The Transformation of Fathers Forever

When I first met this father, he was standing in Child Support court wearing an orange and white Wake County jail uniform.  He’d been arrested for not paying his child support a few days earlier and his case was now being heard by the judge.

He was unshaved and looked unkempt.  As he stood before the judge, he held his head down, maybe in shame or embarrassment, or both.  His countenance left him looking very sad and depressed. He was a soft spoken man, and he was articulate. He said he wanted to pay his child support but he couldn’t find a job to make the money to foot the obligation.

His story: he was a Desert Storm veteran who fell on hard times. He was laid off from his job, and was now working about 10 hours a week at a bowling alley. He was homeless and for the past two months, had been living in his car.  He had one daughter; she lived in another state with her mother. He hadn’t seen his only child in over a year and he was eight months behind in making his child support payment.

The Judge asked him a series of questions. She also expressed her disappointment with his payment history. At the same time however, she also was concerned about him and his current situation. She told him about Fathers Forever and for the first time during this process, I could see his face brighten up.

Logo_new copy 05-2010 gloriaThat’s the “magic” of Fathers Forever.  The father was released from jail and ordered to Fathers Forever. His next court date in 30 days would check his progress. I met with him and arranged for him to get a bed at a homeless shelter. They enrolled him in their program as well. He was really appreciative, especially because winter was fast approaching. He attended our weekly classes faithfully. Sometimes, he even walked.  He completed our 24-week program, completed the homeless shelter’s requirements, found a job, got an apartment and purchased a car, with the help of other local agencies by the time he graduated. He also started paying his child support.

At his second appearance before the judge, we were there to proudly report his progress. The Judge praised him for his accomplishments and asked him if he wanted to say anything.  With a very tender voice, he addressed the court. He thanked the staffs at both Fathers Forever and the homeless shelter. He also thanked the judge.

He also apologized to the Judge for not fulfilling his financial obligation and other responsibilities to his child. He also addressed his child’s mother. With tears running down his face, he said, “I promise, from this day forward, to help you raise our daughter.” Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the courtroom. Staff was crying, including me.

What a difference our 24-week program made in the father’s life. At graduation he shared this:

“I first heard about Fathers Forever standing in Child Support Court. I have been incarcerated for non-child support.  I was broke, depressed, unemployed and homeless. They linked me to different programs in the community and today I am employed. I have an apartment, a car and equally important, I am making my child support payments. I thank the Judge and Fathers Forever for making a difference in my life! They helped me get my dignity back as a man and father. For that, I am forever grateful.”

© Copyright 2014 Glen Warren/Fathers Forever. All Rights Reserved

 

DAMAGE CONTROL: THE BREAKING OF A CHILD

This statement is both true and false: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The first part is true however; the second part is clearly false.  Words do have power and bad words do hurt. Have you ever spoken words out of anger and the next moment you wish you could grab them out of the air and shove them back into your mouth?  Unfortunately, those words can’t be called back. They simply do the damage they were intended to do.

It happens all of the time in various situations and in all kinds of relationships. My purpose here, is to address how what we say and do can contribute to breaking our children and ultimately, dismantling their future.

To delve into what I mean by “the breaking of a child”–spiritually, mentally and emotionally, let’s take a closer look at the 10 Commandments:  Thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, recognize the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy, thou shall not covet, and so on.  But there is one commandment with a condition and that is, “Honor thy father and mother so that your days may be long.”

Some scholars believe that implies when a person dishonors their mother and father their days will be shortened. There is no way to prove that as fact because only God knows how many days each of us has to live in this mortal realm.  But the question remains: Why would God attach a condition to that commandment–and only that commandment?

I also ask: What roles do we, as parents, play in teaching and even helping our children understand that commandment – and keep it?

Parents who use profanity and call the other parent bad names in front of their children are teaching them to disrespect and dishonor that parent just as they themselves are doing. That’s damage to the child; damage parents can control.

Herein lays the proverbial “breaking” point. Consider this true story: As children, when we misbehaved, my mother would send us to the woods to get a switch (a stick) for her to use to discipline us. There are two things I can remember like it was yesterday, 1) the whipping always hurt, and 2) eventually, the switch always broke.

When one parent uses their child as a pawn (or a whipping switch) to “whip” the other parent by denying visitation or refusing to pay child support because they have been denied visitation, the whipping does hurt the other parent. And, eventually, just like the switch Mom used to spank us with back in the day broke, so does the child. Often, we can detect that “breaking” later in that child’s life as they get into trouble for disrespecting and dishonoring their parents, their teachers and other authority figures.

Just as the proverbial sticks hurt, so do a parent’s words and that leads us to another “breaking of a child” point. One time is too often for parents to “name call” and use hurtful language and profanity to describe their child and or their child’s behavior.  The result, for children of all ages, can be characteristics such as low self-esteem and because they are the victim of bullying at home, they themselves become the bully at school.  It can also cause our children to withdraw from family, school and community, and that can destroy important bonding, education and support they need to succeed. So, yes, be it sticks and stones, or words, it is damage that can be controlled by nurturing, caring, and aware parents.  And it takes two.

By definition, damage control is “an attempt to correct or rectify a situation that has gone wrong.” Parents, let’s get this right. Let’s take control of the sticks, stones and words we use that damage our children at our own hands and mouths. Now that is damage we can control.

