October 2020 marked 10 years of NewDay Services’ FOCUS for Fathers program service in Denton, Tx. With two ongoing classes, over 1,400 fathers have benefitted from the program, impacting their collective 3,900 children.
Each week, fathers who have been referred to NewDay Services by the state’s Child Protective Services gather (temporarily online in 2020 due to COVID-19) to grow, learn as fathers to create safe and loving homes for their children. Facilitators Joey Fremder and Paul Juarez together with Program Director Bob Robinson lead weekly classes that go beyond basic parenting skills. NewDay’s trauma-informed FOCUS for Fathers curriculum works to address any factors that have happened in the father’s own life that might hinder him from being the father their children need today.
Recently Denton’s program was highlighted in a North Texas Daily article through a story about Paul Juarez’s own journey through fatherhood. The article captures the heart that many FOCUS facilitator’s carry, a heart to see the lives of fathers transformed.
When father’s graduate, they leave the 10-week program equipped with tools and values to live by. Recently a father named Bill*, who was in the middle of the FOCUS for Fathers course reached out to Bob Robinson. He apologized for calling Bob at home at a late hour. He said he had no one else to talk to. Bob had built a good relationship with him, not only teaching in class, but also calling him each week to check in on him. The two have had some deep conversations and Bill had shared a lot of his struggles with Bob. Bill had a two-year old daughter and he shared that he just found out his girlfriend was unexpectedly pregnant. This news was particularly alarming because due to the recent pandemic, Bill lost his job. With this financial stress in mind, the father and his girlfriend felt overwhelmed, ready to quit and explore other options besides going through with the pregnancy.
Bob was there, on that late-night phone call to encourage him to do the right thing and that God would help him financially get through this. Bill asked Bob to pray with him, bringing peace to his uncertain situation. Bill will graduate in November 2020, gaining not only knowledge and tools to be a better father, but also with mentors who are in his corner as he fights through life’s battles.
Over the last 10 years of this Denton fatherhood program, over a thousand fathers like Bill have also gained the support they need to succeed in their journeys. Joey, Paul, Bob and the many volunteers who serve, have created real avenues for change in the lives of at-risk fathers. Here’s to an impactful 10 year in Denton, and to many more fathers and their families that will benefit from this program.
*name changed to protect identity of participating father
Written by Elizabeth Badgley, FOCUS for Mothers Graduate
"I first came to FOCUS for Mothers because I was working towards my reunification goal on my CPS case plan. When I first received my services in March of 2018, I was overwhelmed. I was homeless and living in the woods behind the Marshall Grain building. Later, I went to a shelter, but it wasn't much better. I had no idea how the process worked and I had little hope. I started working services but relapsed shortly after starting. I was ashamed to admit that I needed help, so I ghosted on my visitation and my caseworker. I was in a very dark place. Things started to change for me when I found out that I was pregnant in August of 2017. To my surprise, Matt from Safe Babies* reached out to me the following October. I was just honest with him and told him that I had relapsed , which caused me to skip out on the program. Without hesitation, I was offered a second chance at my service plan. I knew I had to work my service plan if I had any hope of keeping my new baby.
I started FOCUS for Mothers with NewDay Services in October of 2018 and the only thing I regret most was not starting it sooner. Immediately, I felt welcomed. Most importantly, I was given a plan that laid out the court system. This plan gave me a better understanding of the system. I truly believe that If I would have started these classes sooner I probably wouldn’t have relapsed. One thing I learned in FOCUS for Mothers was that none of the ladies in the class were bad mothers. This helped me move past some of the shame I was holding on to. Thanks to Safe Babies and New Day Services, I continue to maintain a relationship with my daughter’s foster family.
The Circle of Control was the best thing I ever learned. It sounds so simple, but FOCUS helped us put it into practice, and I still use those skills to this day. FOCUS for Mothers also hooked me up with some really great services. For example, flyers for the Ladder Alliance Basic Computer Skills Training Class were handed out in class. I’m sure you guys think nobody ever reads those handouts, but I enrolled in that program after I graduated FOCUS and won a computer by completing the class with honors.
