Even a pandemic could not stop the Sixth annual New York Fathering Conference!
“Fathers are so important to the goals for families, children and the future of this nation,” declared Joyce A. Thomas, Regional Administrator for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as she welcomed attendees to the November 6th session of the Sixth Annual New York Fathering Conference. Ms. Thomas spoke about economic resilience, COVID-19 and how high-risk populations have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The November agenda featured critical health and human services issues for fathers including economic mobility, childcare and mental health.
The Sixth Annual (2020) New York Fathering Conference was certainly not like the first five. For the 2020 conference, the planning committee knew that it wanted to continue, but committee members knew that a different approach would be needed.
Rather than miss an opportunity to better serve fathers, the committee was determined to regroup, persevere and focus on the challenges fathers are facing in the time of COVID-19. Planners quickly developed an exciting list of topics to respond to the unique situations and conditions fathers are confronting during “COVID Time” and identified this year’s conference theme, “Responsible Fathers: Lifelines during COVID-19.”
If 2020 has taught us anything, it has taught us to be flexible and creative. The 2020 approach departed from the traditional conference format. Instead of a one-day event, there were three two-hour gatherings. Unable to convene at the Westchester County Center, as had been the practice since 2015, there was a shift to a virtual platform. Rather than meeting on a weekday, the conference shifted to Saturdays. Approximately, 180 persons participated in this year’s conference sessions.
Keynote speakers included Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Grace Baptist Church; James Rodriguez, Fathers & Families Coalition of America, Inc. and The Honorable Andre Rainey, Mayor of the City of Peekskill, NY. Westchester County Executive George Latimer, Kevin McGuire, Commissioner of the Westchester Department of Social Services, Thomas M. Roach, Mayor of White Plains, NYS State Senators Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Shelly B. Mayer and Thabiti Boone, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity representative. During October and December, focus topics included food insecurity, civil engagement, education, housing, designing effective fathering programming and the role of grandfathers.
The planning committee is already looking ahead to 2021! The committee, led by Frank Williams, Executive Director of the City of White Plains Youth Bureau, included representatives of a wide range of government, non-government and faith-based organizations and community members. Barbara Andrews represented ACF for the sixth year.
Article by: Barbara L. Andrews, ACF, Region 2