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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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New Mexico State receives grant for fatherhood initiative

With assistance from an $81,466 grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation's Begin at Birth Initiative, New Mexico State University has joined a collaborative of community-based agencies to build a network of fathers' groups in the border region.

work of Circulos de Hombres is coordinated by volunteers in five designated border region locations. The primary objective of the Men's Circles is to provide underserved men and their families in rural areas with support and education on the best practices in early education specifically developed for fathers.

"This is about teaching fathers to be more responsible. The focus is on good fathering, which is a message that is important for all young men," said Marcos Torres, program development specialist for New Mexico State's La Vida Institute, a community partner in the fatherhood initiative.

The Men's Circles started in October for fathers and grandfathers of children up to three years old. By including "elders" or grandfathers, these Circulos de Hombres provide the influence of the older generation to share cultural values and perspectives with younger fathers, Torres said. Many of the fathers are still in high school or even middle school, he said.

"A big part of this program is the advocacy of responsible fatherhood," said Nancy Baptiste, a New Mexico State professor of curriculum and instruction. "This program offers opportunities for men to discuss things they can't in other settings."

"Research shows that children benefit when men are involved in their lives," Baptiste said. "It is well understood that children who have a significant, nurturing male in their lives, are more likely to do better in school, have better social skills, are better able to resist negative peer pressure and are more likely to become better parents themselves."

Thirty sessions on responsible fatherhood issues will be presented to each circle by two trained volunteer facilitators. The curriculum materials used will be multicultural.

The sessions are held in the evening with food and drinks provided. In addition, two Fiestas para Padres will be held during the year to provide information on family services, nutrition and fun. The community fairs will promote involvement for the fathers and bring awareness to topics such as supporting children's education, having fun with children, balancing work and family, managing anger and communicating feelings.

In addition to New Mexico State's Curriculum and Instruction Department and La Vida Institute, the collaboration will include the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility, La Clinica de Familia - Adolescent Family Life Program, United Way Success by Six, Planned Parenthood's Young Fathers Project and Bienestar Familiar Inc.

Circulos de Hombres is one of 30 projects funded by the Begin at Birth Initiative this year, said Michael P. Kelly, program officer for the Paso Del Norte Health Foundation.