by Lisa Breslin

Dad 101: Imagine the number of men who search the  internet for this course when their teens turn up the music to tune them out, or an infant cries incessantly while in their solo care. 

If fathers don’t have a parent who can mentor them through the process of raising a child when divorce or other circumstances leave them without a parenting partner, then frantic internet searches might be all they have. 

In Carroll County, fathers who need parenting help can skip the Dad 101 search, thanks to Dads Works, a nonprofit that hones their ability to be there for their children while improving self care.

Dads Works makes headlines for its annual Father/Daughter Dance. In fact, more than 80 fathers and 110 daughters are expected at this year’s cowgirl-themed event. But it’s the year-round work of the director, David Berry, and partnerships with others in the community that best capture the mission and effectiveness of Dads Works.

“Any man can be a father,” said Berry. “It takes work to be a great dad. This group tends to help men who keep their problems inside, who want to understand new parenting ideas and techniques. But they need to be understood and learn how to trust a mentor first.”

Through individual coaching and a series of meetings, Berry and other volunteers gain trust and teach participants strategies in areas that they need help with the most, such as communication and listening skills, anger management, money management, child development.

Clients often find their way to Dads Works via referrals from the local Department of Social Services, Human Services Program of Carroll County, and Access Carroll Integrated Healthcare, Berry said.

Some of these 199 clients receive Dads Works services at the Carroll County Detention Center and are assisted by McDaniel College students earning their master’s degree under the supervision of former DSS social worker Michael Misterka.

Dads Works is fueled by grant money, individual and business donations, and by Berry’s relentless passion for the cause.  

“I’m a family guy with two children, one grandson and another on the way,” Berry said. “Self care, being strengthened by the care of others, listening and being heard — all of these things help fathers become better and eventually the best they can be.”

Berry, who holds a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Antioch University International, served as a pastor in North Carolina and Pennsylvania for almost 10 years.

Fifteen months ago, Jo Ann Hare, the former director of Rape Crisis Intervention Services, decided to share some of her retirement time and talent with Berry. They have teamed up to tackle two of Dads Works’ biggest challenges: fundraising and marketing.

“I wanted to help another nonprofit, and I knew I could help with this,” Hare said. 

For information or assistance, call 443-605-6358, email or visit