Lutherans in the Twin Cities

How to become a fantastic father

Zachary Tift, with daughters Maryah, 7, and Morgan, 1

Zachary Tift, with daughters Maryah, 7, and Morgan, 1

New course at Concordia U., St. Paul, has this focus.

Concordia University in St. Paul aims to do its part in raising the skills of those involved in training today’s and tomorrow’s fathers. Next month it will launch a new certificate program in fatherhood training. Baccalaureate and master’s degrees will also be offered.

The fatherhood program is offered through Concordia’s School of Human Services. This 13-credit-hour program is being offered in cooperation with the St. Paul Urban League and the National Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families. The program is billed as the nation’s first in fatherhood to be offered through “distance learning” techniques that include communication by means of E-mail, chat rooms, and other Internet resources. Fatherhood program practitioners from around the nation can participate online.

“Most fathers learn from trial and error, and this process can be very difficult — for the father and the family as a whole,” said Dr. Jim Ollhoff, associate dean of Human Services at Concordia University. “Family practitioners with fatherhood training can help get families off to a good start or help struggling families become self-sufficient.”

Initial courses include the introductory “Fathers and Fam-ilies” as well as “Operational Management for Fatherhood.” The program is designed to help practitioners develop a strong knowledge base in child development, family systems, legal issues around parenting, adult education and community resources.

The program will aim to develop specific skills in teaching strategies, working with cultural differences, and advocacy for individuals. “This advanced training will better equip these professionals for their work with fathers and families,” Olhoff explained.

Clarence Jones, who works with the Fathers and Family Initiative project with the St. Paul Urban League, said he has worked for six years with non-custodial fathers and found that many young fathers want to improve their skills. However, he said many social service agencies ignore fathers … [and] don’t even have programs for [them]. He’s noted that some young fathers seem good at working with other young fathers but need more structure for their efforts.

The new Concordia program will do that. Jones, who is working on a degree in youth development at Concordia, saw the university as being able to advance the skills of fathers. He felt comfortable with the school as well as its distance learning technology that will make the program available to practitioners around the country.

The focus of the program may be broadened; through an early November forum at Concordia, the issues facing immigrant fathers bringing up children in a new society were discussed.
One of the early enrollees in the new Concordia program is Zachary Tift, a stay-at-home father who works part-time with the St. Paul Urban League Fathers and Family Initiative. Tift’s own dad is active in the fatherhood movement, and Zachary feels the Concordia program can help move more people from the para-professional to the professional stage in the fatherhood effort. Tift, who became a parent at 18, says he has always wanted to be involved in human services and the Concordia program will help further his dream.

Founded in 1893, Concordia University is one of only eight universities in the nation offering a family studies graduate program accredited by the National Council on Family Relations. It is the only institution among those eight to offer the distance education option, making the program accessible to practitioners throughout the country.

The St. Paul Urban League was founded in 1923. Its mission is to assist African American and other culturally diverse groups in achieving social and economic equality. The National Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families is a national individual membership organization with the mission of building the profession of practitioners working to advance the involvement of fathers in the lives of their children.

For more information on the fatherhood program, contact Con-cordia University, 651-641-8278.