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Anthony learns about being a father from Head Start.

Growing up with little parental stability, Anthony had no idea what it meant to be a real father.  Though adopted into a loving family when he was 11, Anthony experimented with drugs and alcohol as a teen, and struggled with work and school. He eventually got married and had children.  However, after separating from his wife he felt a sense of hopelessness, and turned again to drugs and alcohol. At his lowest, he found himself homeless; sleeping on park benches and living in tents.

After surviving in this bleak situation for nearly a year, he decided he had enough. He wanted to reconnect with his four children, to protect and provide for them. But he knew that if he didn’t seek help, he’d have no chance to really be a father.   He made a commitment to become involved in his children’s lives.

When Anthony was meeting with one of his children’s teachers, he met Rich Boyce, Community Action’s Head Start Family Development Specialist. Rich visits Head Start centers and childcare partner sites in Ramsey County, meeting with new parents about Community Action’s Parent Connection program and the many groups available to parents. He assists Head Start parents in-house too, helping them locate community resources for emergency needs such as domestic abuse and housing crises.

Rich introduced Anthony to our Parent Connection Fathers Group, and it didn’t take Anthony long to realize that was exactly what he needed to help him with his commitment to his kids. Each weekly Parent Connection meeting allows dads to connect with other dads. They discuss everything from anger management to job counseling to child-custody issues – plus, the dads share ideas for family activities and how to stay deeply involved in their children’s lives.

Anthony’s been a devoted Fathers Group member for two years, and through his participation he’s discovered other ways to get involved in the community: he volunteers with the young dad’s group at the Employment Action Center in St. Paul, he participates on the resident council at Model Cities family sober living facility and he helps out in the classroom and as a field-trip chaperone at his children’s school. He’s also proud to note that he’s maintained his sobriety for four years; he’s earned his GED; and he’s received a scholarship to attend Minneapolis Community College, where he dreams of someday becoming a music producer.

He says his biggest accomplishment, however, is gaining full custody of – and creating a stable and nurturing environment for – his four children. His kids agree: Based on an essay from his daughter, he was chosen as the 2007 Minnesota Twins Father of the Year.