Fathers Matter: Social Work faculty member honored for commitment to supporting urban fathers

For over two decades, Wayne State University School of Social Work Associate Professor Carolyn Joy Dayton, PhD, LP, LMSW, IMH-E®(IV) has been committed to supporting early parenting and fathers in urban settings. Dayton was recently recognized for her commitment to helping Michigan’s fathers by the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (DWIHN) with a Connections Fatherhood Advocate Award.

Dayton’s emphasis on research that is translational and interdisciplinary has led her to explore unique ways to support fathers including a partnership with faculty from the WSU Department of Music examining the calming power of singing to young infants by violence-exposed parents at risk for insensitive parenting, and additional studies with the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development (MPSI) seeking to expand the first-hand accounts of the biological and behavioral processes fathers experience as they prepare for a new baby. Dayton’s research is also deeply rooted in community partnerships with local organizations such as Family Assistance for Renaissance Men (F.A.R.M.) to understand the needs of urban fathers and develop successful interventions that impact Detroit families. Dayton has worked closely with F.A.R.M. from the ground-up as a program consultant, evaluator, advocate and even lawn care specialist and maintenance woman when needed. F.A.R.M.’s holistic approach to helping men become better fathers one family at a time, aligns with Dayton’s desire to address barriers to healthy fatherhood and healthy families from micro, macro and mezzo levels.     

Dayton earned her Doctorate of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology from Michigan State University, a Graduate Certificate in Infant Mental Health from the University of Michigan, a Masters of Arts in Psychology from Michigan State University, a Masters of Social Work from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts from Kalamazoo College. As a licensed practitioner of clinical social work and clinical psychology, and an endorsed infant mental health mentor, Dayton has worked to support families in a variety of ways throughout her career. Dayton’s clinical work with families aims to identify biological and psychosocial risk and resilience factors that influence parenting processes and early child development.

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of their young children, fathers matter. The positive health effects associated with father involvement begin in pregnancy and fathers are central to the health of their families. Unfortunately, there are often barriers that prevent fathers from being fully recognized for their important role.  Fathers are not always recognized as an “equal parent” in court, for example, leading to fewer opportunities for children to spend time with their fathers after divorce or separation within the couple relationship.

Dayton also holds a joint appointment at MPSI where she serves as the Associate Director of the Infant Mental Health Program (IMH). The IMH Program provides specialized, multidisciplinary training in early intervention with the families of infants, toddlers, and young children. The program focuses on the development of clinical skills that allow the practitioner to promote healthy social-emotional development in young children using a culturally informed approach to service delivery.

My wonderful colleague, Mr. John Miles from The Children’s Center asked me to come to a fatherhood meeting at Black Family Development.  I was so surprised to find that it was all a rouse to present me with the award.  I am incredibly fortunate to work with outstanding, talented and passionate fatherhood advocates throughout the Metro Detroit area. The work we do with and for fathers is critical to enriching the lives of children and families.  I’m both honored and humbled to receive this award.     

Hero image caption: Award ceremony attendees from left: Cassandra Phipps, director of Children’s Initiative; Trinilda Johnson-co chair of Cross System Management and the chief operating officer from Assured Family Services; award recipient Carolyn Dayton, PhD, Wayne State School of Social Work associate professor; John Miles, coordinator of the Wayne County Fatherhood Initiative at The Children’s Center; and LaTonya Shelton, co-chair of Cross System Management and chief operating officer of Black Family Development, Inc;

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