Fatherhood program expands to New Haven

A Catholic Charities program that has been helping Hartford fathers become positive forces in their children’s lives since 2012 has been expanded to help men in New Haven. The Fatherhood Initiative Program (FIP) promotes the proven theory that the presence of a father in a child’s life is vital and even more beneficial if they have a close relationship. Studies have shown the benefits for children having close relationships with fathers include fewer concerns about weight and higher self-esteem.

The voluntary program will be led in New Haven by Brian Gonzalez, the new Family Specialist and Fatherhood Case Manager working out of the Catholic Charities Behavioral Health Clinic at 501 Lombard St. Brian is a new Catholic Charities staffer but has been involved with the agency while his daughter was in the School Readiness program at Centro San Jose on New Haven’s Grand Avenue. His addition means a drastic career shift for Brian, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Architecture from the University of Hartford. 

Brian Gonzalez

“While I hold a special place in my heart for the architecture industry and the people I’ve met, I felt compelled to explore a new path that resonated more deeply with my sense of purpose,” Brian said.

He said he was able to spend time volunteering and attending events and activities at Centro San Jose but the majority of parents who could be there were mothers. “As a father, I feel that it is crucial for children to witness our involvement in their lives, both within our home environment and in their daily activities,” he said. After Centro San Jose Director Sylvia Velez told him about the agency’s need for a Fatherhood specialist, he joined the team to help launch the program.

“My ultimate goal is to be able to provide resources to fathers in the New Haven community and create a safe space for them to share their experiences so that we all learn from each other,” said Brian, who is fluent in English and Spanish. 

Flyers for the New Haven program can be downloaded here: English and Spanish.

Brian has earned certification to facilitate classes and provide family coaching based on a Fatherhood Development Curriculum designed by the National Partnership for Community Leadership (NPCL). He will also be attending a conference next week to connect with other Fatherhood specialists and broaden his knowledge about the field.

The voluntary program will offer weekly meetings covering various family topics, including money matters, the court system, anger management, communication, parenting skills, and more. 

A keystone principle of the program is the belief that helping a father improve his overall life will help him become a positive presence in his child’s life. And to do that, the program provides a variety of services such as:

  • Economic stability services help fathers connect with training and employment opportunities, in addition to a course called Money Smart for Adults that was created by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) to help people enhance their money skills and understand how the financial system works.
  • Outreach and recruiting services to connect fathers with community groups or social service agencies that have helpful resources.
  • Intensive case management helps fathers deal with paternity, custody and child support issues.
  • Group sessions give fathers the opportunity to share their stories and hear others’ experiences that could help them learn ways to cope in a stressful time.

The goals of the program are for fathers to:

  • Become more employable by completing training programs, registering with the state’s Department of Labor’s CT Hires System, earning a GED, and participating in the Money Smart education program;
  • Improve or maintain compliance with child support orders;
  • Establish paternity for their children or begin the process to establish paternity;
  • Increase time spent with their children;
  • Increase knowledge of parenting skills;
  • Improve their state of behavioral health.

Anyone interested in the program in New Haven can contact Brian at 203-297-7947 or bgonzalez@ccaoh.org. To learn about the program in Hartford, contact Peter Lewis (plewis@ccaoh.org) at the Asylum Hill Family Center or Shanikwa Williams (swilliams@ccaoh.org) at the Parker Memorial Family Center. For more information about the Fatherhood program, visit www.ccaoh.org/fatherhood.

Click here to read about one father’s experience and watch the video below.