The mission of New Orleans Fatherhood Consortium is to develop comprehensive social supports, programs, public awareness, and policies that will assist fathers in reaching their fullest potential. It is a collaborative group of organizations and individuals who identify opportunities and support that enable fathers to be present, engaged and active in the lives of their families.
“It’s pretty common knowledge that children are born to two parents,” says Gregory Rattler, Jr., the director of New Orleans Fatherhood Consortium, which is based at Loyola University.
Rattler says, as a society, we tend to forget the importance of fathers. The New Orleans Fatherhood Consortium wants to change that.
“We want to try to shift the societal perceptions of fathers,” Rattler declares, “particularly from the deficit approach to the asset approach.”
In order to change society, the Fatherhood Consortium works from the ground up and the top down.
“It’s a collaborative entity comprised of 40 about organizations,” says Rattler. “Everyone services fathers: education institutions, social service agencies, non-profits, regular concerned citizens. All the different ways that influence how fathers are active and engaged and present for their children and their families.”
One of the many, many ways the New Orleans Fatherhood Consortium collaborates is by facilitating a group of fathers, the Pops Group, at Andrew Wilson Charter School. The Pops meet regularly, and once a month they have breakfast with the kids. “That’s where the dads will come in and do some reading and some activities with the kids,” Rattler explains.
The Pops also have a regular evening session where they have dinner with the kids.
“And they have a conversation about be good citizens, you know being good people. For the young males about being men, and for the young ladies about being women.”
One of those young ladies, whose dad is in the Pops group, is Arion.
“I’m in 3rd grade, and I’m 9,” Arion tells me.
Arion likes that her dad is in the Pops Group. She lives near school, with her grandmother, but she gets to see her dad more often at the Pops breakfasts, and also special events — like the field trip Arion and a group of students are on when I meet her.
They’re touring colleges. Dillard was in the morning. Now they’re at Loyola. It’s a way of introducing these kids to college and campus life early on, so that college feels familiar.
Arion says the trip is making her excited to go to college.
“What are you going to tell your dad about the trip?” I ask.
Arion is quick to reply: “I want to go to Loyola or Dillard.”
Greg Rattler says field trips like this are a way to meaningful engage fathers in their kids’ lives. But it doesn’t stop there. In fact, the same Pops Group had sessions later that week in leadership development, financial literacy, and child development — so dads can learn more about the different stages of their kids’ development.
“Fathers matter,” says Rattler. “That’s the piece that we try to get across: fathers matter. Just with the presence of males. And it doesn’t have to be a father, but a father figures. Children benefit. Spiritually, mentally, socially, educationally, psychologically. Any other metric that you can evaluate: children have marked benefits just with the presence of men.”