Last week I prayed with a young-looking 14-year-old boy as he waited to go to court. He had been at Kimbo (Juvenile Detention Center) for several weeks and I had gotten to learn a little about him. As we talked, I asked how I could best pray for him. His eyes began to fill with tears and what he told me caused my eyes to moisten as well. He asked that I pray that the judge would allow him to go home with his mother.
What made this unusual is that he had not seen his mother since he was three years old. He said she had abandoned her husband and their children, of which he was the youngest, and disappeared for about twelve years. When things became untenable for his father, CPS stepped in, and he was taken into foster care. In the meantime, the mother was able to get her life together and she began trying to re-establish a connection with her forsaken family. Somehow, she was located and contacted. She jumped at the chance to get her son back if he would have her. He was more than willing to welcome her back into his life. So, the scene shifts to the courtroom where the reunion occurred, and he met his mom essentially for the first time. The judge approved the arrangement and the young man left court with the mother he did not even know he had. Forgiven and reunited. Please pray that the home they are going to establish will be a haven of love, security, joy, and peace where this boy can thrive in every way.
“These guys are going to have your back, just as they did for me. Ever since I finished my class… I finished my parole, and I got full custody of my kids. I don’t know why, but the courts, with this class, seem to be the most important thing to them. You take this class and all of a sudden… CPS, the courts, and everybody start looking at you differently and they start listening to everything you are saying. They (NewDay Services) had my back in court… Thanks…,” said Justine (FOCUS for Fathers’ participant).
Mr. Goods was referred by another agency to our NewDay Services programs, FOCUS for Fathers, Mentor Navigation, Co-Parenting, and Relationship Skills. Due to conflicting issues between the mother of his child and himself, Mr. Goods was not allowed visitation with his son.
Through Co-Parenting Coaching and ongoing Mentoring, he was able to develop a better relationship and better communication with the mother of his son. The mother and he began to focus more on co-parenting and what was best for their son.
This resulted in Mr. Goods being allowed visitation and time together with his son. Therefore, for more father and son time, allowing Mr. Goods to be more actively involved in his son’s life. Now, he is involved in his son’s school activities and many other things such as traveling together, things that at one point Mr. Goods didn’t think were ever going to be possible.
After participating in our programs, Mr. Goods makes quality time with his son his top priority. And in return, it allows his son to have both parents working together in harmony with the common goal of raising their child in a safe and loving environment.
I will never forget the brokenness on this client’s face when she whispered my name with her head hung low and asked me to meet her in the hallway. This was particularly shocking as this client usually exhibited a bubbly personality. Once excluded from everyone she shared with tears in her eyes that she had recently been evicted and was living in her car. It is important to mention that she was also 7 months pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy. Needless to say, she felt embarrassed, helpless, and hopeless.
After celebrating her bravery and thanking her for sharing with me what she was going through, I encouraged her and told her that she would not have to walk through this storm alone, since she recently moved to Texas and did not have the support of family and friends to lean on. Based on her economic situation and impending delivery, we determined that a temporary to permanent shelter would be the best option at the moment until she gave birth. I was able to increase her protective factors, providing concrete support as I helped her secure placement at Union Gospel Mission. She was relieved to no longer have to live in her inoperable car.
Soon after, I received a phone call from her in which she explained that due to the constant drop in the baby’s heart rate, she had to be hospitalized. I went to visit her at the hospital to provide social support and coaching during this stressful time, understanding that the baby’s health was reacting to the adverse experiences the mom was facing. I shared with her how important it is to get enough rest and that she needs to focus on one thing at a time, among other things, which would allow her to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. To my surprise, the baby was born the next day, one month premature, but healthy. I was able to further increase her social and concrete protective factors by providing her with donated clothing and diapers. She was shocked but very happy and grateful.
Two weeks after the baby was born, I was gifted with the opportunity of holding this sweet child in my arms. I held back the tears in my eyes because I understood that as a Mentor Navigator, I am also serving future generations. To this day, she still sends me pictures of the baby and each one sets me ablaze to continue serving these overcoming and extraordinary women. I am honored that she allowed me to lock arms with her with a mindset of “Let’s Do This Together.”
Imagine having your baby born prematurely and having her in the NICU for over a month. Then CPS gets involved because the baby’s mother is struggling with mental health issues. Spencer had to deal with this as a new dad and at the time he was barely 22 years old. His beautiful daughter was only 1 month old at the time, and despite it all, Spencer was “all smiles.” All though he felt like he was on a sinking ship, he always kept a positive attitude.
