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Statewide summit highlights importance of fathers


NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH)– Father’s Day may have been in June, but for these past two days in August, several state agencies have been talking about the importance of dads.

“You lift up dads and you lift up kids,” said Department of Children and Families Commissioner Vanessa Dorantes as she opened up Friday’s program.

It’s a two-day statewide summit on the importance of fathers. Scott Lewis grew up without a father in the picture.

“As great a job as my mother has done, and she has done a great job with me, learning how to be a man was not one of the things that a woman can teach,” Lewis said.

Lewis ended up in prison. That is just the kind of fate these workers with the Department of Children and Families and Social Services try to help people avoid. Lewis was invited to speak at the summit, however, because of how he ended up in prison.

Lewis was set up by a corrupt New Haven Police Officer, and convicted of a double homicide he did not commit. His case is the subject of a documentary called “120 years,” the length of time he was sentenced to prison.

Lewis got his conviction overturned after 20 years, but missed being a father to his own kids.

“When I went in, Scott was 4, Tamaji was 2,” said Lewis. “I come out, they’re in their late 20’s now, almost 30 years old.”

“Oftentimes, many dads that are involved in families that we come in contact with in the child welfare system, have barriers and lots of issues that sometimes impact their ability to be the dad that they’d like to be,” explained commissioner Dorantes.

The state can help, even offering a kind of parent tutoring service.

“They come in and they work with fathers on parenting skills, co-parenting skills,” said Anthony Gay, a supervisor with DCF. “Oftentimes there’s a bridge and gap between mom and dad, so we help them break down the barrier.”

The Connecticut Fatherhood Initiative not only helps and educates, but celebrates fathers, especially ones trying to overcome obstacles, like 20 years in prison for a crime you didn’t commit.

“As a father, you have to find a way to build those relationships with your children because you know they’re important to the success that they may or may not have in their own lives,” Lewis said.

The Connecticut Fatherhood Initiative and the group Dads Matter too! have frequent events celebrating fatherhood and reminding everyone of the important role that dads play in their children’s lives.

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