By Ralph Guirado, PLN Resource Coordinator
For the past fifteen years, I have had the privilege and pleasure to be part of Para Los Niños. Within my initial role as a family advocate, I had the opportunity to support families in the Skid Row and Pico Union areas of Los Angeles. Needless to say, it was a rewarding experience being able to provide families with immediate concrete support that varied from referrals within our agency to other agencies such as food banks, DPSS, mental health etc.
Then, as a Resource Coordinator, I have been able to develop effective relationships with several agencies within our community and Los Angeles County with the purpose of accessing resources to be able to meet the needs of the families we serve. Additionally, as a Resource Coordinator, I have provided ongoing support to families by facilitating a variety of groups such as Nurturing Parenting, a Women’s Domestic Violence support group and Anger Management. In 2008, as a result of participating in the Project Fatherhood Training, I discovered the passion I have in providing a safe space for fathers to acknowledge the amazing men they are. I learned that in order to assist in preventing, intervening and treating risk factors that get in the way of fathering, there needs to be conversations about what it means to be a father, explore the options available, to say, “this is the father I choose to be…” and understand the great impact a father has in a child’s life. Following, you will get to know about two fathers whom have bloomed to be the best fathers they can be.
Please meet: *Alex. Alex is married to Juanita and they have two young boys. Juanita was referred to our services through the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) due to domestic violence. The immediate need was to connect Juanita and her boys to an emergency shelter. Juanita attended our women’s domestic violence support group when she returned from the shelter. Shortly after, I was introduced to Alex, who admitted that he had an issue with alcohol and wanted to reunify with his family. Part of the treatment plan developed by the social worker was for Alex to participate in a parenting class. It was then when Alex joined the Fatherhood Program in which he became one of the most active participants. Alex demonstrated better understanding of communication skills, the importance of listening. Alex was able to share with other fathers in group about the importance of having a healthy relationship with his family. As a result of successfully completing services with Para Los Niños, Alex was able to stop drinking and make necessary changes to be able to be the healthy, loving father and husband his family needed. Alex now has a steady job, he and his family established social and spiritual connections within their local church and Alex has been able to give back to the community by donating truckloads of clothing to the families we serve. Lastly, the best part of his commitment and transformation is his ability to now provide support to fathers who are in need and referring them to our services.
Please meet *Danny. Danny is a single father of two little girls. Danny became a single father after the mother of his two girls left to Mexico without any notice. Despite the heartbreak of being abandoned by his wife, Danny managed to continue to provide for his daughters and continued to be a loving father. A year later, Mother returned wanting custody of the girls. Shortly after, DCFS was involved due to custody battles and concerns with the safety of the children. After his children were removed from his care and in efforts to continue protecting his daughters and their wellbeing, Danny joined the Project Fatherhood group. During his participation in group, Danny shared that he was allowed to visit his daughters every other weekend in San Diego. Due to his immigration status, these visitations entailed the risk of getting deported since he had to go through an immigration check point to visit his daughters. Every other week at the beginning of group when I would see him walk through the door, I had a sigh of relief that he had not been caught and deported. After many months of hard work and dedication, Danny was granted full custody of his daughters. On multiple occasions, Danny has stopped by to say thank you, introduce me to his daughters and share that one of the girls has received a full ride scholarship to a university in the mid-west.
These are only two of many stories that show how resilient fathers can be and how we make a difference in the lives of the families we serve. It reaffirms the mission and values we stand by at Para Los Niños: We believe in the children, youth, and families we serve.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality purposes.