In celebration of Father’s Day 2011, the Colorado Promoting Responsible Fatherhood (PRF) Initiative has distributed its annual Be There for Your Kids Awards to 10 worthy winners. These awards honor outstanding fathers, fatherhood programs, family service agencies and individuals who demonstrate excellence, creativity, consistency and leadership in developing responsible fatherhood throughout Colorado. The winners include:

Jim Becker – Father of the Year: A father of 14 (!), Jim is also a fatherhood mentor to the dads in the Aurora Mental Health Center fatherhood program. According to his nomination, “Jim lives what he teaches. In addition to having grown children, he has a young daughter. He is a strong role model to his wife's children from her previous marriage. He is a foster father to two sibling groups of three. The children that he cares for have emotional and behavioral issues due to histories of abuse and neglect and he finds the time to parent each and every one of them. He finds the good in each child. This love of his family is contagious to the fathers in the program.”

Somali American Community Center of Colorado – Program of the Year: In 1991, a full-scale civil war in Somalia forced millions of people to flee from the cities into the neighboring countries of Ethiopia and Kenya. These refugees experienced extreme hardships including persecution, torture and massacres. The US government, through its refugee resettlement program, resettled thousands of Somalis in the US, including approximately 1,000 families in the Denver metro area. The Somali American Community Center works directly with these refugee fathers and families to build nurturing skills, lead parenting education classes and help connect them to community resources.

Tom Westfall – Outstanding Fatherhood Practitioner: After serving as the Director of the Yuma County Department of Human Services for 28 years, Tom felt as if something was missing when he retired. He didn’t get to work with fathers and families any more. In early 2010, Tom began volunteer work for the Family Resource Center’s fatherhood program in Sterling. Since that time he has increased the number of participants in each class from seven to 25 dads. Tom has focused his teachings on building empathy, developing parenting tools and preventing child abuse. One of the ways he has succeeded in his work is by being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for his dads.

According to Tom’s nomination, “He works tirelessly for child abuse prevention and leads men to a kinder gentler way of parenting children. Tom’s lifetime guarantee is tied to a desire to reduce isolation, a significant factor in child abuse.”

Tyler Osterhaus – Outstanding Fatherhood Leader:
For the past five years, Tyler has been an active member of the Colorado Fatherhood Council, chair of the Colorado Men Against Domestic Violence (CMADV) campaign and a collaborator with the Got Fatherhood? and BAM (Be A Man) fatherhood programs. He is well known throughout the Colorado fatherhood community for his commitment to helping fathers and their children.

According to Tyler’s nomination, “Tyler is helpful, engaging and above all passionate about the work he does with fathers. I have also observed him with his own daughter and he "walks the walk" - spending quality time with her in activities that will no doubt solidify her ability to develop strong and healthy relationships in the future. Tyler is always available for a new challenge and is seen in the Weld County Department of Human Services as someone who can be approached to assist with numerous projects.”

Dwayne Meeks – Outstanding Individual Award: Dwayne is the founder of the Urban Colors Arts & Mentoring fatherhood program in Denver. As a PRF grantee, Dwayne has worked with young fathers at Montbello High School and developed the Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students) program at Green Valley Elementary School in Denver.

According to Dwayne’s nomination, “When I first came to the group some of us thought it would be boring and just another adult telling us what to do, but after listening to Dwayne we a realized that he seemed to genuinely care about us and wanted to see us achieve our goals. He talked about his struggles as a young father and was like a big brother to all of us.”

Mariah Poole – Fatherhood Advocate of the Year: The road to launching the Fatherhood Program of Routt County took much time and effort for Mariah. She has truly served as an advocate for fathers in Routt County with the establishment of the only fatherhood program in this area of the state.

According to Mariah’s nomination, “Mariah contacted the Colorado Department of Human Services several years ago about developing a program in Routt County. She indicated that she saw a real need for fatherhood services and wanted to set up a program in the county. Based on that conversation she set aside time to come to Denver to attend a Fatherhood Council meeting and interview several Denver-based program staff and shadow their work. Subsequently she signed up for a Nurturing Fathers Curriculum training held in Colorado Springs and began the work of writing a grant for the next round of community access funding through the PRF Initiative.”

Lisa Gonzales and Chris Hinkel – Child Support Employees of the Year: For the last two years, the PRF Initiative has worked tirelessly to build collaborations and increase father engagement among Child Support and Child Welfare workers. Lisa and Chris, both Child Support technicians with Denver County Human Services, were selected for this award based on their work with fathers participating in the Redeemer Fatherhood Program.

According to Lisa and Chris’ nomination, “Lisa and Chris provide leadership by showing their clients that barriers can be resolved with cooperation and effort by both parties - the service provider and the client.”

Ann Bruce – Colorado Fatherhood Council Member of the Year: As the chair of the healthy relationships work team, Ann has been a key member of the Fatherhood Council over the past year. She has spearheaded monthly meetings of this work team and built collaborations between healthy relationships grantees and local fatherhood programs.

Weld County Department of Human Services – Child Welfare Department of the Year:
Weld County’s efforts to create innovative partnerships between child welfare caseworkers, fatherhood programs and healthy relationships grantees have set the county apart from others. By breaking down silos and improving communication, the Department has seen true success in engaging fathers.

The winners of the 2011 Be There for Your Kids Awards were
recognized on the field following the June 18th Colorado Rapids
Game. Congratulations!