The Catholic Charities of Southern Colorado in Pueblo offers a free 13-week year-round course called the Nurturing Fathers Program.
Gabe Charboneau, the Fatherhood Advocate at Catholic Charities says the program aims to help put men in a position to be great dads.
The course is intended to give fathers who are estranged from their children, due to divorce, separation or incarceration. It is a resource to repair the bond between father and child through teaching co-parenting, communication, and problem-solving skills.
“Through learning strategies on how to reengage and reconnect with their children by healing that generational trauma, having a safe place for men to come in and bond and know they
are not being judged. I think that's a very powerful tool.”
Charboneau says 85% of the dads who go through the program graduate. He recognized the need for a program like this in the Pueblo community due to high crime rates in the area, that could be connected to deeper issues.
“One of the reasons for the programs popularity has just been the need here in Pueblo. Dads are hurting, we just want them to know: you are not by yourself you don’t have to suffer in silence there’s a program here that can help you.”
Jeff Vigil, a father of two, wanted to be a better father to his kids, so he sought out the program last year.
“I've been a single dad for five years, and as a dad I always wondered if I was doing it right, if I was making the right decisions, if I was being the best dad that I could be.”
He was able to get an education on parenting that wasn’t present during his own childhood.
“Being raised without a dad, I learned skills I didn't know before.”
Charboneau points out a large reason many of these dads struggle is because of the way they themselves were raised.
“Through learning strategies on how to reengage and reconnect with their children, by healing that generational trauma, having a safe place for men to come in and bond and know they are not being judged, I think that's a very powerful tool.”
Through the program, Charboneau says they have seen men regain custody and time with their children.
Charboneau wants this program to break the stigma and teach men that it's okay to ask for help.
“What are the things we consider unhealthy behaviors for men? The fact that men aren't supposed to cry, men are supposed to man up. Men manning up in silence is the reason we have one of the highest suicide rates in the country.”
The Nurturing Fatherhood program is funded by Fatherhood FIRE (Family-focused, Interconnected, Resilient, and Essential), a state and federal grant intended for connecting fathers and kids. Pueblo County was one of the counties in Colorado to receive this grant.
“What the Fire grant really wants to see is how many men are stepping up at their own accord without having a carat at the other end of it and really just truing to engage with their children.”
This program does not fulfill requirements for court-mandated classes for this reason, however Catholic Charities other resources do provide these courses.
Catholic Charities also provides resources to fathers in the program who struggle with basic needs like housing or giving their children healthy meals.
Charboneau says they have seen fathers graduate from the program come back to mentor other fathers. Jeff Vigil is one of those men.
“ I would like to just help other dads, hopefully learn what I learned, to make them better dads and help them areas that they may be weak on”
He was inspired by what he learned, and the way it helped him foster healthy connections with his children, and he wanted to help spread that knowledge to other fathers as a mentor for them.
“Everybody wants a handout, but we could all use a hand up”
Vigil says it gave him confidence to be a better father.
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