The Dads for Life (DFL) Resource Team takes a peek into the fulfilling journey that Mr Jason Wong, from the DFL Secretariat, together with a group of like-minded individuals and organizations, has taken to grow the DFL movement.
It was a journey with humble, even heart wrenching beginnings. In fact, it was a journey borne out of Jason’s observation of children in difficult circumstances; it paved the way for a movement to bring healing in many father-child relationships.
“Even if it had only been this one child that benefited from launching the DFL movement,
to me, it would still have been worth it.”
1. How did the vision for the DFL movement come about?
My work experience in the prisons system for almost 17 years provided me the opportunity to speak to many prisoners and learn a lot about their background and childhood. I became a “better parent” even before I got married; the reason being that I told myself to never outsource parenting if I were to get married and have children. As the saying goes, it is easier to build boys than to fix men.
When I was seconded to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, three and a half years ago, my eyes were opened to a part of Singapore that I had never seen before, dealing with issues such as child abuse, family violence, fostering, children’s homes, juvenile delinquency and the homeless.
It became clear after speaking with social workers, child protection officers, probation officers, school counsellors and principals that the common thread was absent or abusive fathers. Instead of turning their hearts to their children, many fathers were turning away or against their children.
My colleagues and I decided to investigate further into the phenomenon of absent or abusive fathers, and about the impact fathers have on child development. We found conclusive local and international research evidence that children perform better academically, emotionally, psychologically and behaviourally when fathers are more involved in their children’s lives.
As such, instead of targeting just the at-risk fathers, we were keen to drive a national fathers’ movement reaching all fathers, so that ALL children could benefit from having fathers who were more involved and more aware of the importance of their roles.
In addition, those who were already involved fathers told me that this message should go out to all fathers as even the converted need to be reminded
2. What thoughts and emotions does the DFL logo invoke in you?
The DFL logo was contributed pro bono by DDB Asia. When the Managing Director heard about what we were planning to do, he told me that as a father, he found this very meaningful and vital, and wanted to do his part to support this movement. When he announced his intention to support this project to his staff, a few hands went up to volunteer, and they were all fathers!
The logo shows children with their eyes looking into the distance as though peering into their future. It also shows the father coming down to the level of his children. It depicts how fathers must be responsible to help their children find and fulfil their potential and purpose in life. To do this, fathers have to come down to the level of their children at every stage of their lives – whether it is when they are babies, toddlers, pre-teens, teens, or young adults.
Unfortunately, instead of hearts being turned towards their children, many fathers turn away from their children – towards their career, hobbies, or even vices and addictions. The worst cases are those who abandon and abuse their very own children. The DFL movement hopes to change all this.
Whenever I see the DFL logo on banners, or on a car driving by, or on a T-shirt worn by a father, it gives hope that the hearts of fathers are slowly but surely turning towards their children.
3. What was it like taking DFL from concept to launch on 19 November 2009?
We approached the whole DFL experience as a learning journey and a process to grow a community of like-minded individuals who believe in active fatherhood. We started by scouring the diverse literature to better understand the difference that dads make, and to build an understanding of the realities of fatherhood in Singapore.
We also conversed with various individuals, organisations and companies to seed a lofty idea of increasing father involvement across all father segments. We shared what we knew; they contributed their ideas. The more conversations we had, the bigger our community grew.
This groundswell of support gave us confidence that a national fathers’ movement was worth pursuing. Quite fittingly, the National Family Council adopted active fatherhood as an evolving strategy, and the DFL movement was born.
The Fathers Action Network (FAN) emerged to drive the movement. It gave focus to the national agenda of growing fatherhood involvement. More than anything else, it presently reflects the community-driven nature of the movement.
4. What was it like distributing DFL toolkits at the launch?
It was a great encouragement to see fathers – some with their children – distributing the DFL toolkits. This is what the movement is all about.
It is about fathers who believe in this cause, reaching out to other fathers to be good influencers in their children’s lives. It is also about children reaching out to their own and other fathers; sending the message that children need more of their fathers to be there for them, to be their role models and their heroes.
5. What was the highlight for you on the DFL calendar in the 2010?
At the end of a talk I gave at a primary school’s Fathers@Schools programme launch, I got the children to ask their fathers: “Will you be my Dad for Life?”
The fathers were supposed to say “Yes”, followed by speaking something from their heart to their child. For example, “I love you,” “I believe in you,” or “I will always be here for you.” The child would then respond by putting the Dads for Life wristband on the father’s wrist, and end with a loving hug.
When everyone had done so – which was a pretty moving sight – I saw one father, with tears flowing down his eyes, still having both arms around his son. I found out only later that this boy is a child with special needs. Even if it had only been this one child that benefited from launching the DFL movement, to me, it would still have been worth it.
Jason has also been featured in the Today paper, ‘A Love Measured in Memories’.
About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.
First published on 28-06-2011
Categories: Dads' Stories