Catholic Charities affiliates reach out to dads, and moms, with help
Friday, May. 13, 2022
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Women still make up the bulk of new and soon-to-be-new parents helped by Catholic Charities affiliates across the United States, but there’s a growing recognition not only by the agencies, but also the fathers, that some new dads could use a little help themselves.
In the Archdiocese of Boston, fathers who live in the North Shore area closer to the New Hampshire state line can take advantage of Catholic Charities of Boston’s “Healthy Families” program.
Pati Webber, program manager, said the only requirement to be in the program is that the child has to be your first child. “They can be rich, they can be poor, they can live in a mansion,” she said. “A teen parent is a teen parent,” she said, adding that if the household moves elsewhere within the archdiocese, there is likely a Healthy Families program in that area as well.
“A big part of the work that we do is setting goals with the parents and the families,” Webber said. “It can be something really small; it can be something really big. Sometimes success is that are they doing what they need to do, are they learning what they need to learn in order to be a successful parent.”
As with most such programs, Healthy Families primarily draws mothers, although dads are welcome. Webber said there was one father who was participating on his own.
At Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley in Dayton, Ohio, the staff operates family support programs, according to CEO Laura Roesch. “We certainly do encourage the support of dads, whether they’re married or not. Typically, they’re not.”
However, she notes, “we see each family as unique in a holistically, person-centered way, and help to address that there are things that they’re needing in their family to live with greater self-sufficiency or stability or success.” Parents set goals from the get-go and work at achieving those goals.
Catholic Social Services, Roesch said, has “a very strong referral base in our counseling program, schools, former clients, community partners, health care providers.” She added: “We’re not going to terminate them (from the program) if they’re working toward their goal.”
Cedric Bradley, a certified peer counselor who directs the Rising Strong program for Catholic Charities East Washington in the Diocese of Spokane, took credit for creating a father’s group within Rising Strong.
Clients in Rising Strong have had their issues, substance abuse and homelessness among them – two key detriments toward securing stable lives. Counseling and other mental health services help allay the problem, Bradley said.
“We run an 18-month program. When you first get in, the first thing is getting all the documentation. Food assistance, we get that stuff first,” Bradley said. “Phase two, they’re able to self-transport,” he added. “In phase three, they’re ready for school or they’re ready for work.”
But the men’s group is “working out pretty good,” Bradley told Catholic News Service. “It opens the space up for men to be honest about parenting. We tackle conflict resolution, domestic violence, and getting to know their partners on this level sober has been a real big one. ... We need it. It was so needed.”
Parenting styles comes into play among the men’s group. “One thing we talked about last week was the emotional piece to raising your child,” Bradley said. “Growing up, ‘being a man,’ being strong, not crying,” is not the only way to be a father, he added. Rather, program leaders “focus men to understand that a simple hug or reading bedtime stories go a long way. It’s working out pretty good so far.”
“We’ve got one program called Everybody Loves a Baby, targeting parents who have young children, but we don’t have any father programs in a parish yet,” said Bridget Balajadia, program director for parish engagement for Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County in California.
Parish engagement started three years ago. “Our whole mission is to mobilize Catholic volunteers who go out and help people who are going through a hard time. Our program is a very small one, but we have over 2,000 volunteers on a yearly basis to help with a variety of support,” Balajadia said.
The “accompaniment volunteers,” as she calls them, are “matched with a client on a one-to-one basis for nine months, on a weekly basis, for social and emotional support. A lot of our clients are single mothers and some single fathers. We try to match volunteers who are in similar life spaces,” she added, “so the accompaniment bond is really, really strong.”