DENTON — The Caroline County Department of Social Services honored Mid-Shore fathers during the department’s 4th Annual D.A.D.S. Extravaganza, Saturday, June 15, at the Denton American Legion.
The D.A.D.S. event, which stands for Dads Aiming and Determined to Support, was in association with the department’s Mid-Shore RISE program, as well as Parents as Partners.
Both programs help parents gain work training and experience in the five-county Mid-Shore region.
The RISE program (Re-engaging Individuals Through Successful Employment) is specifically designed to help non-custodial parents who are unemployed and not paying child support.
Participants are able to gain a skill set that can lead to a living wage job, and increase their ability to support both their children and themselves.
RISE Case Manager Isaiah Greene said the yearly event means a lot to him, and this year’s celebration had a “great turnout.”
“It’s an event that helps promote dad awareness, fatherhood, and what it means to be a father,” Greene said. “We teach the responsibility of being of father, promote family values, and make sure dads are present in their children’s life.”
Nearly 200 parents are currently active in the program, which has shown an increasing job retention rate among its members, according to the Caroline County DSS Facebook page.
The DSS wrote on its page that 132 of its members are employed full time; 7 of them part-time. And 132 of them have remained employed for more than 90 days.
Five parents were recognized during the event — one from each of the five Mid-shore counties.
From Caroline County, the program recognized John Hunt; Queen Anne’s County, Brandon Felder; Kent County, Tyler Smith; Talbot County, Kennard Smith; and Dorchester County, Lisa Stanley.
Greene said, in order to be an award-winning parent in the program, the father or mother must make continuous child support payments, have exceptional parenting skills, like being present in their children’s lives, and showing up for school events.
Greene said Lisa Stanley was one of the program’s first ever female participants.
“The majority of non-custodial parents that we serve are fathers,” Greene said. “But there are some young ladies, as well.”
This year’s event was circus themed, with several games for the children and their parents to play. The Extravaganza also hosted a guest speaker, author and child welfare advocate Bruce Edwards.
Edwards spoke about his book, “The 14 Virtues of a Good Father,” and shared his research and personal beliefs on fatherhood with those in attendance.
Greene said there are still many barriers that non-custodial parents face in rural areas, such as lack of transportation, limited access to driving education, as well as employment opportunities that go beyond seasonal work.
But the Department, through the channel of programs like RISE, will continue working with the community to create a more productive environment for children and parents alike.
“It’s all about the children,” Greene said.