The Caring Dads program was a lifesaver for Jeff

The group intervention program for men who have abused, neglected or exposed their children to domestic violence literally changed Jeff’s life.

“I had general anger issues prior to it. I was looking for something to keep checking in weekly with somebody to just kind of keep up,” says Jeff, who took the program through the Men’s Counselling Service with the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter (CWES).

“When I went into the counselling, it was probably a couple of months from separating from my children’s mother. I took it on my own. Basically, I was noticing I was more frustrated with life. I was generally a grumpy person. I was also noticing it at work. I was looking for a way to regulate my emotions better.”

His children were bearing the brunt of those emotions as they manifested into anger towards them. It was never physical abuse, but emotional, and Jeff sought out help to become a better person, especially for his two children who are now ten and five years old.

Jeff began his path to wellness in the summer of 2019 where he learned how to deal with his anger and emotions, as well as how parenting patterns impacted children.

“It helped me understand how some unhealthy behaviours don’t foster a good upbringing in children,” he says. “I’m in a much better place now. A lot of those issues are under control now.”

“The program made me a better person, a better father.”

“It made me notice some of my shortcomings… bad parenting patterns that I’m not using anymore… I knew that it wasn’t right for me to be that cranky and authoritarian all the time. I wanted my children to feel confident and happy around me.”

Wade Belt, a therapist with the Men’s Counselling Service in Calgary, says the first Caring Dads group began in Calgary in the fall of 2019. The program is about 17 weeks long. Each week has specific topics to be discussed. Since its inception, two cohorts have run, reaching about 20 men.

“The program is to help men change how they’re fathering. That includes how they’re treating their kids, obviously, but also how they’re treating their partners and how that can negatively impact their relationship with their kids if they’re not treating their partners well,” says Belt.

“Some of the biggest things I’ve seen changed first-hand is how they relate to each other in the group, how the group kind of ends up leaning on each other, opening up and being honest with each other, mostly about how they’re not proud of things they’ve done in the past. The guys are supporting each other to be better dads and be better partners or husbands – to challenge themselves to make changes as to how they’re behaving.”

The Caring Dads program was started in 2001 in Ontario

“The reason we started the program is that it seemed that there really was a substantial gap in what was happening to address kids who had been experiencing violence in their homes, in particular kids who had been exposed to domestic violence and kids who had been abused by their fathers,” says Dr. Katreena Scott, Lead Program Developer, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto and the Canada Research Chair in Family Violence Prevention and Intervention.

She says the Caring Dads program was specifically designed from the premise that violence against women and violence against children are intricately intertwined, and that these two issues both can (and should) be addressed together.

The program gives men the tools, opportunity and impetus to change

“Participation in the program leads to reduced hostility in men, less over-reactive discipline, more respectful co-parenting, more involvement in positive relationships between fathers and kids. Also, partners report less experience of domestic violence,” says Scott.

“Our aim is to work with a high-risk group of fathers. So, part of Caring Dads is really thinking about the fact that we want children to be able to benefit from their father’s participation in this program. Part of the other role of Caring Dads is to work with dads to do everything we can to prompt and promote change.”

If you are interested in joining a Caring Dads program call: 403-299-9680.

Author

  • Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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