Routt County seeks grant for fatherhood classes |

Routt County seeks grant for fatherhood classes

— The skills needed to become a supportive father don’t always come naturally.

“A lot of men believe that nurturing is a mother’s role, but fathers can nurture, too; they just do it very differently,” said Mariah Poole, of the Routt County Department of Human Services.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted this week to approve Human Services’ request to apply to the Colorado Children’s Trust Fund for a $21,143 grant that would help the department continue and expand its fatherhood classes.

Poole, who divides her time at Human Services between child support enforcement and her role as the department’s fatherhood coordinator, said she and her colleagues are working with 10 to 15 fathers in Routt County.

Human Services Director Vickie Clark said there’s a connection between Poole’s two roles. In some circumstances, parenting classes help divorced fathers secure visitation rights. Research shows that fathers who regain the right to interact with their children are more apt to make their child-support payments, Clark said.

If the application is approved, Clark told the commissioners her department will reach more fathers in Hayden and Oak Creek.

Human Services works to elevate fathers’ parenting skills through different programs.

The Children’s Trust Fund grant is devoted to preventing child abuse and neglect. Div­orce court fees and the interest they generate fund the grant.

However, Human Services also works with fathers with no history of family violence or neglect, Poole said. The fathers who attend parenting classes come from different backgrounds and circumstances, Poole said. Some who are not in the human services system have contacted her simply because they want help relating to their daughters.

“For a dad with little girls, it can be hard to play ponies,” Poole said.

If the Children’s Trust Fund grant is awarded to Routt County, the department will carry on those programs through private donations, she said.

To help fathers learn how to engage their youngsters on a child’s level, one phase of the curriculum is titled The Little Boy Within, Poole said. Relearning how to play with boyish enthusiasm can help fathers reach their children.

The positive impact that fathering classes can have on a family has become a professional passion for Poole.

“It takes my breath away sometimes,” she said. “I get phone calls on a daily basis, and it’s not just from fathers who are already involved with the Human Services Department. And it’s not just single or young fathers. The diversity of fathers we work with is” broad.

She said she has been working with one father of a child with special needs for two years.

Josh Carroll, student re­­­source officer with the Steam­boat Springs Police Depart­ment, teaches parenting skills to fathers in a classroom setting, Poole said.

Her colleague Ellen Mc­Guin­ess takes fathers from the classroom directly to supervised child visitation when called for. She’s skilled at coaching fathers through a visitation and fostering natural interaction between fathers and children at the same time, Poole said.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or e-mail

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