Care Net ministry includes male mentoring to be better dads

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 October 2021 at 2:45 pm

‘The best kind of parent is a loving parent. It’s always better to err on the side of love.’ – Curt Follman, peer counselor

Photos by Tom Rivers: Curt Follman, a father of seven, has volunteered as a peer counselor at Care Net for five years. He has worked with about 30 young men.

ALBION – An organization that provides ultrasounds and many services to women and children also runs a peer counseling for men.

Care Net of Greater Orleans has peer counselors who meet regularly with men, going through a parenting workbook and offering encouragement and strategies for coping with stress and expressing love.

Care Net is celebrating its 30thyear in Orleans County. Wende Swick, the director, wanted the community to know about the peer counseling program.

“We’re not just a center for women,” she said.

Curt Follman, a father of 7 and a retired school teacher, has met with about 30 men over the past five years. He meets with three guys a week. He typically meets with the men for 8 to 10 weeks. They go over a “Homes with Honor” workbook.

“It’s all about respect, showing love and valuing each other as a family,” Follman said. “It’s about honoring those in the home.”

Follman will help the men in other ways, if needed. He taught one to drive so he could get his license. He stays in touch with many, long after the program ends. Some sign up for additional classes.

Follman said he wished he went through the program when he was a young dad.

“Parenting doesn’t come with a manual,” he said. “It’s difficult.”

He stresses to the men that becoming a father brings new responsibilities.

“Your life is no longer your own,” he said. “It’s not just about you anymore. Now it’s also about this mom and child, and you need to step up to the plate.”

Follman discusses parenting styles and encourages responding to others with grace and understanding.

“The dominant style is the worst,” he said. “The best kind of parent is a loving parent. It’s always better to err on the side of love.”

The Rev. Randy LeBaron also volunteers as a peer counselor at Care Net.

Randy LeBaron, a local minister and father of four, also volunteers as a peer counselor.

“Most people have a father wound,” LeBaron said.

He has volunteered at Care Net for 17 years, including the past two years as a peer counselor helping with parenting classes for men.

“I can honestly say that it has been one of the most fulfilling things that I get to do week to week,” LeBaron said. “The guys that I get to work with are often in crisis mode, sometimes coming as a mandate from the court, but I have found each one to be open and wanting to learn how to be a better parent and a better man.”

LeBaron sees transformed men in the process.

“One of my favorite things is getting to see change happen when they let down their guard and open their lives up to God,” he said. “At the end of each session I offer to pray with them and even those most reluctant at first anticipate this and often share needs well beyond the scope of our meeting together.”

Some of the men are assigned to the program through court or Child Protective Service through DSS. Others sign up on their own.

LeBaron said he tries to refrain from judging people who are court-appointed and have a CPS referral. He finds fathers in these situations are often very caring.

“One of the reasons that I got involved working with men at Care Net is because I have a testimony that includes being healed from a father wound and I find that many of the men I meet have experienced something similar and are also looking for healing so that they do not perpetuate the hurt by causing pain as a parent,” LeBaron said. “I also see, within the context of Care Net, the need to not only show love and support to a mother and her child but to recognize the significance of the father’s potential role in that child’s life whether or not the two are still a couple or are separate but choosing to co-parent.”

Follman also said he doesn’t judge. He said people make mistakes.

“God is the God of second chances and some of these people need second chances,” he said.

Follman has a spinal injury and he shares how he was injured diving in a pool about 40 years ago. He was paralyzed from the chest down initially but was able to walk out of a VA Medical Center in Cleveland after six months. He has some limited mobility and needs to give people a nub, instead of a firm handshake.

“They see I don’t have everything in control,” Follman said about his injury.

Follman said he isn’t an all-knowing peer counselor. He strives to listen as much as offering insight.

Swick, the Care Net director, praised the peer counselors and also the men in the program for being vulnerable and wanting to be better parents.

“Here, we’re gentle and not in your face,” Swick said. “We show God’s love to everybody.”

For more on Care Net of Greater Orleans, click here.