written by: Ed Davies

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines power as the possession of control, authority, or influence over others; and the ability to act or produce an effect. But we know power is not equitably possessed nor produces fair effects. Read More

For many low-income fathers of color, power is not readily realized as something they have and can use to improve their lives. Most men come into Power of Fathers feeling crushed by systems, by policies, by organizations and by people they feel have taken their power. Fathers feel demoralized to the point of giving up.

That is why Power of Fathers focuses first on helping fathers recognize they already have power within them to overcome the challenges they inevitably face.

How do we define power? In our program, power is defined as knowing your person, your place, and your purpose. With that knowledge our dads – or anyone for that matter – truly has the power to improve their lives, their families and their communities.

Know your person. It is important to know who you are, where you come from (your family history), and what has happened in your life to make you the person you are today. Often times, our fathers do not have a strong self-identity or understanding of who they are as human beings, and more importantly why they are. We help them explore these aspects of themselves. Gaining this understanding gives our dads a strong foundation upon which to build.

Know your place. It is not enough for me to just know my name and my history. It is not enough just to know that I am a man. I must also know what it means to be a black man, who is a non-custodial father, living in an urban community. It is important for me to know how society views and values me in this context. But it is most important to determine my own value and self-worth in this society. Our fathers share that society paints a largely negative image of them; often times devaluing, disregarding, or demonizing their existence. This can have a devastating effect on our fathers, lowering their self-worth and discouraging many of them from even attempting to engage because fathers feel (and have been shown) they are not worthy of what society has to offer. Therefore, we help dads determine their own self-worth and define for themselves their place in this world.

Know your purpose. Finally, we challenge dads to identify their gifts and talents; and determine how they can utilize these strengths to improve themselves and the world around them. What good is a talent if we do not utilize it? What good is a gift that is not shared. Many of our fathers feel because they do not have enough money, or enough education, or enough of many other things, they do not have much to offer their children or their communities. Power of Fathers emphasizes that each of us has gifts and talents within us – even the gift of time or our mere presence – that can be utilized for good. We support dads in identifying these gifts, and developing a plan and a commitment to use their treasure to benefit themselves and others.

Person + Place + Purpose = Power. We call this the Power Base; the building blocks for all we want our fathers to accomplish.

When we first started Power of Fathers, we immediately focused on improving men’s roles as fathers and co-parents. We were not very effective because so many of our dads came into the program needing to address their own individual issues before being able to focus on their roles for and with others. When we began helping dads develop their Power Base first and foremost, we started seeing better results – improved attitudes, increased engagement, and a greater sense of hope.

Fathers shared that for the first time they felt someone genuinely cared about their well-being and interests; not just their responsibilities to others. We gave them a safe space to be men, and to explore (and improve) the men they are. The lesson for all of us – whether we are working with men, women, young or old people– focus on supporting them in developing a strong self-identity, a strong self-worth, and strong self-efficacy. With knowing their person, their place, and their purpose, they will be truly powerful to improve themselves, their families, and the world.

Please share your thoughts, comments, and suggestions on other ways we can help those we support be more powerful.