Here at Children’s Home & Aid, we put families at the center of our work and when families are strong, children thrive. Isaiah Rogers, a parent who mentors other dads in our Thriving Fathers & Families (TFF) program, is a great example of that. Through TFF, dads like Isaiah are able to connect in a safe space and do what it takes to be to become emotionally healthy and available for their kids––from sharing experiences and providing support to accessing tools and brainstorming solutions for the reality of the challenges they face in their everyday lives
We recently came together in celebration of Isaiah’s commitment to empowering himself and others during his five years of involvement in our program. Isaiah received TFF’s first Outstanding Father Award during a special virtual ceremony that also acknowledged the work of our Blue Bow campaign, which raises awareness about steps we can all take to reduce child abuse and neglect.
Speakers from both Blue Bow and TFF focused on prevention with a purpose, highlighting how parents and caregivers can minimize risk factors and strengthen their families and communities. One of the major takeaways was that dads have an important role to play in the larger picture of a stable, resilient family––regardless of the relationship with the other parent. Sadly, negative narratives often cast an unfair shadow over dads who have the desire to be engaged, responsible, loving parents. Black and brown fathers are judged even more harshly, making even simple challenges more difficult and costly.
With staff, family, friends, and other fathers from his TFF group in attendance, we honored Isaiah for helping to change this narrative through his participation in TFF and his unwavering commitment to becoming a stronger father and creating a healthier community for his family. Mashaun Alston, who was Isaiah’s former navigator and now manages TFF, explains how Isaiah has showed up for both his son and the other fathers in the program. “When Isaiah didn’t have an automobile, he’d get on the CTA Red Line with his son and take him to different neighborhoods, says Mashaun. “They’d go to parks, check out restaurants, and see movies––anything Isaiah could do to forge that connection with his son and give him something he did not have.” In the video below, hear Mashaun’s full remarks.
Over the course of our time together at the event, Isaiah described his former self as a “destroyer of his community,” speaking candidly about the many struggles he has faced. “The way we sit at the table and help each other make solutions, we become brothers; family,” Isaiah explained. In the video below, watch Isaiah accept his Outstanding Father Award and hear how his personal journey of healing has helped to break the cycle of trauma in his family.
As Isaiah shared his experiences, it quickly became clear just how strong the bond is between him and his young son, who stood close to his dad on camera and smiled with pride as program staff expressed the immense impact Isaiah has made in helping to support other fathers as our program has grown. Neil Tucker, a Program Navigator for TFF, reflects on his time working with Isaiah. “One of the hardest things as a navigator is wanting it more than someone wants it for themselves,” says Neil. “Isaiah does not have that problem. He wants it and is willing to grow and works hard to provide for his family. Isaiah is his brother’s keeper and I have seen that reflected consistently with other fathers in the cohort.” In the video below, Neil shares some of his favorite moments with Isaiah.
In our society, it is often taboo for dads or those in fatherhood roles to hash out feelings, mental health challenges, financial obstacles, and parenting struggles. All it takes to debunk this outdated thinking is the passionate engagement of people like Isaiah. Isaiah is now, in his own words, a “builder and keeper of his community.” He has not only unlocked a new path for himself and his family, Isaiah also serves as a testament for other dads and father figures who are actively seeking ways to be strong, aware, and emotionally available to their children to create a brighter future.
We appreciate Isaiah for sharing his story and encouraging other dads to do the same. Thank you to all the dads like Isaiah who are grinding every day in the face of obstacles big and small and providing young people with opportunities to see positive examples of what fatherhood can be.
Recognizing that family is the most important ingredient for child well-being we launched our new strategic plan in June to guide our agency in partnering with families, in all their forms. Together, we are working to bridge a path to a future where all parents and caregivers have the tools and supports that they need to strengthen their families.
Visit our Thriving Fathers & Families page for more information on the program and updates about the current cohort of fathers who are learning together!