In class, he seemed to absorb the material with ease learning along the way how to be the best father he could be. He learned a lot about proper discipline, how to stay in his circle of control and how to “honor” the mother of his child. Whenever he got the chance, he would bring his baby girl to class. She would be in her baby carrier and would be quiet (most of the time). Spencer’s mom was temporarily appointed the custodial parent; therefore, he was able to spend as much time as possible with her. Eventually, CPS awarded him full custody of his daughter, and the case was closed. This was one of the shortest cases I have ever seen.
The FOCUS for Fathers’ class was the only program they required him to take. On graduation night we extend an invitation to all the fathers/participants to come back and volunteer, this way they can support the new upcoming class. Spencer expressed an interest in coming back for two reasons. The first one was to absorb and learn more and the second was to come back and encourage the next round of participants. He wanted to help them make the necessary changes in their lives so they could be the engaged fathers their kids needed.
Spencer had a story to tell, he used to be an alcoholic. His parents had divorced when he was young and his grandmother, the only person he was really close to, passed away in 2016. He had overcome many adversities and he wanted to share his story with the hope that it would encourage other fathers to overcome their issues so they could truly emerge themselves in their kids’ lives.
He credits the FOCUS for Fathers’ class, his grandmother, and of course his baby girl with the motivation to change his life.
Spencer has become a very important part of our FOCUS for Fathers’ class. We have called him our class “mascot.” He has supported other fathers through ups and downs. His daughter had a serious life-threatening emergency and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Dallas when she was 6 months old. I went and visited him and his daughter there at the hospital. It was amazing to see Spencer right next to her, without rest through many sleepless nights. I attended her one-year-old birthday party and watched her engorge herself with cake. I was there when his best friend was put in the hospital after getting run over by a truck while bicycling. Most likely I’ll be there for him as long as he needs me, as he is one of us now.
Spencer is well known throughout NewDay Services. At the time, the staff members wanted to meet him, so we invited his daughter and him to our 20th Anniversary Gala at the Omni Hotel. It was awesome to see him dancing with his baby girl. The smiles just kept coming.
So, he has faithfully served the Plano class now for 7 years. I have known his daughter who is now 7 years old since she was one month old. During one of our recent graduations, I presented him with a Volunteer Certificate that said “Mr. Spencer, FOCUS Ph.D.”
I first met Maria when she attended FOCUS for Mothers (FFM) in May of this year. I remember very clearly that like most new moms involved with CPS, Maria’s emotions were all over the place. Anger, fear, and the feeling of being overwhelmed, to mention a few. From the very beginning, Maria was never shy. She was one of the most outspoken moms in the class, in a good way. Most moms that go through the FFM class, are quiet and just go through the motions, but Maria wasn’t like the other moms. She truly wanted to soak up and learn everything she could in our classes. If she didn’t fully understand something, she spoke up and asked. Her desire to learn and overcome her situation was very apparent. I witnessed how she took on many challenges during the 10 weeks of classes, such as not having transportation to get to work, having to work long overnight hours, fighting to stay sober, housing obstacles, as well as challenges with CPS, CASA, and the father of her child.
To me, it’s truly amazing to see how much a person can grow in just 10 short weeks. I would often speak to Maria outside class hours, giving her guidance as to how to communicate and navigate the CPS system. Most times she already had the answers and knowledge she needed, but sometimes she just needed a listening ear and a little bit of support.
During the 5th week of class, I was beginning to see such an amazing change in her attitude. She was no longer the angry, frustrated, and fearful woman that I first met. She was now confident, hopeful, and showing so much promise in everything she was learning on this journey. She was now the inspiration to other moms in the class who were having a hard time. Her desire to continue learning ended with her returning voluntarily to the following session of FFM classes.
Maria was now back as a beacon of hope inspiring other moms who were just beginning their CPS process and were full of fear, anger, and hopelessness as she once was. She wasted no time telling the new moms that they would get through this as well. I can’t emphasize enough the growth and wisdom Maria demonstrated as well as the hope and inspiration she provided to other mothers during her time in FOCUS.
I am happy to say that Maria’s determination paid off. Even though there was a time that it was looking like CPS was not going to return her daughter, she held on, fought through, and eventually, she got her daughter back.
