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FATHER Project coming to Hubbard County

St. Joseph's Area Health Services Joe Johnson, from left, and Cleo Hartung meet with the FATHER Project's Michelle Bell and Guy Bowling and receive training to become "Parents as Teachers" group facilitators. (Submitted photo)

Area children, fathers and families will have even more resources available to them with the recent announcement that the Fostering Actions To Help Earnings and Responsibility (FATHER) Project expanded to include Hubbard County.

The FATHER Project is being sponsored through St. Joseph's Area Health Services Community Health by Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota, recipient of a $1.7 million "Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood" federal grant that allows the FATHER Project to broaden its efforts to assist low-income, non-custodial dads become more involved in their children's lives and promote responsible parenting.

Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota received the grant from the Administration for Children and Families and the US Department of Health and Human Services. It enables the FATHER Project to expand its work and partnerships into new communities outside the Minneapolis metro area.

St. Joseph's received $67,581 from Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota to administer the FATHER Project locally.

Cleo Hartung, St. Joseph's violence prevention coordinator, will fill a new role as FATHER project coordinator.

"We are excited to embark on this new project that will not only help fathers, but also area communities," Hartung says. "Through collaboration with various agencies and organizations, our goal is to help dads overcome barriers that prevent them from connecting with their children. We look forward to helping fathers contribute to our community and strengthen our families and society."

Joe Johnson has accepted the position of FATHER Project case manager and parenting educator. He is a licensed master trainer/consultant for St. Joseph's Community Health Nurturing Fathers program and facilitates fatherhood skills class sessions.

"Joe will now be a resource to assist dads with everyday life issues and help them have more of a voice in society," says St. Joseph's community health manager, Raeann Mayer.

Services provided through the FATHER Project include case management, parenting and support groups, child support education and proactive guidance, legal services, employment coaching, education support and life skills.

In 2009, St. Joseph's received a Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) Mission and Ministry planning grant to study violence and its complexities for all ages throughout the region. The community came together to examine relational aggression as a key public health issue.

CHI followed up with a two-year Mission and Ministry prevention grant to bring a spectrum of programs to the region and address community concerns. It was at this time the Minnesota Fathers and Families Network (MFFN) made Hubbard County a Fatherhood Leadership Circle bringing local agencies, organizations and providers together to create father-friendly awareness and so that children, fathers and families could benefit.

The FATHER Project is an extension of that effort to create healthy communities for the people in St. Joseph's service region.

Mayer played an active role in helping the community research, identify, and implement change to build supportive environments for area children. "It has been so rewarding to see the community's vision come alive," she says.

Johnson and Hartung have moved into the FATHER Project offices located in downtown Park Rapids at 322 Main Ave. S., Suite #2 (between the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles and Four Seas Chinese Restaurant).

This will be the location of the Fatherhood Skills Classes. The next free 13-week session will be held every Wednesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. starting Feb. 1. Please call Johnson at 218-255-2063.

To learn more about the FATHER Project or for more information, call Hartung at 237-5641.