At first glance, Youth Unlimited’s (YU) Dave Morgan can seem like the most unlikely person to be helping teen dads turn their lives around. But that’s probably what makes him so effective.
The young men relate to Dave’s struggles with a learning disability and subsequent drug and gang involvement, as well as his struggle for acceptance by his own father.
Society’s oversimplification of the “deadbeat dad” stereotype is not only inaccurate, it’s harmful. It’s keeping young would-be dads out of the lives of their children.
YU is helping these men change that, breaking the cycle of fatherlessness experienced by too many.
Thirteen years ago, when YU started a program for young moms (Stepping Stones), fathers would show up too, expressing their desire for help.
Three years ago Dave began mentoring these young men. Stepping Up was formed, and it took off from there.
Says Dave: “These boys didn’t have the parenting examples they needed. Now they’ve gotten a girl pregnant and don’t know what to do. Society assumes that they will absolve themselves of any responsibility, but my experience has been the complete opposite. The majority of accidental fathers really do want a relationship with their child.”
Dave says that when the guys have somewhere they can talk about their struggles, experience solidarity with men facing similar issues, and are provided with tangible help, they thrive.
Unlike women who flourish when put in a room to talk about their feelings, guys need to bond first through activity. Dave runs hockey teams and other activities where young dads can bond. That’s coupled with dads’ nights and breakfast where a counsellor is present. By bonding informally, the men can start to open up.
Zach is a good example. When Dave started working with him, he was 17, couch-surfing, penniless and without experience. Through Dave’s connections, a glass company hired Zach as he worked on his Red Seal Journeyman glazier ticket.
Zach went from being a deflated, disillusioned, fearful young man, to a confident, secure leader, willing to face any challenge head on. This summer he is marrying his son’s mom, who has been working with YU’s Stepping Stones.
YU helps young people discover their potential. From prevention, to helping kids on the margins, its dedicated staff and relevant programming offer connection and transformation fostering mental, physical, social, spiritual and emotional well-being among young people in their community.
Director of Support Services, Youth Unlimited