Pictured: David Calderon
According to the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), a nonprofit organization working to end father absence, the presence of a father or father figure in the home has a significant impact on a child’s development in essential areas of life, including academic performance and behavioral tendencies. Working towards its mission to not only get Head Start students ready for kindergarten, but also prepare the entire family for life beyond the program, GBCA created a support group exclusively for the fathers or father figures of children enrolled in the preschool programs with the goal of helping foster stable family environments at home.
“The Fatherhood Support Group has added another much needed dimension to our Head Start program,” said Nancy Griner, GBCA Head Start’s Program Director. “Watching these young men grow in their roles as fathers has been very rewarding.”
The Fatherhood Support Group is implemented across all GBCA Head Start programs and adheres to NFI’s 24/7 Dad® curriculum, which calls for consistent group sessions focused on building self-awareness and self-caring, as well as parenting, fathering, and relationship skills. The program is designed to help men improve their parenting skills and fathering knowledge based on a philosophy that supports the growth and development of fathers and children as caring, compassionate people who treat themselves, others, and the environment with respect and dignity.
Member of GBCA Jersey City Head Start program’s Fatherhood Support Group, Clifford Desinor, does all he can to be a great father for his children and to provide for his family.
Pictured: Clifford Desinor
“I consider myself to be a good dad, I try 100% and more. I work three jobs. I pretty much am kind of like the backbone of my family. But it’s not as hard as it seems – when you want to do it,” Clifford said.
Wanting to put in the work and maintain consistent involvement in their children’s lives is a common theme among this group of dads, but so is often having to bear the struggles alone.
“What I’ve learned from the Fatherhood Group and all of the other dads who are involved is that, first of all, I’m not the only one going through a struggle,” Clifford said. “I’m not the only one going through this. So when I see others, I learn from it.”
Another member of the group, David Calderon, not only gets his son to and from GBCA’s Jersey City Head Start program on time every day, he also styles his hair and gets him ready for the day every morning. “I am a single father, and doing the best I could for him,” Calderon said. Inherent in upholding that responsibility is strong commitment, and David often finds relatability from his peers in the Fatherhood Support Group. “I have somebody to lean on, I have all these guys.”
The fathers are so committed that they share the tendency to often neglect their own needs in order to take care of their children, but when Dr. Alexander Hesquijarosa of Sanitas Medical Center paid a visit to the support group to discuss the importance of health screenings and cancer prevention, they gained a new perspective.
“I’ve learned a lot. Definitely when the doctor came in, actually. And we were capable of talking to him and finding out that we need to take care of ourselves more – just as much as we take care of our kids” David said. “Having the doctor here was amazing.”
The group meets monthly to discuss topics such as:
Family history and how it effects parenting styles
What it means to be a man and how it relates to being a good father
Showing and dealing with feelings as part of good family communication
Working with mom and co-parenting, and
Different ways of disciplining
When asked why he was interested in joining the group, Santo Nunez expressed his desire to learn how to strengthen his parenting skills and his relationships with his wife, son and stepchildren.
Pictured: Santo Nunez
“What I’ve learned at all of the meetings is that we have to focus on the kids. The most important thing is the kids,” Santo said. “I learned how to communicate with my wife. I learned to have patience with the kids. I learned a lot, I like it” he added.
Like Santo, all of the men involved in the Fatherhood Support Groups have committed to learning to be better fathers for their kids and families.