Despite our name, Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) has a long history of empowering fathers and father-figures as caretakers, advocates, and teachers for the children in their lives. MCC engages fathers throughout all of our programs, but we are especially proud of our new MOMobile® Healthy Start Fatherhood Initiative which recognizes that fathers play an important role in ensuring the wellbeing of their children and strong families are essential to the future of our society. This program is but one example of the supportive services MCC provides to families and communities to dismantle inequities of race, class, and gender.
Constantino Petru Gerena, who joined MCC in February 2020, is an MCC Engagement Specialist and mastermind behind the new program. Constantino, a father of two who started as an English as a Second Language teacher in Puerto Rico, has been supporting families inside and outside of the classroom his whole career. His work has taught him that when you support a student, you support their family, and when you support a family, you support their student. Prior to joining MCC, Constantino was a home visitor and parent educator, then a school counselor in Camden, New Jersey.
Since Constantino began this work in February, he’s done an immense amount of planning, creating curriculum, and recruiting. MCC plans to serve 100 families a year for the next four years through the generous support of the Health Resources & Services Administration Division of Healthy Start and Perinatal Services Maternal & Child Health Bureau. During the COVID19 pandemic, Constantino is staying connected with his clients virtually and says the fathers are receptive to that method. What can male caretakers gain from participating? Constantino summed it up in four ways:
- Encouragement and guidance on how to be involved with the mother of their babies during pregnancy and once their child is born (ex. Attend prenatal appointments, labor, and delivery; enroll in infant and childcare classes – many of these classes can now be done virtually!)
- Instruction on the best ways to enhance their child’s development through playing, reading, and interacting in everyday activities.
- Advice and referrals to help fathers successfully navigate the services they need (ex. Health insurance, job searches, GED completion, legal services, etc.).
- Support in addressing physical and behavioral health needs.
This program is not only about sharing information with fathers about how to support their child’s development, but it’s about giving them the tools, social support, and confidence to do it.
This program currently serves clients who live – or whose child(ren) live – in North and Northeast Philadelphia. To get connected to the Fatherhood Initiative or any of MCC’s programs, please call (215) 972-0700. And for our supporters who would like to join MCC in spreading joy and celebrating Father’s Day, head over to MCC’s Little Piece of My Art Campaign to make a contribution and send Father’s Day eCards to your loved ones.