I had my son in May of 2019. I had completed all of my other services, so I decided to put that computer to use and enroll in Online classes through Tarrant County College. I continued working my way through the court system. Through the mess of having a newborn, completing college classes online, stressful court dates, and CPS visitation I remembered that Circle of Control. I earned an invitation to the Beta Chi Zeta Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK). I served as the public relations officer of my chapter during the fall of 2019. I was awarded full custody and they closed my CPS case on the same day I was inducted into PTK. I now serve as the Chapter President. I have come leaps and bounds since completing my FOCUS classes. I am now a thriving student leader. I am nearing completion of my associate's degree. I will be transferring to UTA next fall where I will pursue a BSW with Minor in Substance Abuse Counseling. My ultimate goal is to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I want to help women who struggle with issues like trauma and substance abuse.
If there is anything that the other ladies working through this process should know, it’s that they can re-write their narrative, too. Focus for Mothers can be just a stepping stone to a new life if they are willing to put the work in."
Elizabeth is a second chance-taker. Are you?
* Safe Babies, a First 3 Years initiative, seeks to lessen the long-term impact of neglect, increase the likelihood of reunification, and ensure policies that guide the movement of infants and toddlers in the child welfare system are developmentally informed in Tarrant and Dallas Counties.
For more information: https://first3yearstx.org/safebabies/
Here’s why I need you to stop the self-doubt and be more confident in your parenting abilities!
ONE: The value you see in yourself is setting an example of the value your children will see in themselves!
Children are always watching their parents and what they are doing. Parents are constantly setting an example of self-value for their little-ones. In fact, a mother from one of our FOCUS for Mothers classes recently shared her story with about her journey to find her self-value again. It wasn’t long before she realized how this journey was also an inspiration to her child.
Here’s what she had to say, “All my life, I was told that my worth was dependent on the type of husband I found, how good of a homemaker I could be, and so forth. So, when I lost all of that, my life essentially crumbled. I didn’t know my purpose or worth in life besides trying to hold it together for my kids. It wasn’t until I came here to FOCUS that I realized my value isn’t contingent on the people around me or how good I was at what I did. My value is based on that fact that I am a human being on this earth. When I realized that no one could take my value away from me, I carried myself with more confidence and I did things with more purpose! And you know what the best thing was? My children noticed my change in rhythm. My littlest one came up to me and said, “Mommy is prettiest when she’s happy and smiling and I want to be like mommy when I grow up”. That was the moment everything clicked for me. Yes, I was still living my life but everything I did wasn’t so myself anymore, it was also for my children. And that meant I wanted to show them that no one could ever take their value away.”
Mom, remember that it’s essential to possess the traits you want your children to have within yourself! You can’t pass on something you don’t have!
TWO: That listening and guiding you’re doing with your kids -- keep it up because it’s making all the difference in their lives!
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard by a parent is no matter how right you were with your child, never say “I told you so”. Those words only cut off any conversation and stunt relationship building opportunities!
Some of the mothers in our FOCUS class share time and time again how taking the time to talk to their children had made all the difference in their communication and relationship now.
One mom stood out in particular. She said, “I’ve been warning my oldest daughter to be careful of the friends she hangs out with because they weren’t the best of friends to her. I was explaining to her how the drugs they were doing was a hard no and to see if she could find other friends that weren’t into drugs. Of course, she ignored my warning until I got a call from the school that she had been picked up for possession of drugs. I drove up to the police stations and there in the back sits my daughter, just bawling her eyes out. When I asked her what happened, she said those drugs weren’t hers and she was holding them for her “friend” because she didn’t want her to get in trouble. But she didn’t want to get in trouble either. I bit my tongue and instead of saying, “I told you so,” I asked her, “what should you do now?” And to my surprise, she told me that she thinks it’s best to tell the police the truth. From that day on, our communication was more transparent than it has ever been!”
THREE: Keep setting those strong healthy boundaries for your children and teach them that their boundaries are also very important!
