New CLC engages fathers, supports breastfeeding, heals communities

A note in the margin of Mr. Calvin Williams’, CLC notebook reads: “Can a man be a CLC?”

He jotted the note down sometime last year during his interactions with Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE).

For over two decades, Williams has been dedicated to improving the relationship quality and function for parents, co-parents, couples and families through his company Lucian Families Inc. based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Williams has been a leader in the development of best practices that engage fathers and families. He is the co-author of the On My Shoulders fatherhood curriculum, a strengths-based program that equips fathers for success in relationships with their children and their co-parenting partner.

Williams journey into family advocacy started when a co-worker at the restaurant he managed invited him to a then informal gathering of Black men.  William’s volunteer work within this group ultimately led him to become the executive director of the organization.

“Since then, it’s been nothing but a beautiful uphill ride going deeper and deeper into serving men and fathers,” he says.  

Last year, after Williams spoke briefly at the University of Cincinnati about the Talbert House Fatherhood Project’s Breast for Success Program, a gentle tap met his shoulder on his way back to his seat. Williams had caught ROSE President and Chief Empowerment Office (CEO) Kimarie Bugg’s, MSN, MPH, CLC attention. She invited Williams to several ROSE events over the next several months.

His interactions with ROSE and exposure to maternal child health advocacy and research left Williams in awe.

“Just the power of women’s bodies to make milk and feed a child… I’ve always been an advocate for women; I had that foundation, but being [with ROSE] I really, really got it. This [breastfeeding] could heal communities.”

Bugg arranged a scholarship for Williams to complete the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC).

“Obviously I was thrilled,” Williams says.

He goes on, “I could easily see where I could use my platform to really promote breastfeeding with men and fathers. My vision is to more deeply intersect breastfeeding with fatherhood. Now I will take breastfeeding everywhere I go.”

Bugg comments: “I am so PROUD of Calvin and I am so grateful to Healthy Children for providing us with these scholarships.  This man has helped us to take our training to the next level.”

Specifically, Williams was hired by the Hamilton County (Ohio) Job & Family Services to lead the Hamilton County Fatherhood Collaborative where he plans to shape the culture with evidence-based breastfeeding education and support.

Through his work with the Talbert House Fatherhood Project, Williams serves 275 to 300 fathers a year. Williams deems himself a listener; helping fathers navigate their co-parenting situations.

He works with fathers, mostly low-income, African-American people, to help improve the function of their co-parenting situations through conflict management and communication strategies.

“These families are very, very distressed,” Williams begins.

The accumulation of intergenerational poverty and trauma and adversity in their own childhoods often manifests itself through conflict and harm within the fathers’ relationships, Williams continues.

Coupled with intergenerational trauma, are policies that further distress People of Color.  

“People really need a stronger support network from their government, and I see the government playing games with people’s lives in the name of some principles that nobody can live up to,” Williams explains. “It’s really disheartening to see that and watch on the ground– literally– the effect of these policies like hyper-policing, criminalizing poverty and mass incarceration. It’s horrible. It’s a mess.”

Despite the common narrative about Black fathers, namely that they don’t parent their children, Williams sees otherwise.

“They really, really want to be good parents despite all of that. The men I serve don’t come to me because they don’t want to parent their children,” he says. “They have their eye on the ball–no matter how skewed it is because of their own issues– they are very clear about wanting to take care of their children.”

In December 2017, Williams helped formally launch Reaching Our Brothers Everywhere (ROBE) where he serves on the Wisdom Counsel.

ROBE’s approach is to meet communities where they are. Step one: gain an understanding about breastfeeding culture and how infant mortality affects different communities. Step two: bring in resources with the intention to allow communities to build themselves up.

“We’re not pulling people together in communities with an attitude like ‘we’re so great’,” Williams says. “We’re there to listen and learn.”

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