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“Dads Matter Too!” Conference

Scott Louis and Sons

The 5th Annual “Dads Matter Too” conference was held at Central Connecticut State University organized by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Region 5 Fatherhood Engagement Leadership Team (FELT).

Openings remarks of the two day conference were provided by Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Provost of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Dr. Jane Gates, Commissioners Vannessa Dorantes of the Department of Children and Families and Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford of the Department of Social Services. Dr. Zelma Toro, President of Central Connecticut State University, provided lunchtime remarks.

The goal of “Dads Matter Too” is to increase the involvement of fathers in those families who come to the attention of Connecticut’s child welfare system. The FELT team is a group of dedicated individuals committed to increasing the overall engagement of fathers, and their families, within all systems and communities throughout the State of Connecticut.

This year’s conference presented the unique opportunity for DCF to collaborate with the Department of Social Services - the lead state agency for the “Connecticut Fatherhood Initiative.” This work includes collaborative efforts of state and local partners focused on changing the systems that can improve a fathers’ ability to be fully and positively involved in the lives of their children.

The DCF portion of the event began with Commissioner Dorantes delivering a beautiful heartfelt speech about her own father, “Pops”, and the significant influences he made in her life.

Participants then viewed the documentary, “120 Years”, a portrayal of Scott Lewis and how his relationship with his two boys, Scott Jr. and Tamaji, was negatively impacted after he spent over 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Scott and his sons later took part in a panel discussion which included fielding questions from the audience.

Another documentary, “Tre-Maison-Dasan”, was viewed which highlighted the stories of three young boys each who grew up with a parent in prison.  Told through the child’s perspective, the short film explores the realities of when a parent is absent due to incarceration. The audience heard from two of the boys, Tre and Maison, during a panel discussion.

After a recognition ceremony, the conference ended with Dr. Maysa Akbar’s presentation entitled, “Urban Trauma: Father Hungry” which focused on childhood trauma with a specific focus on urban and culturally diverse children, adolescents and families.