Boundaries are not only important for you, but also your kids! Boundaries help keep you from stretching yourself too thin and prevents burn out. You can’t give 100% of yourself to your kids while you keep pouring out, but don’t get poured back in yourself!
Without boundaries, mothers and their children tolerate ill treatment by others impacting personal safety. Teaching your kids to say “No” and not feel guilty about it, is such an empowering boundary, especially when your child knows something is wrong.
Another FOCUS for Mothers mom shared in class that she had been teaching her 4-year-old daughter what safe touches were and what not safe touches were. The mom also told her daughter that if someone tries to give her not-safe touches that she needs to yell, “No!”, go tell an adult, and remember that it’s okay to say no when someone makes you feel unsafe. About a month after that she taught her daughter this, her daughter came home and said that an older boy had touched her inappropriately and that she yelled “no!” and ran to tell a teacher. The mom said, “I’ve never been so torn in my life. There’s a part of me that is so glad I taught her those boundaries and what to do when someone crosses it, but I never expected it to actually happen to her.” She was so glad that she re-enforced with her child that NO means NO!
All-in-all, remember this: Keep doing what you are doing, Mom, because it definitely is working! Remember when those self-doubts start to creep in, that you are being the best mom you can be for your children!
Marie Luong, Your Local Cheerleader
Have you ever looked up in life and asked yourself, “How did I get here? How did things get so messed up?”
Many who find themselves asking these question are facing family break-ups. Whether you are the one that initiates the break-up or not, at some point both parties experience the “this is not what I signed up for moment.” The question then turns from, "How did I get here" to, “now what?”
When you have children, this question is extremely important. How you answer this will truly effect your children for the rest of their lives.
As a chaplain in the Family Courts of Tarrant County for over 15 years here are a few tips I have collected over the years for those that find themselves in the middle of a family break up.
Tip 1. Do not trust your emotions.
When an individual experiences a life changing event such as a family break up, emotions will run wild. Basing life choices on emotions will unavoidably lead to destructive outcomes. Avoid making snap decisions. Often situations will come up where you feel like you have to make a decision on a whim. Rarely is it true that a decision is required immediately. Give yourself time to look at your options and get proper counsel. Be sure to use all of the tools available to you when making choices that affect you and your children.
Tip 2. Build a support system.
When going through a family break up, you and your children’s world has changed. Often you have to move, your friends have been polarized, and your world has becomes seemingly so different. The temptation will be to isolate and go through it on your own, thinking “I don’t want to bother my friends and family.” Wrong! Be intentional about building a healthy support system. Chances are, the people in your life want to support you through this difficult time. Find a divorce recovery group, reach out to professionals, and access social service providers. You are not alone and there are people out there who want to help.
Tip 3. Understand the purpose of the court system.
The Family Courts are not designed to punish. The Family Courts are designed to create orders that govern the family during a family break up and enforce orders by providing consequences when orders are not followed. This is a slow, cumbersome, and often expensive process. The Family Courts employ a social worker to conduct family studies designed to provide information to the judge. Because the court system is designed as an adversarial system, parties are often exposed to hearings or trails that bring up uncomfortable information about the inner workings of your once private family business. Neither of the individuals involved in the family break up emerges without mud on them, making Co-Parenting their child even more difficult. The children become the victims because their parents often make it about winning and losing instead of prioritizing the well-being of the child. This results in damage to the children’s emotional and physical health.
Damage to children can be minimized if parents will refrain from making emotional decisions, build and healthy support systems, and work to minimize the court room litigation by working to resolve issues through mediation or counseling.
If you have questions regarding the topic of this article, please comment below or email email@example.com.
The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that…
In hopes of what?
For many of the nearly 11,000 North Texas children in foster care each year, they have often come from homes where there was no Christmas, no hope. They have come from environments where there may have been no presents, no tree, no joy or love. Then they are placed in a foster home surrounded by people who may be strangers to them, laughing, sharing their family traditions, and having fun.
