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Q&A with Jeff Steiner, executive director of the Dads' Resource Center

by on August 01, 2017 12:16 PM

Jeff Steiner, new executive director of the Dads’ Resource Center, says his own experience growing up makes him “a pretty good match” for the position.

Steiner was born to a single mother and has never met his father.

“It affected the arc of my life,” he says. “On a personal level, I know what it’s like to have grown up without a father.”

The Dads’ Resource Center aims to help responsible fathers in separated family systems participate in their children’s lives.

Steiner, who is married with two children, has been working to get the virtual center up and running since being named to the post in January. The center’s website — dadsrc.org — launched recently.

Steiner’s first career involved working in direct services for children and families, including at Family Intervention and Crisis Services in Centre County. He then served as executive director of the Bellefonte Family Resource Center and later Kicks 4 Kids Charity Soccer Tournaments.

The Dads’ Resource Center was chartered as a 501(c)(3) organization about two years ago by AccuWeather founder Joel Myers, who recognized there was a void for fathers in separated family situations. Myers brought Steiner on board to help bring the organization to life.

While there are a lot of helpful resources available for mothers, “there’s not much, if anything, out there for fathers,” Steiner says.

T&G: What have you been focusing on since starting in January?

Steiner: Helping to format the underlying structure of the organization and developing the website. The website will be the storefront that people go to to find out about the organization, but it’s also going to functionally be the actual resource center where we’re going to provide the information and be that gathering point that folks come to who have some sort of an interest in this — the single fathers, the people within the legal, human services, and county systems that work with and deal with single fathers.

T&G: What is your primary goal for the resource center?

Steiner: The mission of the organization is to provide education, resources, and advocacy for fathers in separated systems. ERA – that’s the acronym. There’s a lot going on when you have the breakup of a nuclear family, and it can really throw everyone upside down. We want to be able to help fathers understand what’s coming, to be able to know the processes that pretty much every family goes through, and also understand what’s coming if you get involved with the system.

We want to provide a voice for fathers. We’re looking to fill that void and have a seat at the table. There are a lot of different organizations and groups in Centre County – we’re looking to engage effectively, to be a member of those communities.

T&G: How do you advocate for fathers?

Steiner: We want to build a community for single fathers where they can come and share their stories and ask for advice for one another, to create their own support system. If fathers can have a community where they can say, “I’m new to this, I’m going through this,” and there may be some fathers out there who have been through it and say, “This has been my experience, I can tell you mistakes that I made,” they can help provide their own community and support for themselves. At the same time, we’re looking to have a seat at the table within the legal – as much as what we can — the county, and the human services systems to be able to provide a voice to speak on behalf of fathers.

There are fathers’ rights groups out there and I think a lot of people in the system recognize that there’s a void and the choice could be between a less productive, more antagonistic fathers’ rights group, and an organization like ourselves. What we’re looking to do is help fathers who in their bones know that sacred responsibility of fatherhood, and want to fully participate as fathers on all levels – financially, respectfully co-parenting, and spending time with their children and being role models for their children. Those are the fathers that we’re looking to help out.

T&G: What has been the response so far?

Steiner: It’s going to take a little bit of time to be able to develop a community of fathers. Just to have the awareness — people are busy, and guys are guys to a certain extent. So that’s going to take some time. Within the legal, county, and human services fields in Centre County there’s been a very positive response. Almost universally everyone sees that fathers need this.

T&G: Where would you hope to be with the resource center a few years from now?

Steiner: The primary need is that initial entrance into the system, being able to provide fathers with the support that they need because once you make that initial mistake or have a difficult entrance into the system at the beginning, it can snowball. We want to be able to have the resources to help fathers at the entrance into the system.

In our heart we’re a children’s advocacy organization because we recognize – the statistics are there – children do better when they have equal participation with the parents in their lives. We just want to make sure that every child in their circumstances have the connection to both parents that’s appropriate for them so that they can best develop and have the best chance of being successful. 

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