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Dad’s the word with Starting Well - EitC’s new initiative is a real game-changer

New fathers enjoying support throughout the city

General views around Goodison Park, home of Everton FC Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Royal Blue Mersey’s latest in a series of articles on Everton’s official charity, Everton in the Community (EitC), shines the spotlight on an initiative that is providing greater levels of support for expectant and new fathers from across the Liverpool region.

Starting Well has seen EitC work in partnership with PSS Growing Together since April 2021 and aims to support Liverpool parents and carers to build strong, healthy relationships with their babies. The programme is currently engaging with over 70 families across the Speke, Garston, Anfield, Everton, and Kirkdale regions of the city. Starting Well Coordinator, Andrew Cousins, believes the initiative is a real game changer, as he explains.

“There is a ton of support out there for mothers, and rightly so, but dads also play a vital role in raising a child,” he said. “Recent research shows that men can also get postnatal depression (PND), with up to one in ten men suffering from this.

“Men with PND are more likely to lose their temper, overeat, overwork, gamble, or drink too much. These symptoms can negatively affect a child’s early years so we want to be able to help dads who are showing signs of PND.

“ In my role, I work with parents, specifically dads who have children in the 1,001 critical days. This is from conception through to age two. My responsibilities include helping parents understand how important these days are in a person’s life, even though it is a time that children won’t remember as they grow up. If a person has a bad start in life this can have a negative effect on them for the rest of their life.”

Sessions include a weekly play group for parents and carers to bring their children to. Utilising the magnificent Hub on Spellow Lane. Sessions include lots of play for the children, while adults are able to build friendships and seek advice from sessional workers. There are also the dads’ clubs which allows fellow fathers to learn from each other and have proved a real success due to what is often a lack of provisions for male parents.

Liverpool Women’s Hospital plays host to a dads class that is held on the last Wednesday of each month. Andrew’s class touches on a range of things for expectant fathers to think about, such as the new role they will be entering, the importance of bonding and attachment, the different types of depression to look out for around the time of pregnancy, and birth and how important dads are in the development of a child in these early days and years.

And what of the future for Starting Well? Quite a bit as Andrew explains.

“We will soon be doing a peer support group for bereaved dads, a traumatic birth experience or who have suffered the loss of a partner,” he said. “There will also be the sing and sign classes. Small children have the capacity to communicate but don’t have the language capability, and parents who learn basic sign language with their babies are given a great tool to be able to communicate with them.

“A baby who can communicate what they want is less likely to have tantrums and is more likely to develop their ability to speak sooner.”

While the initiative is proving yet another success for EitC, the programmes run by the charity are always measured by the impact they have. And Andrew feels that the participants are always the best opinions to listen to.

“The dads who come to the sessions have all said how hard they find it being in work all week, getting home at 6pm just in time for bath and bed and this being the only time they get with their children during the week,” he said. “Then the weekend comes and there is nothing free to do with their children except for the park or staying in the house. There is definitely little to do involving spending time with other dads and talking about their shared experiences of fatherhood.

“Being able to provide the sessions through Starting Well for dads is so important, to them and to the city.

“While there might not be a lot of support for new dads out there, here at Everton in the Community we want them to know that their role as a father is incredibly important.

“Research shows that when dads spend time with their young children, the child’s sense of self-worth and confidence is dramatically increased. If you are a parent who is feeling the pressure in the current climate please turn to Everton in the Community, we have many free programmes and means of support for families across Liverpool, and especially for the families and residents around Goodison.”

Though the birth of a child is a wonderful occasion, it is often when an adult can feel at their most stressed. Traditionally speaking, men have not always been very forthcoming when requiring help and support, but EitC has made the process as easy and discreet as possible, with a form on the charity’s official website readily available.