Tulsa's Fatherhood Coalition promotes positive relationships between fathers and children, by connecting parents with the proper resources and mentoring.
“The coalition is something that was formed around 2008. Our goal and mission is to engage fathers to become more active in their children’s lives, as well as their family’s lives,” said Sekou Clincy, fatherhood coordinator.
Some of the resources they offer include employment referrals, men’s health referrals, child support referrals, legal referrals, and family planning referrals.
“Many fathers find resources for dads very scarce and limited, so we try to offer that support and assist them in navigating through those challenges that they have.
Bret Gunther is a single father who said there are more questions than answers about this upcoming school year, like who his kid's teachers are and where they will learn while he's at work.
“I think the biggest thing for us is just trying to navigate the way everyone else is,” said Gunther. “It's unchartered territory for really all of us and I mean, my children are heartbroken.”
Gunther said he knows parents who are hiring private tutors or enrolling them in private school, but he doesn't have that luxury.
“I don't have the option to work to work at home,” said Gunther. “Right now, my kids go to the YMCA and I think they're trying to work alongside Owasso Public Schools to determine how they can partner for people like me and other parents who don’t really have the option to work from home.”
The father of three believes the districts and the schools are doing the best they can with ever-changing data and models, but he wishes there were more resources readily available.
Brian Jones has been a part of the Father's Coalition for 25 years AND even published a book titled “A Cry for Kamon” about the struggles of single parenting.
Jones described the book as a healing book, detailing the “silent cry of a father’s struggle” in and out of the courtroom, enduring custody battles. Jones said this book helped him a lot and he hopes it helps you too.
Jones said some parents don't even know where their next paycheck is coming from, let alone how to afford the added cost of remote learning.
"Let’s not forget about the single parent who is struggling… a child in lower-income,” said Jones. “That child is going to be schooled from home, but let’s say the school does provide a laptop or Chromebook or something, but what about the cable bill? Who’s going to pay that?”
Jones told News On 6 that the pandemic is something that single parents like himself weren’t prepared for. He said that even though his son is all grown up, he understands the struggle and immense amount of pressure these households are under.
“This is really difficult because in a lot of homes you have that father and that mother. You’ve got that support. Maybe the mom can stay home, or the father can stay home with the children and they can, you know, take turns,” said Jones. “But if you’ve got the single parent and only one parent is at home, that’s a lot of pressure. That’s a lot of stress and anxiety.”
Both Jones and Gunther agree, that while it’s easy to get bogged down, the primary focus should always be the well-being of the child. Gunther said it's important to have open conversations with your kids and provide some level of normalcy, making sure their needs are met.
"I just remind my children it's probably not always going to be like this. This is just a season," Gunther said. “[…] I think every family dynamic is different. Every single-family is different. Every two-parent family is different. I have friends that are, you know, dual-parent families, and they rely on both incomes, so even if one of them does stay home or has to stay home, it’s going to be tumultuous for them, as well.”
Gunther said it’s going to take a community effort to get through this. As for Jones, he said COVID-19 isn't the only crisis this country is facing. He believes we should focus on the mental health of single parents to guard against domestic violence and suicide.
"If my mental health is not intact if I am dealing with anxiety, stress, weary, fear, how can I effectively, really help my child," said Jones. “That is why we have to parent as a community. We really do need each other.”
Jones said the resources may be scarce, but there are always people willing to lend a helping hand.
“For that single parent out there, who feels like giving up, don’t give up,” said Jones. “Number 1, I want you to know you’re not alone,” said Jones. “Number 2, I want you to drop your right to be right and focus on the needs of the child.”
For more information about the Fatherhood Coalition, click here.