Denauvo Robinson, president of Albemarle Smart Start, works with new fathers to teach them how to be partners with the child's mother. Fatherhood, he says, is in a crisis and it will take the entire community to help turn the tide.

Robert Kelly-Goss/The Daily Advance

Denauvo Robinson, president of Albemarle Smart Start, works with new fathers to teach them how to be partners with the child's mother. Fatherhood, he says, is in a crisis and it will take the entire community to help turn the tide.

Albemarle Profile: Robinson helps men get ‘Smart Start’ as new dads

By Robert Kelly - Goss

The Daily Advance

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Denauvo Robinson is no stranger to people in the region. The 65-year old president of Albemarle Smart Start has been advocating for children in the region for 14 years.

Robinson, along with his wife Jan King Robinson, has raised two children. Devire, 29, is an attorney living in Raleigh. Camille, 22, is an actress currently performing with the American Theatre Company in Chicago.

The point is that Robinson is a father. He has also been advocate of fatherhood, working to connect fathers with their children.

Since Sunday is Father’s Day, we couldn’t think of anyone better to talk to about being a dad.


The Daily Advance: As president of Albemarle Smart Start your expressed mission is to improve the lives of children in this region. What is the most pressing concern for children here?

Denauvo Robinson: To my mind it is to be healthy and ready to be successful in school.

What we’re finding is a larger number of children beginning to experience health issues. We’re seeing in the parent population more and more obesity and in the children we’re seeing the beginnings of that.

We’re seeing kids that are not being nourished. Also, we’re seeing a large number of children with social and behavioral issues. There is a dotted line that connects social behavior and eating.


TDA: Smart Start offers a number of programs including Parents as Teachers. What does the program do and why is something such as this important to the community?

DR: Parents as Teachers is a way of assisting parents with the parenting process.

We are not trying to say parents are doing anything wrong. We are just saying this is what we can do to help.

We answer those questions that all too often there might be no one there to ask.


TDA: Working with childcare providers is another function of Smart Start. Describe how you see the role of child care providers in the life of a young child.

DR: Often times childcare providers become parent models. Often with that the child spends more time than with the parent and so we want them to be the second teacher. The parent is always the first teacher.


TDA: While childcare services provide parents with the opportunity to work while their child is being care for, the service can be expensive. What opportunities are there for families to receive 
assistance with childcare?

DR: We have a subsidy program that we have here in house. It’s very similar to what you find with

social services.

You can call, come in here and do some paper work, and we assist in that way. … We would rather have people working than just receive assistance and this allows them to do that.

TDA: Aside from education and good childcare, what is the most pressing need for children in our communities today?

DR: Being loved unconditionally. Being in an environment that is supportive and positive for that child.

That she is not in a hostile situation. That there is approval and praise and appreciation, and that they are encouraged to learn.

TDA: You have long been an advocate of strong fatherhood. Some have said the lack of fathers in children’s lives has reached a crisis level. Describe the problem and is it a crisis?

DR: I indeed think it’s a crisis. Far too often men feel if they are no longer in the lives of the mother, it’s OK to not be in the lives of children.

The need to be in your child’s life is positive. You have a responsibility.

A father’s presence is more important than present you can give a child.

TDA: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates of any developed nation in the world. Many times the father is not in the equation. What needs to be done to address this problem and how can teen fathers make a difference?

DA: We currently have a program in Bertie County where we work with teen mothers in the school system. Our goal is to assist them to complete high school

We have to look at things a little differently for the guy. As a culture we can’t give the guy a pass like he was sowing his wild oats. We have to hold the father accountable and that has to be in the school system as well.

We tried to organize in the school system a group of fathers but were told they cannot identify who the fathers are. … So we have to change and ask the faith-based community.

TDA: According to the Dept. of Health statistics, fatherless homes have high rates of difficulties, including being five times more likely to see a childhood suicide. For families who do not have a father, what can be done to help nurture the child?

DR: Role models in the community — father based.

Our police force is becoming a lot friendlier in the neighborhoods.

Positive role models in the community; men will have to step up and work with other people’s children. … It’s not enough to just take care of your own.

TDA: Smart Start offers assistance to fathers. Describe some of the programs you offer.

DR: One of the ones we offer is father training that we do with young men prior to the baby coming into the world.

We teach them how to change diapers, how to feed them if the mother is giving them formula, how to rock them to sleep. … We want them to be partners in the first three months rather than an assistant to the mother.

TDA: What sort of success rate have you seen with these programs?

DR: High success rate. There is still a lot to do.

I rate success with these fathers wanting to be and then being involved in the lives of their children.