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Cedar Rapids support group helps fathers improve relationships with their children
‘This little man, he probably saved me,’ dad says
CEDAR RAPIDS — Quentin Blazicek sped through his 20s, moving from job to job as he racked up traffic violations and other charges, including drunken driving.
Life came to a screeching halt in 2020 when he learned his former girlfriend was pregnant with his son.
“This little man, he probably saved me,” Blazicek, 30, of Cedar Rapids, says about the 1-year-old boy who has the same shade of light brown hair as Blazicek.
When Rhyett — pronounced “riot” — was born June 2, 2021, Blazicek knew he had to try to shape up so he could be there for his son.
Blazicek is one of four Cedar Rapids fathers who enrolled last fall in the Caring Dads Program, a 17-week support group offered by Waypoint for dads who want to improve their relationships with their children to end or avoid controlling, abusive or neglectful behavior.
According to the University of Texas Child & Family Research Partnership, kids who grow up with involved fathers are:
- 39 percent more likely to earn mostly A’s in school
- 45 percent less likely to repeat a grade
- 60 percent less likely to be suspended or expelled from school
- Twice as likely to go to college and find stable employment after high school
- 75 percent less likely to have a teen birth and
- 80 percent less likely to spend time in jail
Blazicek joined Caring Dads as part of an investigation by the Iowa Department of Human Services, which placed Rhyett in foster care.
Blazicek and his former girlfriend, Rhyett’s mom, have been working on themselves and on learning how to co-parent, he said. They now have regular visits and are working toward sharing full custody of their son.
“Through Caring Dads, I’ve been able to set our differences aside,” he said. “If she has an issue, we can move forward and focus just on him. Be more child centered and leave the bull---- aside.”
Blazicek had all the concerns of a new parent — how do I hold the baby? What do I do when he’s teething and won’t stop crying? How do I clean up projectile vomit?
Waypoint staff answered some of those questions, as did Rhyett’s foster mother. During one fussy visit, Blazicek called his own mother, Myte Dahl, who is on active duty for the Air Force, stationed in Alabama.
“One of my first meetings was to set goals we want to accomplish,” Blazicek said of the Caring Dads program. “One of mine was finding out things to do with my son.”
A Waypoint instructor suggested letting Rhyett finger-paint with yogurt. Blazicek was skeptical, but he bought some vanilla yogurt, put in some food coloring and let the baby spread the yogurt all over the high chair tray.
“He had a lot of fun with that,” Blazicek said.
He also bought Rhyett a child-size vehicle Blazicek can operate with remote control. He seat-belts the child into the car and then navigates the vehicle around the driveway and yard.
It’s the same yard where Blazicek grew up playing in the sandbox and, later, shooting hoops. He’s renting the blue ranch-style house from his father, David Blazicek.
Becoming a parent has been great for Blazicek, said his stepfather, Robert Dahl, of Cedar Rapids.
“We always were bailing out Quentin for the past 10 years,” Dahl said. “Now he works hard, works overtime. He’s taking care of his bills. He’s almost reminding me of myself when I had my first child years ago. He’s getting it all together.”
Blazicek has worked as a vehicle technician and done electrical repairs and carpentry, but now he’s joined United Steelworkers and works third shift at WestRock. When the state oversight of his son ends, hopefully later this summer, Blazicek will arrange his time with Rhyett around his work hours.
In the meantime, Blazicek is a proud papa. He knows Rhyett has six teeth and that he was in the 95th percentile for weight and height at his one-year checkup. Blazicek boasts one of Rhyett’s first words was “Dad” and that the boy is going to start walking any day.
“He’s only 1 year old,” Blazicek says of his son. “But he’s made an impact on me.”
Caring Dads support group
Waypoint is enrolling participants for another Caring Dads support group, which likely would start later this summer. Dads may be referred from an agency they already are working with or may contact Alexis Chadwick at (319) 731-6176 or email@example.com.
Comments: (319) 339-3157; firstname.lastname@example.org