Local father receives state parenting honor
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 9, 2011 1:46 PM
Charles Raiford, center, recent recipient of the state's Parent Leadership Award, enjoys one of his family's favorite pastimes -- dancing together. He is pictured with his wife, Nardesha, and daughters Alyvion, 8, Ari, 3, and Aviyah, 5, in their Goldsboro home.
Charles Raiford is quick to admit he knew little about parenting when his first child came along.
After all, he hadn't always fostered the strongest relationship with his own father, a military man formerly stationed in Goldsboro.
"Me and my dad, it was very distant, with him always being away, whether it was the war, we had a hard time relating," he recalls. "Now it's actually great, now that I have my own kids."
Finding out he was about to become a father had a marked effect on Raiford, now 26. Rather than repeat the familiar patterns he had grown up with, he says he "made up my mind" to be a good parent.
It wasn't something he and wife Nardesha actually sat down and discussed, he said. But it was, nevertheless, their goal.
"I've just kind of been there from the jump, from the very beginning," he said.
Raiford, a probation officer, also works in a mentoring program at Family First Support Center, while his wife is a health care technician at O'Berry Center.
At home, though, he is daddy to Aviyah, 5, and Ari, 3, as well as stepfather to Alyvion Maddox, 8, where the part-time disc jockey says one of their favorite activities is to dance around the house, enjoying music together.
The only audience he cares about are the ones in his living room, he said. Never did he envision getting any kind of parenting awards, especially for "doing what you're supposed to be doing," he said.
But his efforts have been noticed, at both the local and state levels.
Since 2007, he has participated in advocacy efforts in the WAGES Head Start program, encouraging father involvement and advocating for stronger families. In 2010, he was nominated for and received the state "Father of the Year" award from the N.C. Head Start Association.
Recently, he was named recipient of the Parent Leadership Award for the state, presented at a conference sponsored by Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Social Services.
Although nominated by WAGES Head Start, the designation was not affiliated solely with that program but with the child welfare, social services and child advocate community, said Dr. Marlee Ray, executive director of WAGES. The award was presented to Raiford by the president of the National Fatherhood Institute.
And the accolades continue.
"He has now been nominated for the 2011 Father of the Year Award," Ms. Ray said. "This nomination was made by WAGES to the Committed Fathers Alliance in Tacoma, Wash.. We have been notified that his nomination has been received and it is currently being processed. This award has not been presented as of yet, but we are very hopeful that Mr. Raiford will also receive this award as he is very deserving of recognition at the local, state and national level."
Raiford also received a $500 stipend to be used to promote family strengthening efforts in his community as a part of the award.
He was appreciative and yet still surprised by all the attention.
"It's great," Raiford said. "It serves as a motivation, lets me know that people are looking."
He commended WAGES for providing some of the resources and services it does.
"They put things on all the time, learning experiences, things you can apply to your own household, whether it's for you and your wife, you and your child, and gives you other resources in the community," he said. "They're very helpful -- the male involvement meetings are informative and a lot of time are based on situations you can apply."
As a father, he said he strives to do right things by his girls -- from praising them daily to teaching them the life lessons they will need, such as understanding consequences and rewards to being honest and kind to others.
In the process, he has also experienced improvements in the relationship with his own father, who now lives in Texas.
"He calls; he spends time with (the grandchildren); it's great," he said. "I feel like I can talk to him about just about everything. I feel like he's there for my daughters and he does his part as a granddaddy and demonstrates to them that he loves them.
"He does all that he can do -- he doesn't miss a birthday, calls them on holidays. And after every conversation, always ends with 'I love you.'"
In some ways, the experience of becoming a parent has brought Raiford full circle -- while attempting to provide a stable environment for his own daughters, he has experienced some healing of his own. And ironically, the things that might have hurt him as a child wound up contributing to his becoming a better father.
"Just from my relationship with him, I kind of understand how it feels for him to be away, even though he was away with his job," he said. "I wanted to make sure I was there for (my children)."
And the most important lesson he hopes to pass along?
"That I love them and that I'm there for them," he said. "Everything I do is for them."