Father Engagement Workshops

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By Para Los Niños Team


February 2, 2022

At Para Los Niños, we have students from many different walks of life –including parents!

Under the umbrella of PLN’s Project Fatherhood, the Nurturing Fathers class, our most well-attended workshop, is virtually held every Tuesday in Spanish and every Thursday in English. The class is facilitated by Edgar Pineda, PLN’s Social Worker for Partnerships for Families, and Ralph Guirado, PLN’s Resource Coordinator for Partnerships for Families, and open to all fathers in the community free of charge. Additionally, Project Fatherhood’s classes are all court-approved for fathers who have Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) involvement and/or trying to regain custody of their children.

The program curriculum addresses a wide range of topics including:

  • The Roots of Fathering
  • Nurturing Ourselves/Our Children
  • Fathering Sons/Fathering Daughters
  • Discipline Without Violence
  • Playing with Children
  • Managing Anger/Resolving Conflict
  • Teamwork with Spouse/Partner
  • Balancing Work and Fathering
  • Communication and Problem Solving
  • Cultural Influences
  • Dealing with Feelings
  • The Father I Choose To Be

Mayra Gonzalez, PLN’s Partnership for Families Child Development Coordinator, summarized the mission of the class as, “Nurturing Fathers is centered in the secrets for creating safe, loving, stable, and nurtured families. Positive and uniquely father-friendly discipline tools are taught for successful child behavior management, [as well as] the importance of effective family communication techniques to strengthen the father-child and father-mother relationship. The latter includes the demonstration of how to stop fighting and arguing by using proven strategies for conflict resolution and problem solving skills to achieve cooperation and teamwork in family life.”

Dr. Graves unpacked how fathers’ opportunities for engagement were eroded by unresolved trauma from intergenerational father uninvolvement (stigma around men seeking therapy), isolation and stereotypes. To clarify what he meant by isolation and stereotypes, Dr. Graves provided a few common scenarios: fathers are socially and psychologically isolated from their children’s lives when social workers call mothers for an intake session when both parents’ numbers are present, when teachers contact mothers more often than the fathers (thus making it harder for fathers to be involved in their children’s academic success), or when fathers are more quickly deemed “non-compliant” than mothers when they cannot keep up with childcare classes (thus building the confirmation bias rather than the demanding class schedule). Even in no-fault divorces, mothers are given preference to decide when and how often fathers see their children; mothers are also given custody preference despite mothers’ offense history or children’s preferences. In fact, it can be “more advantageous to push men out of the equation for families to get the help they need” –families receive more aid, resources and housing support if they report not having a father figure as opposed to an absent mother figure. Where resources are given and decisions are made, the message appears to be: fathers are less valuable, capable and trustworthy.

Despite these challenges, Dr.Graves urged the attendants to

  • believe the truth that fatherhood is just as essential to healthy childhood development as motherhood;
  • let go of what an “ideal” father is like because fathers can be nurturing, interactive, responsible, inspirational, affectionate and providing in different ways
  • search their history and patterns to become aware of their traumas, biases, fears, and goals and;
  • listen to understand, not respond.

Ralph Guirado, who oversees the program and leads the Thursday workshops, reflects, “We have heard fathers say, ‘It was, hard getting here, but it’s great now understanding how I can be a better father’; ‘I now know I can fix the pain I caused my family’; ‘I never realized what was happening to my family’; and ‘It’s never too late to learn.’”

At PLN, we also believe in the father-figures and potency fathers have in their children’s lives. Extensive bodies of research and science confirm that children whose fathers (or father figures) played and spoke with them frequently performed better in school, attained higher levels of social competence, emotional regulation, math and language skills, and sustained healthier peer relationships. Moreover, children with involved fathers (or father figures) were less at risk of depression, suicide, behavioral problems and teenage pregnancy.

If you are a father or know of a father who would like to join our Nurturing Fathers Group or attend a class, please contact Ralph Guirado at rguirado@paralosninos.org.

PLN also offers wraparound services, counseling, and therapy for families facing a wide array of circumstances and challenges. Our Family Services Unit, Family Preservation Program, Partnership for Families, Prevention & Aftercare division, and Domestic Violence Support Services are here to walk alongside, equip and stand with parents.


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