Men sometimes get a bad rap in today’s society as parental figures.
Tualatin resident Casey Wood says that’s because many of them do, in fact, come by that reputation the old fashioned way: they earn it.
But Wood, himself the parent of two boys ages 26 and 17, wanted to do something to demonstrate that there are, in fact, plenty of men out there with outstanding character, integrity and dedication to raising children. So, he created a nonprofit group called Angel Dads that consists of volunteers who are paired with children who lack a father figure in their lives.
“The goal is to simply be a great father figure for kids, that’s all,” Wood says.
Angel Dads do all the normal things you might expect, from taking children to the park, ball games, the library or the movies. They buy them ice cream and even show up at school to enjoy a cafeteria lunch alongside the child and their friends.
Shying away from attention is part of the organization’s DNA. They don’t advertise and they ask the families and volunteers they work with to avoid leaving online reviews of their service. Instead, they use targeted social media posts to find prospective single mothers who are interested in finding a father figure for a young child.
“We don’t want the credit; we just want to find the kids served by great dads,” Wood said. “If we can see a smile on a child’s face that’s all the credit we need.”
Wood founded Angel Dads in San Antonio, Texas, in 2015 as a 501c3 nonprofit before moving to Tualatin in 2017. He brought the organization with him and has kept at it since then, despite the difficult task of finding volunteers willing to invest up to 20 hours a week in a child who desperately needs the structure and involvement a dad can bring.
Right now, Angel Dads serves mothers and their children in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Yamhill counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington – essentially the wider Portland metro area.
“It’s similar to Big Brothers Big Sisters,” he said. “But the main difference is an Angel Dad is someone who is a little more involved in a child’s life, someone who is actually filling in as an actual father figure or dad.”
Wood makes that comparison because prior to forming Angel Dads he was a volunteer at a San Antonio Big Brother Big Sisters of America chapter and grew to love the work involved. He felt, however, that a lot of the kids involved in the program seemed to crave even more involvement from their adults than the typical one-day-a-week schedule that organization offered.
“I love what they do, but from a concept of Angel Dads we feel that a child really wants more than an hour a week big brother,” he said. “They want someone they can truly think of as their dad. Growing up without a dad sucks, honestly, and we are trying to help children grow up with a dad.”
Prospective volunteers are normally men with their own children, but that isn’t a strict requirement. Would-be Angel Dads undergo thorough backgrounds checks performed by the same company used by Big Brothers Big Sisters. This helps ensure the single mothers who are interested in pairing their child with an Angel Dad can feel comfortable with the match.
Volunteers must sign a legally binding contract with the family of the child that provides protection to both parties. This protection ranges from shielding Angel Dads from possible questions about custody arrangements to a requirement that Angel Dads cannot date the mothers of the children they are mentoring.
The group provides Angel Dads to mothers with children ranging in age from 1 to 10 years old. The only demographic they can’t serve are children who are wards of the states of Oregon and Washington.
“It is an initial two-year ask for volunteers with the intention that if you’re with the child for two years, chances are you’re going to build a strong relationship with the child and you won’t want to end it after two years.”
While the Angel Dads involved in the program shy away from publicity, there are good reasons for that. One is the possibility of becoming entangled with a past domestic abuser. Another is simply a wish to avoid distractions and ensure that their volunteer work remains pure and free of outside motives. This helps ensure that what volunteers do step forward, and it’s a number whittled down by the COVID-19 pandemic, are outstanding candidates.
“We are asking a huge commitment of them,” he said. “So, we’re trying our best to work in that hard position. We’re a very different organization than you’re probably used to.”
To learn more about Angel Dads, visit: www.angeldads.com.