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Involved dads feeling invisible [CA]

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Gordon, Andrea
Publication Date: 
17 Jun 2006

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Canadian dads are more active in their children's lives than ever before, but often feel isolated and shut out of programs and services aimed mainly at mothers and kids, according to a national research project on fatherhood.

That was one of the messages from 300 fathers interviewed by the Father Involvement Research Alliance, project director Kerry Daly said yesterday.

But while they may be changing diapers, reading to their kids, helping with homework and taking them to the doctor, dads say they feel invisible and have a hard time finding the support they need, whether it's through childcare classes or a network of other men willing to share the real ups and downs of parenthood.

"We had an overwhelming response from dads who wanted to talk to us," says Daly. "And that's a shift from 10 years ago when it was like pulling teeth to try to get dads to say anything about their experiences."

The five-year project, which involves 10 universities and 25 community groups, is halfway through its mandate and will now focus on developing programs and services to meet the needs of a diverse range of dads. Those include teenage fathers, new immigrants, same-sex parents, fathers of special needs children, separated or divorced dads, aboriginal fathers and men with kids under 18 months.

Investing in fathers pays off for the whole family, says Daly. Research has overwhelming shown that the role of fathers is key to children's cognitive, emotional, social and moral development. When dad is involved, kids do better and mothers feel supported and under less pressure. It's also good for the overall health of men to be engaged in family life and nurture their kids.

- reprinted from the Toronto Star