Thinking of Fatherhood
As Father’s Day approaches, I am filled with thoughts around its meaning, particularly in these perilous recent times. It is always a day to remind us of the importance of fatherhood, and dads—honoring those with us, and those who are with us no longer. In these times, though, the concept of “strength” comes to mind as having special meaning.
For some, strength is viewed as physical brawn, whether it be in exertion or endurance. Of course, that is one definition and yet, these days, in particular, modeling and passing on strength of character is a far more important job for dads.
The COVID 19 crisis tests everyone and yet dads, and for that matter all of us, are called upon to model the discipline of endurance and sacrifice. We are called upon to exercise patience and restraint in keeping one another safe by practicing social distancing and other safety measures, even in the face of the desire to “open up now”! I understand that impulse, and yet it is wrong-headed and dangerous to declare that abandoning sensible health practices is somehow “patriotic” despite its harm to the common good. Our children are best served when they see us dads understanding and serving the community’s needs by patiently and thoughtfully keeping one another safe.
That police officer in Minneapolis was “tough” as he held George Floyd’s neck to the ground, treating the man like an animal, someone to be dominated to the point of murdering him. His actions deprived Mr. Floyd’s daughter of the father she so needs. That is a measure of unadorned cruelty, not strength. So too are the words of those leaders who, in impersonating strength, further fuel the fires of division and hatred. True strength is seen in those fathers who further a more just community, where those who are oppressed are no longer viewed as “less than” but rather our true fellow and fully respected citizens.
In the face of fear and anger, it is tempting to resort to the exercise of supremacy, after all it has been a path taken by many since the dawn of time. Now, more than ever, though, this is a time when our children need to be able to look at their fathers and see examples of true strength—patience, understanding and humanity. The best of fatherhood is not instructed but exposed by ones own behavior. Walter Kettering once said: “Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example, not his advice”.
That can be the best legacy of fatherhood. Happy Father’s Day to all!
When I sat down to write this newsletter article, there were three ideas drifting around in my head all related to events in June…
The first is the fact that June is Pride Month which commemorates the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. I’m reminded of all of the struggles our LGBTQ+ co-workers, clients, family members, friends, and colleagues have gone through and go through in their struggle for equal rights, fair treatment, acceptance, and respect. I’m also reminded of the importance of allyship—the ongoing process by which those of us with privilege and power seek to learn about the experiences of a marginalized group of people, empathize with their challenges, and build relationships with that group.
The second is Juneteenth—the American holiday that commemorates June 19, 1865, the day on which nearly two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, enslaved African Americans were informed of their liberation from the slavery in the former Confederate States of America. I’m reminded that Juneteenth largely came to my attention through Tree Arrington and R.E.A.L. Skills Network through the Juneteenth Celebration put on annually. I think about our ongoing efforts at Family Services around diversity, equity, inclusion and the progress we’ve made, and yet of the immense work there is left to do. I’ve read and re-read the book White Fragility and I’m continuing to do work on my white privilege. And finally I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention George Floyd’s senseless death and of the reaction that has swept our community and the nation.
Finally I’m reminded of Father’s Day. This is my first Father’s Day now with two children in the world and as I’ve shared with many, parenting has changed my worldview in ways I couldn’t have fathomed before. As a father, as an ally, as someone working to be an anti-racist, as someone trying to continue to do better, and be better as a person, and to be a force for change for what sometimes seems a hopeless world, I think of how I want my kids to see the world better than it is today, better than my experience has been so far, better than I’ve been so far. I want my kids to see that love is love no matter who that person chooses to be with and that when faced with something you don’t understand curiosity is so much better than fear and ridicule. I want my kids to understand that its appalling and quite frankly disgraceful that some parents have to worry about their kids every time they leave the house solely because of the color of their skin. I also want my kids to know that because of our white privilege I don’t have that fear when they leave the house and that their white privilege is not something they asked for, not something they earned, and something that like me, they’ll need to work to help undo in their lifetimes because no parent should ever have to worry that their child might die every time they leave the house. And finally I want my kids to know that even though it can seem so bleak and so hopeless sometimes that I firmly believe, that I have hope and faith, that truly the ground becomes more solid after going through a heavy rainfall and that truly we can make things better.
