Helping Kids by Helping Dads

Written by Julia Null Smith, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications

Marcus Griggs was ready for a new challenge when he accepted the position of Fatherhood Specialist at SafePlace, where he has been has been making a difference as a Children’s Advocate since 2001. Marcus’s new role is part of the new Project HOPES initiative, a partnership between SafePlace, Any Baby Can, and Austin Children’s Services that serves families under stress who have children up to the age of five.

“I’ve really seen first-hand how poor choices in parenting affect kids,” says Marcus, “But a lot of dads don’t know where to go when they have questions.”

So Marcus is working with dads enrolled in Project HOPES to learn self-care strategies to manage their stress and meet their own needs, develop positive discipline strategies, and really envision what kind of father they each want to be.

“Sometimes there’s an assumption that fathers are not interested in taking an active role in parenting, but I think a lot of dads just don’t know where to start, or don’t feel invited to participate,” Marcus explains.

Marcus will help these fathers learn how to be a positive part of their kids’ lives. Through in home visits, Marcus and other parent-child specialists can observe how the family interacts and help parents learn specific strategies that will create a healthy home environment, in which parents and kids see their stress levels go down.

Marcus will also work with the fathers on ways that they can bond with their children, like setting aside time to read every night. “Studies actually show that when both parents read to their child, that kid develops even stronger language skills,” he says, “The child really takes different lessons from each parent.”

Many parents enrolled in Project HOPES were abused as kids. This gives these parents a chance to learn how to break that cycle, manage their own stress, and really build a healthy relationship with their children.

When talking to Marcus about his new role, it’s clear that becoming the Project HOPES Fatherhood Specialist is really just a new way for Marcus to continue doing what he has always loved: helping kids.

To enroll in Project HOPES, contact Caitlin Red at