JOPLIN, Mo. – Originating in Springfield, the New Pathways for Good Dads program is designed to help fathers improve themselves and become an active, engaged parent.  

The ROCC, located at 1402 S Main Street, partnered with the Alliance of Southwest Missouri to bring the program to Joplin.

The Good Dads program is the “only organization in Southern Missouri focused on helping all dads be more engaged with their children,” according to their website

“The main goal of this program is to create relationships between fathers and their kids… and just to build those relationships and to get the fathers involved with their children,” said Director of Substance Abuse for the Alliance of Southwest Missouri Marlissa Diggs.

The organization was created to address the correlation between absentee fathers and developmental and behavioral issues in children.

“So they put this program together to try to reunite fathers with children and get them back in their lives,” said Diggs. 

The Good Dads program offers two required classes as well as additional resources depending on the father’s needs.

“In order to stay involved with the Good Dads program, which can be up to an 18 month period, there are certain classes that are required of the men to take,” said Diggs.

One class teaches parenting skills, conflict resolution, anger management and more. The other focuses on relationships and communication, including relationships with the child’s mother, the children and even coworkers. The goal is to “build strong relationships in general.” 

“Then they can fill in whatever other goals they have, whether it be to obtain employment or to maybe promote to a better job or gain housing or transportation. Sometimes there’s unresolved former legal issues that need to be worked through and then sometimes the dads have no access to their children at all, and so gaining visitation is a primary goal,” said Diggs.

The program aims to “help fathers reunify and have a healthy relationship with their children,” said facilitator for the Good Dads program Jeremy Kitchingham.

“It offers an enrichment in fatherhood; to learn social skills to deal with your children, to deal with your child’s mother, to deal with authorities in a positive manner and get things on track,” said Kitchingham. 

To fathers interested in the program, Kitchingham says: “Please come down and check it out one night… We’re a big family. If you think it’s for you, it probably is… If you have issues and you have the willingness to want to change some things, please come.” 

“I needed this program… I just encourage somebody to come and be a part of this and use the resources they have because it will help anyone that wants to do better,” he said. 

The program even offers child support help and “access to resources that most folks don’t” have access to. 

“It actually gives them a little bit of help with their child support, as well as building that bond and establishing healthy co-parenting skills to gain and maintain a sustained relationship with their family,” said Supervisor of the Recovery Outreach Community Center Jennifer Harris.

“I think that with this class, it gives the fathers a sense of encouragement and helps them to better their parenting skills, so they feel more capable of mentoring and being that father figure to their children,” she said.

Eric Luttrell enrolling in the Good Dads program

“If you’re trying to be there for your kids, it’s definitely the right step in the direction for taking on responsibility, learning that and trying to establish that in the household – that love that needs to be there,” said local father of three Eric Luttrell.

Luttrell’s goal is “to be a better father, to reach out to my dad and my mom and to bring healing in my family so that I can be a better parent.” 

Although the program is addressing low-income fathers, it is not exclusive to them. Any father in need of help is welcome.

Meetings will be held at the ROCC on Monday evenings. To get involved, contact Marlissa Diggs at (417)782-9899.