The Infant Welfare Society of Evanston (IWSE) will premiere its documentary film, “The Evanston Fatherhood Initiative,” at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Family Focus Theater, 2010 Dewey Ave. Open to the public, the screening will include a welcome reception and panel discussion.

This documentary is the result of a growing initiative to provide fathers of children ages 0-3 with community connection, parenting resources and social-emotional support. It intends to highlight how the community can better engage fathers in early childhood education by addressing societal and systematic issues and dispelling myths and stereotypes that inhibit father connectivity.

This fatherhood initiative, funded by private donors, Cradle to Career and the United Way, began in 2017 as a weekly support group that provided mentorship and a venue for discussion. As participation grew, it expanded to include highly attended open mic sessions and community picnics, which allowed for more open dialogue and expression. The documentary follows fathers who participated, as well as organizational leaders, who are working to shift societal notions of fatherhood and develop strong relationships between men and their children starting at birth.
“As advocates for the importance of early childhood development, we see research that shows how fathers play a critical role in positive growth,” says IWSE Executive Director Stephen Vick. “It is essential that we work with providers and the community to change the current narrative. Fathers want to learn and connect, they need to be recognized as primary caretakers.”

There will be a panel discussion after the screening with Bettye Cohns, Executive Director, Reba Early Learning Center; Teh’ Ray Hale, Fatherhood Project Coordinator; Ivan Ramos- Director, Youth Job Center; Massai Amewa- Evanston Father; and Martha Ortiz, Family Advocate, IWSE.