Molding more than clay. Rowan Harrison teaches parents a pinch pot exercise to share with their children.

On Thursday, April 12, 2018, LACOE Head Start–State Preschool Division hosted the 3rd Annual Father Involvement Parent Conference in partnership with the Los Angeles County Male Engagement Collaborative.

A capacity crowd of approximately 200 fathers, mothers, and community members gained new skills and perspectives for raising their children.

Studies show that children who have positive male role models active in their lives achieve higher grades, maintain better school attendance, and are less likely to exhibit negative behavior. LACOE consistently encourages male engagement through initiatives including the Father Involvement Parent Conference, as well as the countywide Be a Hero: Take Your Child to Preschool Day held annually on the first Tuesday of October.

During this year’s conference, fathers and other attendees participated in a variety of seminars on topics including maintaining healthy marriages, co-parenting, advocating for special needs children, transitioning to kindergarten, getting children to eat healthy, and the pros and cons of technology in education. Hands-on workshops included music and movement, pottery activities, and fun home improvement ideas.

Silvan Zavala, a father of three children in Head Start and Early Head Start programs at Plaza de la Raza Child Development Services, Inc., pointed to the active shooter training presented by Lieutenant Kevin Phillips as especially enlightening. “I was really impressed with the information,” Silvan shared. “Run. Hide. Fight. It’s simple and to the point.” As with the majority of workshops, it was presented in both Spanish and English to be accessible to all participants.

This year, conference organizers made a more concerted effort to encourage couples to attend together. Workshops were open to all participants, though a special “man cave” was set aside for men only. Filled with sports and automotive memorabilia, the secluded room provided a safe space for more frank small-group discussions. Sessions alternated between English and Spanish, and were hosted by Project Fatherhood, Child Support Services, and fathers of former Head Start children.

At the end of the day, participants returned home with new skills, perspectives, and educational materials provided by event sponsors, encouraged and empowered to be better parents to their children.