College of Health and Human Services professor Jeffrey Shears recently partnered with local nonprofit organization, Communities In Schools, to host the Mecklenburg County Fatherhood Summit.
The event, which took place on Thursday, July 11, at UNC Charlotte Center City, drew nearly 200 attendees. The Fatherhood Summit is part of a larger initiative to bring greater attention to the importance of offering resources and programs for fathers in order to increase the number of men involved in the lives of their children.
According to Shears, planning for this event began after he realized there was a gap in community programs that addressed the needs of children and mothers but often left out the fathers. “Those of us who were working with programs geared toward teen mothers realized that there was a significant void in resources and support for fathers, especially the fathers of the children whose mothers were being helped through the programs.”
The major goals of the Fatherhood Summit were to promote community awareness of the importance of fathers, offer a platform for like-minded people to come together and complete a needs assessment.
“This was a first-time event that received a lot of participation from dads as well as those in the community who work with dads (practitioners),” said Shears, a faculty member in the Social Work Department. “Overall, we were happy with the response from the community. Many people, even seasoned dads, said they gained and learned a lot.”
Shears presented preliminary data from an earlier needs assessment survey. He is still collecting responses, but currently more than 100 men have completed the instrument. Final results will be released this fall.
During the summit, there was a preview of the documentary “Spit ‘in Anger,” which features Shears. The film, scheduled to be released this fall, addresses the underlying issue of anger that resides in young black males as a result of not having a nurturing relationship with their fathers.
“This work is very important because it emphasizes why we need to support fathers… they affect our families not just in the short-term but for generations,” Shears said. “This becomes super important with men and boys because the reality is that they learn through modeling.”
With the success of the Fatherhood Summit, organizers anticipate forming a Charlotte-Mecklenburg fatherhood coalition. Shears noted that there is just one ongoing fatherhood program available locally, and it is only offered through the Sheriff’s Department to fathers who are incarcerated or under correctional supervision.
The group also plans to launch a website to offer a one-stop resource for fathers and other community members.