The day is a stark reminder that they are not with their families and often, 37% of the time, separated from their siblings. They may even feel guilty that the foster family is having such a wonderful time when their biologic parents and brothers/sister may not be. The average child is removed from their home and placed in foster care for 20 months (8% of them wait over five years) and the average wait time for adoption is another 34 months. This a very stressful and emotional time for everyone involved.
These foster children feel like they are in a temporary situation with a temporary family and can’t wait for their parents to get their lives straightened out. That is where NewDay Services comes in.
For nearly 23 years, NewDay has been helping parents restore their families by empowering them with the tools and life coaching to redirect their lives and be reunified with their children.
NewDay’s Healthy Parenting Programs work because we demonstrate care for moms, dads and their families, change hearts, and provide redemptive opportunities through engagement, coaching and encouragement.
NewDay gives these parents and their children hope. We give parents the hope that they can overcome the struggles and poor choices to create a stable, safe and loving home for children who are desperately hopeful and waiting to be reunited with the parents they know, need and want.
Like you, we understand the crucial need for every child to have love, care, safety and stability. This Christmas, as you share your own family traditions, please think of all the families that are in crisis. Together we can make a difference in the lives of these children. We can restore hope.
Fathers have a tremendous impact on the character traits developed in their children. While every child is born with a personality that makes them uniquely them. As they develop, character traits are “infused” from the people closest to them in their lives. There is a strong difference between personality and character.
Personality, by definition, is a person’s natural inclination to do or respond in certain ways. Kids may be born with a funny, more outgoing personality. Or maybe they are more naturally introverted, serious, or analytical. These traits are ingrained in their DNA, and they naturally lean toward these tendencies. Character traits, on the other hand, have more to do with the values that motivate attitudes and behaviors. These traits provide a person the sense of right or wrong morally.
When raising our children, we desire our kids to have quality characteristics like these:
Honesty Hard working Perseverance
Compassionate Generous Loving
Integrity Resilient Spiritual
Loyal Caring Responsible
Respectful Kind Courageous
We would all be proud to raise a child with those traits. How can we do our part to make that happen? Here are a few things I have learned along the way raising my own children:
Children will be no greater than the role model that has demonstrated character traits to them.
As a father, you want to set the level of the character traits that are developed. Your life and your influence will infuse these character traits.
To put it another way, if you want your child to have high integrity, then you have to demonstrate integrity in your life. If you want your kid to have perseverance, then you have to show them what that looks like. For example, you can demonstrate perseverance when you have failures. Show them by not giving up, getting back in the game, choosing not to blame others, or wallowing in pity. If you say, “I just want my kids to be better than me” you are kidding yourself. YOU HAVE TO BE BETTER THAN YOU! They are a sponge and will soak up who you are and your character traits. Talk is cheap, show them by your life. It is not about what you say, but what you do.
SHOW, don’t tell them.
How, you ask? Spend time with them. Don’t say “go and play with your friends” while you have to work to do. Take them with you to Home Depot. Have them help you work on the car. Let them paint an inside wall with you. Does it take more time to paint a wall with a 5 year old helping you or doing it by yourself? Of course it does! But it is those times that your kids soak up who you are and your character traits. They will cherish those moments throughout their lives.
Look for “teachable moments” to demonstrate character traits in your own life.
These happen daily in your life. For example, if you hit a car backing up in a parking lot, leave a note with your information instead of driving away. They are watching to see if you have integrity! Be an INTENTIONAL role model to them.
Dad, I will leave you with this: your children want to be just like you. You are their hero. Live your life and demonstrate good character traits for THEM. They will soak those traits up from you like a sponge. How you live your life is a direct template for how they will live theirs. They are watching you, be the adult you want your child to become!
P.S. This topic is explored by fathers just like you in week eight of our FOCUS for Fathers classes. Consider joining me for a series as part of your own development as a great dad. Give is a call and we can make it happen! 817.926.9499
No Day is Quite the Same
What better place than a Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) to be able to embrace so many miss-matched pieces of a child’s life from behind a lens that seeks to encourage, pray, connect, and refer! As a volunteer chaplain inside the walls of the Tarrant County JJC, it is an honor to have such a mission. Just as God created us all uniquely, it can be very clear that no child or family at the JJC experiences anything quite the same as anyone else. However, the role of a chaplain is to bring a calm and steady presence as well as a listening ear, being prepared to turn each hurting, angry, scared and lost person toward the love and compassion of Jesus.
