“Daddy” is a nickname for a man who nurtures and loves a child.
For William and Niy Byrd, “Daddy” is what they call Derrick Byrd, a man who became their father in an unusual way.
Byrd always knew he wanted to be a father. But a career in child welfare and leadership positions in nonprofit organizations took priority.
Byrd was working for Wake County Human Services in 2005 when he felt the time was right for him to adopt.
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“I became a licensed foster parent and got involved with Another Choice for Black Children that finds homes for hard-to-place children,” said Byrd, 54, who lives in Cary.
The search for children was over when Byrd saw William’s profile on AdoptNCKids.org.
“When I came across William’s picture, it was uncanny how much he looked like my family,” Byrd said.
Byrd was excited when he learned that William, 4 years old at the time, had an older brother, Niy, who also was available for adoption.
It took almost a year of visits, paperwork and patience for the adoption to be finalized.
“If I didn’t have a strong spiritual belief, I wouldn’t have gotten through this,” said Byrd, who is a member of St. Paul AME Church in Raleigh.
Breaking down the barriers of being a single father hasn’t been easy.
“All of the institutions usually cater to mothers,” said Byrd, who is a Family Resource Center program manager.
“If I hadn’t been resourceful in knowing the mental health system and school system, it would have been even more difficult,” he said.
Byrd relies on extended family and church friends to help him with his sons. William is now 15, and Niy is 16.
Derrick’s sister, Renee Groom, often cares for William and Niy after school.
“Derrick has done an awesome job as a single father with these two,” said Groom. “The boys are very well behaved, and I am proud to be their aunt.”
Byrd became involved in efforts to inspire fathers. He was selected to serve on the National Parent Teacher Association. Byrd worked with the PTA to form the Men Organized to Raise Engagement (MORE). The effort, which started in 2009, includes resources for local groups to encourage male leadership.
Serving nonprofits at national and local levels has been a challenge for Byrd.
“I was one of the few males to volunteer and usually the only African-American,” Byrd said.
One of the programs Byrd helps lead for the Resource Center is the Fatherhood Conference. The group originally focused the conference on Wake County dads. Last year, the event drew 400 people.
This year, the Fatherhood Conference on June 20 is open to dads and community groups throughout North Carolina. The goal is help fathers across the state connect with resources.
Dion Chavis, Family Resource Specialist, is helping coordinate the conference. The committee members are planning for 700 people.
“This conference is important because we want to see more fathers engaged in the lives of their children,” said Chavis, who is also leading a workshop on the impact of music and media on children.
Byrd is leading a workshop on the importance of fathers in their children’s education.
“I will explore ways men can actively participate in a child’s school,” Byrd said. “Together, we can help a child reach their fullest potential.”
Reaching across state lines to link with other fathers is the next step.
Josh Levs, author and former CNN reporter, is cutting a path for fathers across the nation to go “All In.” Levs fought and won the right for paternity leave when his third child was born.
Levs wrote about the experience in his book, “All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, And Businesses – And How We Can Fix It Together.”
The recommendations in the book extend beyond diagnosis to solutions. For example, in the book, Levs interviews a blogger who posted a picture of himself with his kids. In the picture, the blogger has one child in a carrier, while he is fixing another child’s hair. The picture went viral, presumably because it’s rare to see fathers post such pictures, Lev writes.
Lev, who lives in Atlanta with his wife and children, offered his thoughts on the photo.
“Maybe the answer is for us dads to post lots of these pictures all over the Web until people get bored of them and come to understand that it’s fully normal for a dad of any race to do basic caregiving,” he writes.
▪ The North Carolina Fatherhood Conference is June 20 at the Raleigh Convention Center. A Youth Summit that coincides with the conference is June 19. To register for either event, go to www.frcfatherhoodconference.org.
▪ Josh Lev’s book,“All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, And Businesses – And How We Can Fix It Together,” is available on Amazon. For more about Levs, go to www.joshlevs.com.