with fatherhood and then learn the characteristics of a 24/7 Dad. Characteristics include self-awareness, self-care, fathering, parenting and relationship skills. Participants are also given guidance on maintaining a positive co-parenting relationship with their child’s mother. The next 24/7 Dad program will be offered at the end of July at a location that has not yet been announced.
“We help them to understand that when they are a good man, that rolls over into being a father,” said Ryan Berryman, the organization’s executive director. “When they support the mom, they are supporting their child who is their future and their legacy.”
San Bernardino Fatherhood offers multiple programs including an “Understanding Dad” program over eight sessions, which raises mothers’ awareness of the importance of a father’s involvement in a child’s life.
The organization’s Boot Camp for New Dads is a one-day, three-hour workshop for new and expecting dads. The Boot Camp involves veteran fathers who share their experience and encourage rookie dads. New fathers are encouraged to ask any and all question that they have concerns about in a supportive environment. New dads may learn about supporting new moms, breast feeding, changing diapers, safety and many other topics. The program is made possible in part by a grant from the IE Black Equity Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation.
The organization also works to connect fathers to the community and to pay forward the support they are given. Fathers are encouraged to volunteer at schools their children attend and to volunteer in their communities, becoming positive role models.
Fathers are also encouraged to participate with their families at events hosted by San Bernardino Fatherhood throughout the year. Events include the annual Daddy Daughter Dance, which this year was attended by more than 300 people. Additional activities have included Inland Empire 66ers baseball games, jazz concerts and a San Bernardino Raceway family event.
“This creates stronger families and healthy communities,” Berryman said. “There is a lot of research showing that when fathers are involved, kids do better in school, have fewer behavioral problems and infant mortalities decrease. There are so many positives in the community when fathers do well.”
There are very few programs available for fathers who need support to overcome a family history of absent fathers and poor parenting, according to Berryman. He believes that the program gives hope to men who want secure and strong families. He also feels that strong positive fatherhood leads to stronger communities with less crime and violence.
“We want people to recognize the importance of fathers and not give up on them,” Berryman said. “We have a lot of good men out there and fathers who love their children.”