Bryan Leach LAW ’05 said when he wrote his dissertation at Oxford University Graduate School, he realized there was something wrong with today’s society — the lack of a father’s presence in many families. A father’s role, he said, is one of the most important ones in keeping future adults off the streets, drugs, welfare, and ultimately out of jail.
This realization led Leach to found Present Fathers, a community organization that helps strengthen the role of fathers in their children’s lives through regularly sponsored field trips and activities. The program creates bi-weekly activities for fathers and their children. All activities are funded through the New Haven Family Alliance, the Yale Law School and Dwight Hall, among other contributors.
Leach said he first thought of establishing an organization such as Present Fathers in February 2003, when he went to the New Haven Family Alliance to ask for ideas and funding.
“I had several questions about fatherhood in lower income families, but the main one was what happens to the children of those men and how much time do they even spend with heir fathers?” Leach said. “So, I began to think that that must be the root of the problem, and people at the Family Alliance agreed that fathers must spend more time with their children.”
Leach said he plans to coordinate scheduled events every other week to maintain the program’s continuity.
“If the children see that it is not a dependable program, something that they can look forward to every other weekend, then they will begin to lose trust for their fathers,” Leach said. “It can’t be like Santa Claus — here one day and gone the next.”
Currently, the program has 36 Yale participants, 25 Law School students, three School of Medicine students and eight undergraduates.
“I got involved through Bryan, and I helped him plan out the events last spring,” said Rashad Hussain LAW ’05. “I basically do whatever I can and try to help out at the events, whether it be driving people or just being there.”
The range of participants varies from younger fathers in their 20s to fathers in their 40s who have pre-teenage children. Fathers are screened and cross-checked with their probation officers and social case managers if they have them.
Blannie Bostic, a father who also works at the Male Involvement Network, said he feels good about the program.
“I enjoy anything with children, and it is great to help out other fathers like myself and take part in the program myself and spend time with my own kids,” said Bostic. “[Leach] brought a niche to do something with children, and its really exciting.”
Bostic said he sees his son Chris weekly, and they regularly participate in Boy Scouts activities. Chris said he is excited at the prospect of sharing more time with his father.
“It’s cool to be with my dad more often, and the events are fun,” he said. “The zoo was really cool.”
Another participant, Sidney Smith, said he became involved with the program through Leach after they met at the Law School cafeteria, where Smith works.
Smith’s children, 12-year-old Da-Zauna and 10-year-old Sidney Jr., said they enjoy their time with their father.
“This week I got to see animals at the zoo, but it was even cooler because I was with my dad,” Da-Zauna said.
Leach said he is pleased when he hears a child enjoyed spending time with her father, one who was been absent at some point in her life.
“That is exactly what we are aiming for, and it seems to be working,” he said. “I’m already excited for our Peabody Museum trip in two weeks. The turnouts keep getting better and better, and things are looking good for these families, and that is what is truly important.”