Dads working for a second chance at fatherhood [audio]

 An ARC service provider chats with a father involved after the Parents Cafe. (Ann Marie Awad/for NewsWorks)

An ARC service provider chats with a father involved after the Parents Cafe. (Ann Marie Awad/for NewsWorks)

June 30th will mark one year since Robert Young’s fiancee died, straining the connection with his kid. “When she overdosed, her parents got temporary custody of my daughter,” he said.

But there’s a way for him to get his 14-month-old daughter back. That’s what brings him to the Parent Cafe at the Philadelphia Department of Human Services Achieving Reunification Center, (ARC).

This week was the third Parent Cafe, a special one just for dads. They are not just a place to talk shop. The idea is to bring parents together in guided conversation in the hopes that building relationships creates more effective parents. The model was originally developed by an Illinois-based group called Be Strong Families, and since then, the group has trained more than 400 people nationwide to lead Parent Cafes.

Demond Spicer is a graduate of a similar program at ARC, and helped to lead this week’s Parent Cafe.

“Fathers don’t get the nod that often,” Spicer said. “A comedian once said ‘all daddy get[s] is the big piece of chicken.’ That’s all daddy get[s].”

Spicer, a father of four, was recently homeless and while he has been attending workshops at ARC, his kids have been living with family, in kinship care. Since he started the program, he has found housing. Next month, a judge will determine whether he gets sole custody of his kids, or if they go with their mother. 

“I’m gunning for full custody because I’m just that cool of a dad,” he said. 

One of the basic tenets of the Parent Cafe model is “we all need help sometimes.” When it comes to being a father, who better to help than another dad?

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.