3 min read

Mental Health Matters… for Dads Too!

Carya and Families Matter have joined forces to provide fathers who are learning new parenting skills with an opportunity to receive evidence-based, father-friendly counselling and addiction help. Supporting fathers to be great dads’ benefits children, mothers, and families, now and in the next generation.  

Research shows that fathers have as much influence as mothers do on child development and life outcomes, yet most parenting programs are directed toward and designed for mothers. Due to stigma, finances, and other barriers, it is often easier for mothers to get help with depression, substance use, and other personal challenges that can compromise strong parenting, leaving fathers with desire to receive supports, but limited access to resources. With this in mind, the Positive Fathering and Mental Health Integration Project was established.   

“Collaboration is and has always been keystone to the work of Carya. We are constantly engaging with the community and exploring meaningful partnership opportunities that enhance how we can meet the evolving needs of individuals and families in Calgary” says Paula Telfer, CEO of Carya. “When this funding opportunity became available, we naturally thought of Families Matter, and began a conversation about how Carya could respond to the emerging needs of their program participants with our established expertise in counselling and mental health services.” 

This collaborative pilot project will integrate Carya’s longstanding individual and family counselling programs, which serve thousands of Calgarians each year, to eliminate barriers experienced by fathers in Families Matter’s positive fathering program. Funded until December 2024 through The City of Calgary’s Mental Health and Addiction Strategy’s Change Can’t Wait! Fund, Carya will provide counselling sessions to self-elected individuals from Families Matter’s positive fathering program. 

“Over the years of providing fathering programs, a common theme that has been shared by fathers is that they attend programs because they want to do better and be better for their children, regardless of the situation or circumstances that may have brought them there. The challenge they identified was finding outlets they could access to supports their needs” explains Michael Bautista, Manager of Fathering for the Future at Families Matter.

“In hearing this call for help, their SOS signal if you will, Families Matter aims to provide the space, opportunity and support to fathers to strengthen child and family functioning, increase positive parenting strategies, build community and promote parental resilience.” 

During the period, approximately 180 fathers are expected to attend Families Matter groups, with about 150 also receiving counselling supports through Carya. The project is being rigorously evaluated to measure the impact of positive fathering programs alone and in conjunction with counselling on fathers’ well-being, parenting competency and risk of child maltreatment, and family court involvement.  

Merrill Cooper, Director of Impact and Evaluation at Carya, describes the pilot as “exciting and innovative, as combining services in this way has not been tried before. It is expected to significantly improve parenting practices and prevent child maltreatment by helping dads in ways that tailored to their needs and work best for them.”  

By focusing on the mental health and well-being of fathers, Carya and Families Matter are spearheading an innovative approach, recognizing their crucial role in building strong, resilient families for generations to come.