This morning, I started the day with an email from a detention officer. It was a request to visit with a girl at my earliest convenience. This is a typical occurrence and a practice the staff has become accustomed to requesting. (How welcoming to be invited by the security staff into a part of the facility where they are required to keep order as much as possible!) When I went to visit with her, she immediately began to tear up and tell me that she did not know what was wrong with her. She “didn’t know if it was anxiety or depression or what it was, but at night in [her] room, she felt like she was going to die and that the walls were caving in.” I got to hug her, and then we talked about her situation. By the time we ended talking, she was breathing regularly, not crying, and promising me that she would eat and drink everything she could “stomach,” and that she would use her words with the staff so that they could keep a close watch on her. I also told her that I was going to call the staff psychologist, so that he could assess what type of supervision she might need. And from there, our conversation ended with a, “thank you”, a half grin, eyes wide open with hope for a better night’s sleep, despite the stress of an upcoming court date.
In the afternoon, I entered a holding room just outside of a courtroom. Two juvenile girls were waiting in there until someone – their assigned probation officer – would take them into court. They were each arrested last night; one girl had been to the JJC, but the other had not. Soon after introducing myself, the repeat offender asked me if I’d pray. The new detainee apparently did not connect that I was there for spiritual support. She had a look of surprise and almost a sudden transformation of peace. I could tell Jesus lived inside her because her Peace looked different than someone, who perhaps makes a conscious decision to just stop crying so to get on with a “last shot in the dark” prayer. Being short on time, I quickly prayed for each of the two girls. When I finished, both of the girls looked me straight in the eye and seemed to be trusting that I was going to listen to anything they had to say. I also trusted that they were hearing every word I was saying. So, I used my last 30 seconds to point out to each of them how special and important they were, and how I believe God heard our prayer.
Other interactions I had at work, just today, included a short conversation with an attorney regarding his next career step, waving hello across the lobby to another attorney, passing by a detention supervisor and agreeing with him that it’s “good to be ‘teammates’ in this place,” receiving an email from a probation officer who wanted to thank me for friendship and check in on a personal matter I’d shared with her, going to lunch with a mixed group of current and previous employees, and preparing merit-based certificates of achievement for juveniles. The JJC is a place full of stress, yet God placed chaplaincy right in the center, if only to make daily connections with people, who just don’t want to be alone “right now.” Each morning, as the day unfolds, it is interesting and refreshing to see just who will cross my path. Praise the Lord! No day is quite the same!
A few years ago, while working with NewDay, I met a man named Michael. When I met Michael, a father of three, he was making a transition from living an average life in a stable home, into homelessness. Just like many others in the DFW area, a series of unfortunate occurrences led Michael and his family to have to live in a shelter. This transition was not easy for Michael, he found that living in a shelter started to change the way he thought about himself. While he used to pride himself in being a provider for his family, now that he no longer had the money or the resources to give his children the things they needed, he started to question his self-worth. Soon Michael started to feel like most others who are experiencing homelessness feel, like he had lost the respect of his family. He started to believe that people were looking down on him because he was homeless.
Shelter life proved itself very difficult for Michael and his family. From day one, he had to adjust to the stark differences between having his own home and abiding by shelter rules. Curfews, childcare guidelines, daily chores, and specific visiting hours were among the many ways Michael had to adjust. He viewed these rules and restrictions as obstacles as a father instead of the structure-giving elements they were intended to be. Having limited space, shared bathrooms, and basically no privacy made this season of life particularly difficult. Among all of these challenges, Michael found not being able to freely parent his children the way he felt best was the hardest obstacle. Despite this, he did his best to make the most of a hard situation.
