Tyler hospital partnership enables new fathers to assist in early brain development

‘Brain Scientist Dads’ focuses on early childhood development through paternal involvement.
‘Brain Scientist Dads’ program helps new fathers across East Texas engage early on to help their kids’ brain development
Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 10:01 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Becoming a parent for the first time can be challenging, from adjusting to a new addition to the family to learning how to be a parent.

That’s where the “Brain Scientist Dads” program kicks in; the project is a partnership of NET Health, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health. All of them with the same goal, to increase the father’s involvement to help with their child’s brain development in the early years.

A place Steven Fields went to looking for answers after becoming a dad for the first time.

“Seeking out any help, I could possibly get as anyone that’s a parent, especially for the first time knows there’s no guidebook for this,” said Fields.

He joined Brain Scientist Dads, a group in Tyler that focuses on early childhood development through dad’s involvement.

“Let you know that you’re not alone with parenting, got to meet other fathers and learn from other people that have been fathers,” said Fields.

Fields was among 12 dads that graduated last year from the group’s eight-week program, where he learned ways to be more involved in his daughter’s life.

“We’ve been able to use those building blocks to develop my daughter,” said Fields.

Jason Rhodes a father engagement specialist at Net Health understands the impact of fathers being present and interacting with their children.

“Studies have shown that father involvement with the child during those times from prenatal to three-year-old children have a better outcome in their school experience, academically,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes also said when a child does not have a father or a father figure at home, they can develop emotional and behavioral problems. However, the group not only prioritizes children but also helps fathers take care of themselves.

“We also have a session where we talk about self-care and not being afraid or ashamed to ask for help when you need it,” said Rhodes.

Fields will be coming back to the program but with a different role to help new father’s coming in.

“We gotta do so much more than provide, we have to be there, we have to engage. We have to be part of their development because whenever you are children blossom.”

The program is available only to first-time dads or expecting fathers. For those that have a child, they need to be less than four years old.

For this year so far, they are planning to have consecutive eight-week classes from August to March. The first class will be on Tuesday, Aug. 22 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at United Way of Smith County. The program is free, and dinner is provided.

To sign up for the program, click here.