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Strengthening Families Conference Highlights Dad's Important Role

Blue pinwheels are the symbol for child-abuse prevention. (Airman Shawna Keyes/Wikimedia Commons)
Blue pinwheels are the symbol for child-abuse prevention. (Airman Shawna Keyes/Wikimedia Commons)
March 8, 2019

BOISE, Idaho - How can children's advocates help Idaho families survive and thrive?

The Strengthening Families Training Institute holds its 20th conference in Boise today, bringing together practitioners, educators and parents to learn about best practices for preventing child abuse and neglect.

The conference's keynote speaker is Patrick Mitchell, a Coeur d'Alene storyteller also known as the "Down to Earth Dad." His topic is getting dads and other men in kids' lives more engaged.

When fathers show up even four times a year in grade school, Mitchell said, kids do better academically.

"Talking to the teacher, being visibly present on the playground - with permission, of course - and volunteering at the school carnival or serving the ice cream at the ice cream social," he said. "There is a correlation between dads doing that and their child getting a full letter grade higher in every subject, across the board. So, it's pretty amazing."

The theme for this year's conference is "Sharing Our Stories." Today's lineup includes a panel of single mothers speaking about their experiences. Today is the second day of the conference, which is sponsored by the Idaho Children's Trust Fund.

Mitchell said he'll speak about some of the ways organizations can get fathers more involved. He said one tactic is to set up a common goal to solve with dads.

"Consider what you want to have happen, the problem you want to solve," he said, "and then, attempt to make men your partners in solving those problems, because we all - men and women - love a good problem to solve when we understand what the problem is."

Mitchell also will discuss the importance of storytelling.

"I want to give everyone the sense of personal storytelling as a way to build strong bonds, enhance early literacy and bolster parent and family engagement." he said.

More information on the conference is online at idahochildrenstrustfund.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID