The Christmas story, a young dad and mum, homeless at Christmas, reminds us of the other young parents we have met struggling as they step into their new responsibilities.
Nii Anum works with Spurgeons (Dad.info’s parent charity) as a Senior Practitioner at Feltham Young Offenders Institute. Here he shares how he helped a young offender become a good dad to his newborn son.
Josh* was sixteen when he arrived at Feltham. But it was several months before he mentioned that he was going to become a dad – at which point, I started working with him.
Needing a father figure
Josh only has memories and photos of his own dad who left when he was very young. His grandfather took on the role of father – Josh adored him. But when Josh turned eight, his granddad died. With that father figure gone, Josh spiralled out of control. He loved his mum, but she found it hard to discipline him and he got involved with gangs and into trouble.
I had only six weeks to work with him before his court case came up. If guilty, he would go to prison as he was turning eighteen. We met for an hour or two every week. Using a study pack about fatherhood, we talked about his experiences, and how they helped shape him. We talked through his ideas on masculinity and fatherhood, and that it was OK to be vulnerable.
A New Baby
A week after his little boy was born, we arranged a video call for Josh to meet him online. His son, so like him, was sleeping peacefully in his mother’s arms.
Josh sat silently for ages, staring at this small person he’d helped to create, transfixed with wonder.
I knew all the discussions we’d had were running through his mind – that this was the turning point, his opportunity to leave gangs and crime behind so that his little son didn’t get drawn into that life too.
Josh and I met once more, just before his court case. I reminded him how important it was to put what we’d discussed into action. I said, ‘It will be hard – your son will wake you in the night, you’ll have to change your plans and how you make money for the sake of your boy to give him the future you want him to have. But you can do it.’
Supporting young dads
Josh was quiet for a moment. Then he said ‘I want to thank you from deep down’.
Josh won his court case and got released. He’s home now – and with support, he is learning to play an active and positive part in his son’s life – learning to be the father he never had.
* Name has been changed
Dad.info is a project of Spurgeons, a UK Children’s Charity. To find out more about Spurgeons work both with offenders and in communities – https://spurgeons.org/.