During the first two weeks of class, this particular father was quiet, and generally speaking not too happy to be there, which is typical behavior and we expected. However, during the 3rd week, we get the fathers to talk about the influence their fathers had on them, whether it is good or bad, and how they might be influencing their children in the same manner. This is a difficult exercise for most and emotions tend to run high. It is also the week that most participants have “their breakthrough;” that moment when they realize that the FOCUS class can really help and benefit them. In this father’s case, it was no exception. I could see how his attitude was changing throughout the exercise.
The following week, at the beginning of the class, he asked if he could say something before, we got started. I said yes and the cowboy started telling everyone how the prior FOCUS class had him thinking about how his father was a good influence on his life but unfortunately, he wasn’t practicing what he had learned from his father with his daughter. He stated that he had not talked with his father in over ten years because of his bad choices, so he called his father and asked if they could meet. He didn’t sleep for three nights worrying that his father might not show up to the meeting or might turn his back on him. But his father did show up and accepted his apology and not only that, his father embraced him and hugged him. He was trying to hold back the tears at this point because he couldn’t remember the last time his father and he had hugged.
At that point, the other men in the class stood up to show their support by either shaking his hand, putting their arms around his shoulder, and/or giving him a bear hug. Some even told similar stories and how that 3rd week of the FOCUS class had them analyze their own lives and relationships with their fathers.
By the end of the 10-week class, the cowboy was a changed man. He was on speaking terms with the mother-of-his-child, and her family, and was on the road to reunification with his daughter. He was very proud to let us know at his graduation that learning to use his influence instead of trying to control others had made his life easier and he was a much happier person now.
“When I first came to this class, I thought this was going to be another parenting class. I was like ahh man this is going to be boring, I’ve done these before, but it was completely different. They hit every subject I was going through, it was like they were reading my mind… they were really good, it was all about real life… not by the book. It was real, they thought me a lot… especially when it comes to boundaries, which helps in any relationship… it was a good class,” said a FOCUS for Mothers participant.
To the FOCUS Fatherhood,
Back in April 2022, I sent one of my CPS fathers to the FOCUS for Fathers program to take part in your services. When I first met Joe, he had no confidence and would shut down and run away at the slightest hint of a difficult conversation. Joe didn’t believe he had a strong role in his family, and he didn’t have many people that he could turn to for in-person support. In the time that he was with the FOCUS Fatherhood; I saw him flourish!! Joe softened up, became easier to talk to and more open. We went from kicking us (CPS) out of the house to sitting down and communicating with us as to what he wanted for his family, his hopes, and fears, and how he was struggling.
He started to show more confidence and was excited to tell me about everything he was learning. He taught me the difference between control and influence and how he only has the power to control how he thinks and acts, not others. Not only did Joe verbalize what he was learning, he was demonstrating it as well with his wife and daughters!
I witnessed more laughter between him and his wife, a stronger bond between him and his girls, and a happier and safer family. Joe always looked forward to his FOCUS classes and developed a bond with the other men there. I firmly believe that Joe has always been a good man, but I believe it was the FOCUS Fatherhood that helped him see that he was. I got a chance to watch a father and a family grow, and back in August, their CPS case closed with nothing but success!!
I honestly don’t think we could have had so many positives in this case if it hadn’t been for the FOCUS for Fathers program. Fathers are greatly underappreciated, and it is comforting to know they have men like the FOCUS For Fathers’ facilitators to come alongside them, to build them up, and make our families stronger than before.
Take care, Myers
FBSS Specialist IV
“This class helps you to learn more about yourself, to help you deal with anger issues, drug issues, and the baggage we been carrying around since we were kids. So, this class helps you learn how to deal with yourself, so you can deal with your kids and because of that it’s a great class all the way around. I’m becoming a better father and a better husband. My wife has already seen the change in me, and she loves it. We don’t argue near as much. I’ve learned to deal with my stress and my anger issues are gone. I know now that my anger comes from things in my past and I’m learning to let go of it… I didn’t even know it was there. This class helped me look at myself before I look at my kids,” said a FOCUS for Fathers’ participant. “I used to go off at my kids constantly, I did that because that’s what my parents did with me. They were always giving me a whipping, grabbing me, or something like that and I started to do the same things to my kids, and they didn’t need me in that way. I had to break that cycle. I would recommend this class to a lot of people because is not about your kids, it’s about you, we need to learn to deal with ourselves before you can deal with them. That’s just the way I feel about it.”