Robert Taylor and his wife Adjoa have six children, five girls and one boy. As a father, Robert understands the challenges that many men face rearing their children.
“Rearing children in today’s society requires parents to provide spiritually, financially, emotionally and academically,” said Taylor. “All of the data shows that these things are more difficult to provide for children when their fathers are absent.”
Thus, Taylor set out to do something about it. He applied for and received a grant to address the problems. The program is operated through the Metro Nashville Health Department.
“We began the program to address the issues that lead to and perpetuate father absence,” he said. “The goal of the New Life Program is to make Nashville one of the healthiest places to raise a child. We do this by providing parenting workshops, marriage and relationship workshops along with workshops to increase a father’s ability to be economically stable.”
To that end, the program provides job readiness training, case management and a newly added subsidized employment component that will employ approximately 30 program participants by September.
“We believe that the overwhelming majority of fathers want to be actively involved in the lives of their children. However, they lack the skills and tools to make that happen. During a father’s matriculation through the New Life program, he will gain the skills and tools necessary to effectively parent his children, provide for his family financially and communicate effectively with the mother of his children. We hope to serve at least 500 fathers per year which will impact approximately 1300 children.”
Wonder how it started?
“I was working as the Male Involvement Coordinator on the Metro Health Department’s Music City Healthy Start grant,” Taylor said. “In that role I facilitated our Boot Camp for New Dads workshops. These workshops worked with fathers to provide them with the skills and confidence necessary to care for a newborn. At the conclusion of one of our workshops hosted at Nashville General Hospital at Meharry, a father asked me if he could have some of the diapers that I used during the diaper changing demonstration. I initially thought it was an odd request but quickly realized that the young man did not have the financial resources to purchase the diapers he needed for his newborn. That is when I realized that as a public health professional I can provide all of the education possible but in order to facilitate the behavior change necessary to have better outcomes, I would need to find a way to help these fathers address the barriers they face that prevent them from providing a healthy lifestyle for their children. This was the incident that spawned the ideas that helped me develop the New Life Program.”
The community can help by continuing to refer fathers to the program. Eligible fathers are those who live in Davidson County and do not live with their children full-time and have a household income that is at or below 200% of the poverty level.
“The community can also be supportive of fatherhood in general and encourage these young men to get involved and remain involved in their children’s lives while supporting them in their journey to be more actively engaged in their children’s lives.”
Individuals in the community can contact their local representatives to let them know that we need a program like this to continue.