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Shelter program helps to B.U.I.L.D. better dads

It's with pleasure that I devote this column space to a group of special dads. I'm referring to the first class of graduates of Building Up Involved Loving Dads (B.U.I.L.D.) sponsored by the Gwinnett Children's Shelter.

B.U.I.L.D., funded by a federal grant, is a pilot program designed by the staff at the shelter and is one of the first in the nation of this type.

Jasmine McCoy, team leader for the fatherhood program, notes the importance of fathers in the lives of children.

"Studies show that fathers who are involved with their infants have children with higher IQs as well as better language skills," she said. "Their children are also more patient and can handle stress associated with schooling more readily than children with less involved fathers. And children who live with their fathers are more likely to achieve academically and to avoid drugs, violence and delinquent behavior."

Unfortunately, fatherhood is not always planned and many teenage dads find themselves unprepared for the responsibility.

"I think teen dads really care about their kids and want to be part of their child's lives. They want to do the right thing and this program gives them the tools," said Nancy Friauf, executive director.

The 12-week course includes topics like family traditions, male vs. female brains and anger management. Young dads learn about child development, discipline, financial management and job hunting. Most importantly, these young men learn how to communicate and interact with their wives and children.

"We play lots of games and have a cookout. The families learn how to relax together," McCoy said.

Thomas, a B.U.I.L.D graduate, said, "I will try telling my children what to do rather than only what not to do."

Boris, another graduate, said, "I know now there are areas I can work on."

"This is a great place to get support and to be among other dads," McCoy said. "We become a family. They really open up to each other."

B.U.I.L.D is free to any dad who wants to be a better father. Classes meet once a week with meals provided. The shelter also offers assistance with transportation costs and child care.

I asked Friauf and McCoy what one thing they needed most from the community.

Together, they said, "Space."

B.U.I.L.D needs space to hold as many classes as possible throughout the county. The first class met at Hopewell Baptist Church in Norcross and the class is meeting at Collins Hill Library in Lawrenceville.

The only space I could offer was these 16 inches on this page, but if your church or organization can spare a room once a week to help men who want to become better dads, call McCoy at 678-546-8770, ext. 215 or

e-mail her at jmccoy@gwinnettchildrenshelter.org.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.