Before long, Michael worked his way out of the shelter. He found a job, worked hard, then qualified for a housing voucher. Soon after, he was out of the shelter back to independent life!
Not all fathers are successful in navigating their way back to a stable life, but Michael attributes his success to these main four things he practiced:
1) Do not do it alone. Michael enrolled in NewDay’s Fatherhood EFFECT program. He attended weekly meetings with other fathers and a facilitator. These programs support fathers to develop nurturing relationships with their children. For Michael these classes helped him develop the confidence that he could bounce back from being homeless. The classes were a place for Michael to vent his frustrations, share information, and to problem solve with other dads. Michael states that the strong bonds he developed with other dads in the class gave him the motivation and confidence to father his children. The other fathers cared about Michael, and he stopped feeling isolated. This community allowed him to find strength and stability.
2) Provide your children time and care. Michael was not able to provide material things for his children during part of the time he was in the shelter. He used this time to provide his children with his time and care. Instead of becoming frustrated, use this time to play with your kids, have conversations, teach them something, and show them how much you love them. You will be surprised how much your kids will enjoy you.
3) Access to material supports. Michael felt powerless until he had some money in his pocket. Although the job he worked was not his ideal choice, it was a quick way to put some money in his pocket. Michael’s long-term plans include seeking a career. In the short term though, he needed a job. Having a source of income empowers you, even if it is not the ideal job for you. Employment is a step in the right direction. It helped Michael recover his self-esteem.
4) Be thankful, even in the hard moments. Despite the hardship of living in a homeless shelter, Michael made it a point to be thankful for the small things. Transitioning out of homelessness is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires multiple steps and slow progress. Michael chose to be thankful for the small steps of progress that eventually led to creating a home for his family. Do not forget to stop, give thanks for what has been given to you, and keep pushing forward toward your ultimate goal.
If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness while trying to continue quality parenting, let me encourage you, it is possible to support your family and nurture them well in the hard and uncertain moments with the right support and resources.
NewDay’s Fatherhood EFFECT classes meet several times each week. Participants enjoy the mutual support provided to each other AND each has a personal mentor-navigator to help them connect to needed resources.
Call Francisco, Reggie, or David at 817-926-9499 to join us or to refer another.
written by Francisco Hernandez
Recently, NewDay celebrated Three years of serving in Hunt County, teaching FOCUS (Families Offering Children Unfailing Support) for Fathers classes in Greenville, Tx.
Jerry Speight, (pictured) is Executive Director of the Hope Center in Greenville. Jerry is a strong community leader affectionately known as "Mr. Greenville" because of his consistent work to strengthen Greenville in many ways and because he is known by just about everyone in this quaint Texas town. Jerry's organization does incredible work in the community with GED, Computer Literacy, Microsoft Office and ESL classes. The Hope Center is known to be quick to respond to any and all community needs in Greenville. A few years ago, Jerry began to see a need for a fatherhood program to improve families in his community. Soon after, a mutual friend connected Jerry with NewDay Services. The Hope Center stepped up to be the sponser of NewDay Services Fatherhood program in Hunt County.
Pictured below is Kevin Sawatsky (orange), Lead Facilitator of FOCUS Fathers classes in Greenville along with Bob Robinson, NewDay's Program Director. Kevin, a realtor, former teacher and deacon at Christ Community church built a team of 7-10 guys who volunteer to encourage and mentor fathers in order for them to be reunited with their families. Without them, NewDay would not have the resources or personnel to facilitate a class each week.
A special "Thank You" to these community leaders who have made NewDay's Programs in Greenville possible: Judge Andrew Bench and Judge Keli Aiken who refer many fathers to our program from their courts and Rick Prettyman, Pastor of Christ Community Church where FOCUS classes are held, who greatly supports our program. Each graduation night he comes in to encourage the fathers and motivate them to be the best they can be. Finally, to all of our many volunteers who serve every week, THANK YOU.
Because of the consistent hard work put in by all the people above, Greenville has served approximately 180 fathers, representing close to 500 children over the last three years. Those 500 children now have a committed father in their lives!