We Are Dads Helping Other Men Get a Good Start as New Fathers

In 1990, several of us sat down with our babies at the local hospital to “show the ropes” to men with their first child on the way. For three hours our babies smiled, slept, cried and did what babies do, and the “rookie” fathers watched us care for them without a mother in sight. Some rookies said they had never even held a baby before, so we handed them our own.

We “veterans” talked about our experiences and offered advice, and we all got to know and trust each other. Everything said in the room stayed in the room, so nothing was left off the table. The rookies were relieved to find their many concerns and even fears were common among dads-to-be. By the end, each man came to realize, “I can do this,” and went home with a new sense of confidence. And they did do it, and months later returned as veterans with their own babies to pass on knowledge to the next group of dads-to-be.

Located next to the El Toro U.S. Marine Base in California, Boot Camp benefited from a diverse group of fathers, a strength that was very apparent when a man of one race handed his baby to a man of another. The Marines also helped by suggesting a change to a more respectful name from the original “Bootee Camp.”

Expanding Across the U.S.

In the mid 90s, a fledgling fatherhood movement, responding to absent, apathetic or abusive fathers in far too many families, took notice of Boot Camp. Characterized as a “nursery in a locker room,” with no women over two feet tall allowed, the media also discovered Boot Camp, and requests for the program from other hospitals started arriving. We successfully replicated the workshop in Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1996, and then offered it to other communities throughout the nation.

As we expanded, Boot Camp proved successful in a wide variety of communities and settings, since the veterans, the rookies and the Coach/facilitator represent the community itself. This includes hospitals in low-income communities with high rates of absent fathers to those in affluent communities with fathers who want to get a great start. In 2001, Boot Camp was offered in Spanish, and is still the nation’s only curriculum geared to Spanish-speaking new fathers. To date, more than 325,000 men have graduated from Boot Camp for New Dads.

Reaching Out to More Fathers

Our mission is to help assure every child a father they can count on, no matter what. We reach 2% of new fathers directly in the U.S., so we have many more men to reach as they have their first child.

We get a lot of help, though. Each graduate adds a new role model to his family and community, and today’s generation of young men is highly receptive to the example they set. Our programs also spawn the development of other programs for fathers, so there is an expansive impact in each community we serve. We run workshops in the United Kingdom and Canada and are fielding requests from around the world, indicating the huge potential our message has.

Given the enormous benefits resulting from men who step up to meet their responsibilities to their children and become involved, engaged fathers, we believe a community can make no better investment than to provide necessary support to their dads.

Join us in helping men become the best fathers they can imagine.