Counselling pilot for fathers with children

Social worker Sharon Ellis-Hamill, MPP Jim McDonell, SDC Executive Director Alex de Wit, CSS Executive Director Ray Houde, program coordinator Sarah Good and CAS supervisor Dawn Smits launch the Caring Dads Program in SDG&A on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 at the Counselling and Support Services of SD&G office on Montreal Road. The referral program will help fathers who have abused or are at risk of abusing their children. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

SD&G – Recognizing a gap in counselling services for dads, the Social Development Council has launched a pilot project to help fathers who may be capable of or have abused their kids, including in front of a spouse.

The SDC, in partnership with several social agencies, announced Friday the Caring Dads Program at its offices on Montreal Road.

Local MPP Jim McDonell was on hand to formally announce the start up funding of $74,600, which will allow for staffing and to provide five rounds of the 17-week training for fathers over the next year.

Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous training where people meet and discuss in the social group, Counselling and Support Services Executive Director Ray Houde said this will be a more “manualized” structured program.

The 20 program facilitators will be trained on Monday and Tuesday – 16 of those are referrals from the Akwesasne Family Wellness program from First Nations across the country.

Social Development Council Executive Director Alex de Wit explained that a person from the Caring Dads Program will come to Cornwall to mass train the staff instead of sending people to London, Ont. for training, thus making the money go further.

The program has two part-time staff: program coordinator Sarah Good and social worker Sharon Ellis-Hamill.

De Wit said the program has been successful in order regions of the world like the United Kingdom and Hong Kong.

The first class of five fathers is scheduled to run on Wednesday (Sept. 21).

Part of the money ($2,000) will be used for a third party evaluation of the program once it’s complete and De Wit hopes they can apply to the Trillium Foundation again for continued funding.

Fathers are brought into the program through referral or self-referral.

The referral agencies are Counselling and Support Services of SD&G, Glengarry Inter-Agency Group (GIAG), Victim Services of SDG&A, The Children’s Aid Society of SD&G and the Cornwall Community Hospital.

Self-referral is done through caringdads@sdccornwall.ca or by calling 613-662-7192.

Like the Domestic Offender Action Plan, which ran last year, a number of agencies are moving toward proactive counselling.

De Wit compared it to fixing the tap rather than putting a bucket under a leaky faucet.

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