These are some of my reflections this month and I hope you’ll all take a moment to reflect on how you’ve grown, how you’ve changed, and how you can make things better going forward. I think that’s why so many of us, including myself, work for and join with Family Services because ultimately our mission is about improving lives and communities, and building a stronger, safer [and I’ll add Better] Hudson Valley.
SNUG (guns spelled backwards) is an evidence-based street outreach program based on the Cure Violence Model in Chicago, which treats gun violence like a disease by identifying its causes and interrupting its transmission in order to reduce and prevent shootings and violence.
When stay at home orders were put in place, outreach changed dramatically for the SNUG team. The Outreach Team continues to stay in touch with participants using technology like FaceTime and Zoom. FaceTime, has always been a method that SNUG participants have used to contact the Outreach team, so the change from face to face contacts to virtual was seamless and effective. Outreach Worker Eric Archer, has even used technology to organize a workout program for participants that enables him to check in and engage with participants through training competitions and challenges.
SNUG has continued to serve the entire community through stay at home orders as well. Through Facebook, the team has been able to “cyber canvas” in order to keep abreast of things happening in the community and mediating conflicts as they arise. When a shooting did occur during quarantine, the SNUG team was able to support the community through a Virtual Shooting Response on Zoom. Through these challenging times, the team has used social media to encourage participants and the community to maintain healthy protocols and get support where needed.
Ulster Prevention Council
The Ulster Prevention Council (UPC) provides substance abuse prevention services to the communities and schools of Ulster County. While school has been out of session due to COVID-19, UPC has shifted the way it delivers services in order to meet the needs of those they serve. Prevention Educators Caitlin Shea and Jody Gboney have worked to develop prevention lessons for multiple grades that can be used by school districts who are providing virtual instruction. UPC has also been collaborating with programs within Family Services to offer the Family Services Educational Expedition—a series of free online workshops for human service providers, students, and anyone who is interested in learning! UPC-focused workshops delve into topics related to substance abuse such as risks, trends, identifying signs/symptoms of abuse, effects and more. All of our upcoming webinars in this series can be found on the Family Services website here and past webinars can be found on Family Services’ YouTube channel here.
During this pandemic, incidences of opiate overdose have increased, and UPC has responded. Susan Baxter, Community Prevention Coordinator, has been working with community partners including the National Guard to present a series of virtual Narcan trainings. Narcan (naloxone) is an opioid antagonist used for the complete or partial reversal of an opioid overdose. Following the virtual training, Susan arranges for safe, social distancing delivery of Narcan to training participants. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Many families are cleaning out cabinets and drawers while they are at home. Program Director Cheryl DePaolo is working to help families safely dispose of unwanted drugs by distributing Deterra® Drug Deactivation System pouches. Each pouch can safely neutralize 90 pills, 12 oz of liquid or 12 transdermal patches, and disposal is safe for landfills. To obtain Deterra® pouches in Ulster County, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Youth Services Goes Online
Since schools closed and distance learning went into place, we have missed all of our youth in our after school programs. That is until now! Family Services recently launched online after school programming for children and teens. After The Bell and TRAC staff are facilitating interactive sessions that enable children and teens to spend time socializing with others, participate in guided discussions/activities, and engage in physical activity.
In addition to live programming, the Teen Resource Activity Center Staff are sharing a weekly podcast featuring Coach Mo as he discusses the pandemic, how our lives have changed, and ways to stay healthy. Elementary children can enjoy Story Time with Family Services & Friends where staff and friends of the agency share some of their favorite childhood books.
To enjoy your favorite children’s book, hear from Coach Mo or sign up to participate in the live sessions, visit Youth Services Online.
A Look Back
June is National Gun Violence Awareness Month—a month is dedicated raising awareness of the needless and senseless gun violence in every corner of our nation. All month long, Family Services will share information on social media. To learn more about how Family Services works to prevent, educate on, and interrupt gun violence visit the SNUG or GIVE pages on our website.
LGBT Pride Month is celebrated annually in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots, an uprising that occurred at the end of June 1969. Events are held throughout June to recognize the impact LGBTQ+ people have had in history, as well as bring focus to issues surrounding their community. To view events happening in the Hudson Valley community this month, click here.
Family Services’ 2019