Interview with Antoine Johnson: June Spotlight
A common trait among our Spotlights is the willingness to serve and better the Buffalo Niagara region. While this sometimes ties into their professional work, many young professionals dive into passion projects and work on initiatives close to home.
Antoine Johnson is a credentialed Fatherhood Practitioner and Program Manager whose work involves providing interventions and services that support primarily low to moderate income fathers and families in various communities throughout Western New York. The focus of his work is to close the gap in the disparity of services and interventions available to fathers’ (e.g. biological fathers and social fathers) in order to reduce the number of father absenteeism homes for the one in four children who grow up without a father.
We spoke with Antoine about this experience and discussed the benefits of outside mentorship on young professional’s development.
As a Fatherhood Practitioner, Antoine works directly with fathers in Western New York to establish health and overall wellbeing for our community’s families. This works ranges from educating fathers on communication, to research on familial best practices, to long-lasting programming for the fathers themselves. In his role, Antoine provides hands-on support to the men of WNY. While co-parenting initiatives and evidence-based nurture programs play a large role in the Responsible Father Initiative, mentorship is equally as important for Antoine. Not only does the experience enrich his personal life, but the work benefits his development as a young professional.
Why Western New York?
The Responsible Fatherhood Initiative here at Buffalo Prenatal Network is unique to the Western New York region. The need really comes out of the lack of support services to promote healthy father-child engagements. There are a number of programs that support moms and children, there are not a lot of programs that support fathers. What we really do is we fill in the gap.
How did you get involved? And why?
I was invited to a group about three years ago from one of the assistant pastors at my church. I really didn’t know why he was inviting me other than the fact that we knew each other and we had a good relationship because I wasn’t a father at the time. But I still decided to attend this group and immediately I gravitated to the conversations that were being held. I was really able to relate to some of the experiences from the relationship that I have with my father.
When I think about the real reason why I’m involved in this work, I realize that just like myself, there are a lot of families who have similar experiences. On a more personal level, we help to instill a sense of hope and perseverance. We help fathers understand that they’re not in this experience alone. By providing support services or walking alongside that father until he feels like he has the support that he needs is a large part of it.
What impact has involvement in this program had on your professional career?
I’ve learned that on a managerial and leadership level, there is a lot of work to be done in the background of a program like this. In terms of partnerships and establishing different relationships in the community, this kind of work helps to leverage some of the support that we need in order to better serve our customers .
What impact has involvement in this program had on your personal development?
The personal benefit is the ability to witness the changes that are being made in the lives of the people that we serve. Making that impact and realizing that it’s not just one individual that we’re serving – it’s generationally impacted. If we can help enough people, or at least just one father understand the importance of pouring into their child and helping and contributing to their health and wellbeing, then they’re going to grow up and do the same thing with their children. When I think about that on a personal level, it inspires me to keep going.