Our Featured Leaders are Early Childhood Community stakeholders who work to make Oakland smarter and stronger. They are parents/caregivers, providers, educators, and collaborators.
Kevin Bremond, First 5 Alameda County
Fathers are engaged, active, nurturing, committed, and those who are not, want to be. That’s one of the core tenets of Kevin Bremond’s work as Cofounder and Program Administrator of the Alameda County Fathers Corps. Now in its tenth year, the Fathers Corps is a First 5 Alameda County initiative that works in collaboration with Alameda County’s Health Care Services Agency, Social Services Agency, Department of Child Support, and Probation Department. The Fathers Corps was formed to support fathers and father figures with being the fathers they want to be and to advocate for father-friendly services.
Kevin started this work because of what he didn’t see: fathers as part of the equation in family support programs. Programs and services that were meant to serve the whole family simply didn’t engage, serve, or support fathers. Conditions have improved over the past ten years, Kevin says, with many systems now embracing the Father Friendly Principles (FFP) that were passed by the Board of Supervisors in 2015.
Why do you do what you do? I’ve been at First 5 for about 20 years now. And before I joined First 5, I was a dad. Plus, I was raised by my dad. My dad had 4 amazing brothers; the ones who are still with us are still a part of my life. I was fortunate enough to always be surrounded by really great men.
Also, I saw a gap in services. I saw a family member have to fight for access to his kids after he separated from his partner. We aim to support fathers with staying engaged in the lives of their kids, and for fathers who aren’t engaged to get engaged.
What are some of the reasons that programs traditionally haven’t supported dads? I can go down a list of negative stereotypes that exist about Black and brown fathers, but I won’t, because I don’t want to give them air time. And a lot of our government policies have actually broken up families. Best case is that it was a blind spot. Worst case is that it’s intentional and part of the systemic racism that exists in this country. And I think it exists on a continuum.
The foundation of this work is on highlighting the true narrative of Black and brown fatherhood. What we think about a population impacts how we serve them. And the fact is, outcomes for children improve when fathers are engaged.
How have fathers responded to this work? We get calls all the time from men looking for support connecting or reconnecting with their kids; trying to get to a place where they can just be the dad they want to be. In fact, just a small part of our work is father-facing. Mostly we work with other programs to build their muscle at working with fathers. We do capacity building and we support agencies with implementing the Father Friendly Principles.
What have you seen change since you started this work? Increased awareness of the need to serve dads. I’ve seen changes in practice to where some of our organizations are hiring men to run programs for dads, writing in fatherhood components to grant applications where in the past they did not. Agencies are using our Diversity of Fatherhood photo bank to show who they reach. I’ve seen a lot of positive changes over the past ten years.