Lancashire DadsNet: Preston's go-to 'dadvice' network helping fathers everywhere

When Al Ferguson founded DadsNet in 2013, he did so in order to celebrate and share the joy that he and his wife Jen felt at learning they were to become parents for the first time. Tragically, the couple lost their baby at 12 weeks over their wedding weekend and the online community for new dads which Al had founded became a place of support, of help, and of advice.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 7:00 am
DadsNet members with Graham Sims (second from right).

In the seven years since, it has grown into an invaluable go-to parenting resource for dads across the globe.

A parenting essential for countless new dads which offers first-hand advice, support, and knowledge from people who have experience in the more practical aspects of parenting and fatherhood, DadsNet was something of a saving grace for Graham Sims. Having become a first-time father to his daughter Chloe in 2016, Graham felt a little at-sea and so went online to look for some reliable advice.

“My daughter was up crying one night and I didn’t want to wake up the wife, so I just started searching online and came across DadsNet,” says 40-year-old Graham, who is from Darwen and who lives in Preston. “I posted a question and got loads of advice pretty much straight away.

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A DadsNet meeting prior to lockdown

“It was absolutely brilliant and I’ve been involved ever since,” Graham adds.

Having gotten involved and joined the DadsNet group, Graham immediately found a heap of positive guidance and feedback from across the world. In fact, he was so bowled over by the good-spirited kindness on show, that Graham felt moved to give something back. As a result, he started Lancashire DadsNet.

“At the start, I was thinking of just having a Preston group with around 20 or 30 dads, but we quickly got about 100 people who were interested and it just steamrollered from there,” explains Graham, who volunteers as the DadsNet Local Leader for Lancashire. “We made it a Lancashire-wide thing and we’ve got over 1,000 people involved now.

“DadsNet is all about offering dads a friendly platform to connect and ask questions,” adds Graham, who works in student accomodation. “There is a stigma attached to asking for help, espcially among men, but being a dad is full of unknowns and so we wanted to create an envirnoment where people can feel comfortable asking questions and feeling like they can take advice from people who have been there and done that.

A DadsNet kickabout.

“It’s a really positive community to be a part of.”

As well as having an active forum where dads can post queries and generally just chat, Lancashire DadsNet also works closely with the NHS so as to best signpost their services to dads in need of a little guidance and a welcoming community support network. Prior to lockdown, they were meeting regularly throughout the week, including for a casual kickabout, and even held sessions to which the mums are invited to join in, too.

“I do this as a hobby but I absolutely love it and there’s so much pride involved in being part of something like this,” says Graham. “When you see someone who maybe wasn’t in the best place to begin with start to turn things around it’s just unbelievable and you think ‘you’ve absolutely smashed it out of the park’.

“It’s so great to be able to be involved in something which can do that for people,” adds Graham, who says that the group’s strong online community allowed them to adapt quickly to lockdown. “You see such a difference in folks when they start coming along and the feeling that gives you... you just can’t put it into words. The impact we can have is priceless.”

Looking ahead to the future, Graham says that as lockdown is lifted, the group is looking to grow. “We just want to get more people involved,” says Graham. “It’s not just for new dads, we’re keen for more experienced dads to get involved because of the knowledge they can pass on as well as the good community and social aspects they can enjoy as well.”