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Keith Parker, Director of Project Fatherhood with Children's Institute, is the Los Angeles Rams' fourth "pLAymaker" honoree of 2023 for his work helping to make sure fathers who grew up facing adversity are provided the tools they need to become the best parent possible.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Children's Institute began providing services to families and children in Los Angeles in 1906. For 90 years, though, one group was absent from its social services programming: Fathers.

So, in 1996, Children's Institute Senior Vice President of Clinical Services Dr. Hershel Swinger created Project Fatherhood in order to "engage fathers in the care and upbringing of their children," according to the organization's website.

More than two decades later, Keith Parker continues that legacy as Director of Project Fatherhood for Children's Institute. His work in helping fathers become better parents is why he was recently recognized as the Rams' fourth "pLAymaker" honoree of 2023.

"It's awesome," Parker said of the recognition. "Growing up being a playmaker means that you have to learn all the different positions, and after learning all of positions you were able to distribute the ball to different people to make sure they do what they needed to do. And that's what I like to do. I just like to be behind the scenes, and being honored as a playmaker is huge. Unexpected, but very grateful and thankful for the work that I'm doing and being honored for the work as well. We're changing lives."

Over the last 27 years, Project Fatherhood has had more than 15,000 fathers and 23,000 children participate in the program, which offers Weekly Fatherhood group sessions, education on building healthy relationships and parenting skills, employment services and financial literacy workshops, fun events and activities for fathers to do with their children, and access to resources for growing their family such as groceries, diapers, car seats, gift cards and more.

The program's core service is the Men in Relationships Group, which offers free comprehensive support to fathers from diverse backgrounds. Project Fatherhood primarily serves fathers across South Los Angeles and surrounding communities.

"(Dr. Swinger) knew that a lot of social service programs were really for mothers and children, so dads really didn't get the necessary tools that they needed," Parker said. "We have one tool in our tool bag as a dad, and that's a hammer, so we just constantly pound, pound, pound. But Dr. Swinger understood that there's more to us than just being a hammer, so we created these different tools that we can increase fathers toolbelts, so they have the skills that they need to become the best parent possible. There's no manual, no handbook, but you learn by experience and having some of those tools, and really understanding what is child development? What does that look like as a dad? And understanding what your role is, and the role that you can play to improve the life and quality of your son or your daughter."

For Parker, inspire change means to equip future generations so that cycles can be broken.

"Inspire change means that I can take a break, right?" Parker said with a smile. "We begin to pass down these tools and break the cycles so that young children are not doing what we've done. Doing something different where love is the word, and joy and peace and happiness are common words for our kids, and they can go out into the community and do whatever they want to do, and really begin to take advantage of this beautiful thing we call life."

Concurrently, Parker said that inspiring change in one's own community starts with leading by example and modeling that behavior.

"That's what I fathers all the time, model the behavior," Parker said. "Kids, they won't really listen to what you say, but they're watching what you do. So if my son was not here, what would he say? Right? So being able to model that behavior so he can understand what it means to be a man, or what it means to be a father, what it means to be a friend, and being able to do that."

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