Ypsi's Corner Health Center fills gaps in programming for young fathers, parents of transgender kids

As Corner enters its 40th year of serving the Ypsilanti area, it's launching a Fathers for Family program and a series of workshops called Stand Out! for parents of trans and non-binary kids.
A woman recently asked Corner Health Center (Corner) Community Outreach and Health Education Manager Ashley Anderson if the Ypsilanti organization offered classes or other resources that could support a young, stressed father-to-be.

"My answer was 'no,' and I hated to have to tell her that," Anderson says.

A short time later, another individual asked about help for a young father, and again, Anderson noted the center had no programs specifically to help him.
Behavioral Health Therapist Aaron Neal, Outreach & Education Manager Ashley Anderson, and Clinic Director Lori Bennett at Corner Health Center.
"We need to have equal and equitable resources for young fathers if we're supporting families," Anderson says. "And what we found out when we started doing research is that the health and wellbeing and preparedness of the father directly impacts the mental health and stability of the child."

Corner staff also recently identified another gap in service. They provide a regular support group for transgender and nonbinary youth, but there was a need for education and support for parents of that group's members.

Corner provides health care and supportive services for young people ages 12 to 25. The nonprofit, located at 47 N. Huron St., offers robust programming for mothers and children, from pamphlets to safe baby classes, to opportunities to get free infant car seats, formula, and diapers. As Corner enters its 40th year of serving the Ypsilanti area, it is filling gaps in service by launching a Fathers for Family program and a series of workshops called Stand Out! for parents of trans and non-binary kids.

Fathers for Family

Anderson says Corner used to offer a support group for dads, but none of the center's current staff knew much about it. Anderson shares a story that illustrates the need for this type of support.

A patient had a trusting relationship with Corner for a long time and knew there was something wrong with her child. Corner staff told her to go to a hospital, but the child's father persuaded her to go home and wait out the illness.

"The baby ended up dying, and we recognized that some of the basic things we expect parents to know, some of these fathers just don't know," Anderson says. "And, from reviewing our clinic practices, we learned that we haven't been including [young fathers] in the conversation."

Young fathers could benefit from conversations about developmental markers to look for in their child, how to change a diaper or prepare formula, or how they could support a mother in breastfeeding, Anderson says.

Late in 2022, Corner staff began having focus group conversations to find out what sort of programming they should offer. Anderson says they've "gotten a bunch of feedback" but the process is still ongoing.

"We're looking to implement a mentorship program of dads mentoring young dads," Anderson says. "And we've created a plan that includes parenting classes, packets, and a new web page as a resource hub where they can get this information."
DNP Student Emily Brandt, Behavioral Health Manager Jennifer Schwartz, and Health Educator Riley Annear at Corner Health Center.
Corner staff are currently taking a two-pronged approach to the issue. The first part of that strategy includes addressing what's happening in Corner's clinic or other health care settings.

"We're shifting that paradigm to include fathers and engage young men, because the health of the whole family is impacted," Anderson says.

The second prong is education and support services for young fathers, through a program called Fathers for Family.

"They'll get support around things like diapers, formula, cribs, what to look for when you go to well-baby visits, and why it's important that fathers attend," Anderson says. Or, if the parents are no longer a couple, fathers might need support around co-parenting communication. 

Javonnah Burroughs is a Corner Health patient who is co-parenting her 6-month-old son with her boyfriend. She says fathers often miss their babies' doctor appointments for work and may have a hard time staying as involved in a child's health as the mother might.

"I think a lot of young fathers could use extra help," Burroughs says. 
Clinic Director Lori Bennett, Behavioral Health Therapist Aaron Neal, and Outreach & Education Manager Ashely Anderson at Corner Health Center.
Ypsilanti resident Darion Rhodes is raising his 1-year-old child, Ma'kaiyah, who was born when he was 20. He says he didn't turn to anyone for advice but learned as he went along. He felt he handled being a young father pretty well since he had experience caring for young nieces and nephews, but he says he has friends who struggle with being single parents.

Rhodes says he thinks Fathers for Family is a great idea, and he's already recommended it to two of his friends.

"They are more than excited to join and come learn some things," Rhodes says. 

He says a lot of young fathers could benefit from more support – "especially ones that are 18 or 19, just out of high school."

"They need an older male who is a good father and a great support who can help you out and give you advice on what to do if the baby won't stop crying and Mom's not there," he says. 

For more information on Fathers for Family, click here.

Stand Out!

Riley Annear, a health educator at Corner, says the center's Stand Out! workshop series was also created to fill a gap. She says she called around to community partners but found there weren't any support groups or resources for parents of trans and non-binary kids in Washtenaw County.

"They may be grappling with identity, changes to appearance, names, and pronouns, and sometimes parents don't have any experience or knowledge around this," Annear says. "They're left without resources on how to be a strong ally."
DNP Student Emily Brandt, Behavioral Health Manager Jennifer Schwartz, and Health Educator Riley Annear at Corner Health Center.
Corner will host a Stand Out! workshop each Tuesday in March, each with a different theme. The first two sessions and the last are limited to parents only, so they can ask uncomfortable questions without making trans or non-binary youth feel unsafe. The first session was an introduction to gender basics, and the second was about the coming-out experience. The third will feature a panel of transgender youth answering questions parents might have. The final workshop will be about how to be a strong ally, including an introduction to further resources. 

"Having parents and a supportive and safe home decreases the young people's risk of depression, anxiety, homelessness, and suicide," Annear says.

For more information about Stand Out! workshops, click here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

All photos by Doug Coombe.
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