Program to give Routt County dads a helping hand |

Program to give Routt County dads a helping hand

7-week Nurturing Fathers class provides resources, parenting advice for free

Mike Lawrence

Jason Thompson, of Avon, seemed comfortable in his role as a father while keeping an eye on his 22-month-old daughter, Vega, at the Kookaburra Kidz store Monday afternoon in downtown Steamboat Springs. A free, seven-week program for fathers starts today, offered by the Fatherhood Program of Routt County.

— Stephen Trunkwalter said he was on the verge of moving back to Pennsylvania in December 2009, to be closer to family when providing special care for his son while working a full-time job as a single parent was proving overwhelming.

"It was a very difficult time," Trunkwalter said Monday. "I was pretty much at a loss for who to turn to for help."

A friend suggested he contact county human services. It turned out to be a life-changing suggestion.

Trunkwalter met Mariah Poole, who then was working child support cases and now is the fatherhood program coordinator for the Routt County Department of Human Services.

"She was able to help get me contacted with resources here in town, different organizations, the autism society, Horizons, other special needs programs," Trunkwalter said, referring to the Yampa Valley Autism Program and Horizons Specialized Services. "She's been very positive, influentially, as far as making me realize I can do this. There are support groups, there are networks that are there to help" fathers.

Poole said that type of need is the reason she started Nurturing Fathers, a seven-week, 14-class program that starts at 6 p.m. today in the Routt County Courthouse Annex. The program is funded through a state grant for fatherhood programs. Poole said she applied for the grant in February 2010 and received an award letter in October, in an effort sparked by a simple observation.

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"I started noticing the lack of resources in our community for fathers," she said. "The overwhelming concern that I hear from every one of my clients is: 'I want to be a better dad and I don't know exactly how to do that.'"

Trunkwalter said he felt that void.

"Honestly, I would say I was completely unaware that a program like she's started even existed," Trunkwalter said. "I would have thought there was nothing out there that would be supportive of fathers like this."

Poole said the first seven-week session of Nurturing Fathers, which ran from January to March, brought two local dads through the program to completion. She said the program's second edition, which starts today and will use the same material as the first, has 10 fathers registered so far.

Poole said she's had specialized training in the Nurturing Fathers program, developed by family mediator Mark Perlman, of the Florida-based Center for Growth & Development. Information is at http://www.nurturing

Poole said the program is open to fathers of newborns to teenagers, in stable or separated relationships, including fathers involved in custodial or visitation issues.

"It is open to any dad, and in fact, this time around we have a very interesting group of men who are going to be participating," she said. "Our services run the gamut for all types of fathers in Routt County."

She said fathers can register up until the program's third class, which is May 17. Those interested can call 970-870-5279.

Trunkwalter hasn't registered for either Nurturing Fathers program but has worked with Poole one-on-one for the past two years. He said the help he's received has been invaluable in his role as a father for his 14-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter.

Trunkwalter, 37, lives with his son on the city's west side.

"She has made it possible for us to stay here in Steamboat, where we have all these resources," he said about Poole. "I feel forever grateful for the things she's done."

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email

Nurturing Fathers

The Fatherhood Program of Routt County is offering Nurturing Fathers, a seven-week program to provide resources and parenting training for dads, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Routt County Courthouse Annex, 136 Sixth St. The program is free. Child care is provided. A $50 completion incentive is awarded at the end of the program, on June 21.

Fathers have until May 17 to register and join the program, which requires an initial interview. Contact Mariah Poole at 970-870-5279 or mpoole@co.routt.c… for more information.

Learn about the program at

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