© Copyright 2014 Glen Warren/Fathers Forever. All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

The Blinders of Indifference

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”       Eli Wiesel

The purpose of blinders is to take away or limit the has the ability to see. We put blinders on horses; a pair of leather flaps attached to the bridle to prevent them from seeing what they have the ability to see. The blinders prevent side vision, thus allowing them only to see straight ahead to that which is in front of them. Let’s see how this works with people who have on different types of blinders–“the blinders of indifference”.

The definition of indifference is a lack of feeling, interest or concern for another; an emotional detachment; the absence of the capacity to feel for the other person. Some symptoms of indifferences are words like apathy, insensibility, nonchalant, cold heartedness, and unmindful. It’s no pleasure in watching people who have indifferences “go at each other”, and it is even worse when they are trying to co-parent.

 Sitting in family court one day, I witnessed a former couple who had on “the blinders of indifference.” They had been in and out of court many times because they just couldn’t agree on much of anything: visitation, which would provide medical insurance, or even which day care to use. They were both looking straight ahead, with the desire “to get one up on the other”. The leather flaps of indifference would not allow them to see that which they had the ability to see—the other parent’s current struggle. Neither one could see the dysfunction they were showing their children. Neither could see the unreasonable requests they were asking of the court system, which was: to fix their indifferences, their apathy, their insensibility, their nonchalant attitude, the cold hearted and unmindful way they had toward each other. All of those words were seen during that painful 45 minutes court session that ended with another court date being set, with no clear resolution in sight. It seemed that they both wanted the court system to fix a problem it wasn’t designed to fix, like adjust their attitudes, heal their past wounds and correct their paths of indifferences. I watched the countenance of the Judge and the other court room officials. It appeared they were even frustrated and at times perplexed, as to what the couple wanted from each other; and frankly, so was I.

Each couple has to find a way to take off the “blinders of indifference”, if they are going to be affective co-parents and again the system was not designed to do that. The court system monitors the guidelines of visitation and custody; the parents have to monitor their own behavior.

We all wear “blinders of indifference” from time to time, and they, too, are attached to our bridle (psychic) and they prevent us from seeing that which we have the ability to see. If it’s true, the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference, we all need to stay clear of indifference because love is a powerful force; love is freedom; love gives; and love forgives. If indifference is the opposite, then it must also be a powerful force as well, but indifference takes away from; it holds grudges and puts limitations on our ability to see again that which we have the ability to see.

indexCo-parenting, within itself has many challenges, but when both parents are wearing the “blinders of indifference”, they are failing at affective co-parenting. Life has many challenges as well, and we, too, will be in-affective if we choose to walk in the opposite of love; if that indeed is indifference.

© Copyright 2014 Glen Warren/Fathers Forever All Rights Reserved

Power Surge

Domestic Violence is a “surge of abusive power”, it destroys that which it’s suppose to empower. Glen Warren Sr.

people yellingA power surge is a sudden increase in voltage that is sent back into the system it once powered; thus, destroying it. Lightning strikes are a common cause, but for the most part, a power surge comes from inside the home; sounds a lot like “Domestic Violence”. Violence can come from anywhere, at any time; but the worst kind is when it comes from an immediate family member in the home. Domestic Violence is a “surge of abusive power”, it destroys that which it’s suppose to be empowering.

In one of our Fathers Forever domestic violence classes, I asked, “How many fathers have ever had a D.V. charge?” To my surprise, half of the guys raised their hands. Some of the fathers stated they were set up by their partner, while others admitted to their abusive behavior; and one particular father said “You have to hit her every now and again to keep her in line.” I asked him to please explain, his response was disturbing, although I had heard it before. He said he grew up in an abusive household where his dad beat his mother, his siblings, and himself often, for no apparent reason. “He would get mad and fuss for a few days, then ‘flip out’ and began beating us, starting with my mom. After the beating he would be very nice, buying us things, helping my mom in the kitchen, and he would later apologize, but tell us it was our fault and that he had to keep us in line. Things would be normal for a while, but in a few months or some times weeks, the fussing would start up again.” I asked him how he felt about it and he said, “I knew it was wrong, but it did keep us in line, including my mom. She didn’t talk back to him as much after the beatings.  He then said,”he tried it a few times and that’s how he got the Domestic Violence charge.”

cycle of abuseLenore Walker created “The Cycle of Abuse” model, in which she identified four phases of abuse. Phase 1 – Tension Building; Phase 2 – Acting Out (the abuse); Phase 3 – Reconciliation or the Honeymoon; and Phase 4 – The Calm. We saw that pattern pretty clearly in that father’s story. I instructed the fathers, to go home, take their partner’s hand, and palm to palm measure to see how much bigger their hands are compared to hers. Then, arm wrestle her and see how much more strength they have over hers. I went on to explain, the reason they are bigger and stronger. It is to “protect” her, anything else is an abuse of power however, Domestic Violence is much more than physical abuse.

A few years ago, I was invited to share at a conference. An agency was showing how they had saved a woman and her children from their abusive husband and stepfather. They provided “Wrap Around Services”, which included relocation, counseling, and assistance for the mom to find employment. They really had done a great job! I then posed a question, “What services did you offer the husband/father?” None was offered, of course, except a jail cell. He would be released one day, and of course, he would then have a criminal record; and of course, he won’t be able to find a job; so, of course, he finds another family to abuse and the cycle continues. (We need a surge protector!)

A surge protector is a device that contains circuitry to prevent damage from reaching the electrical equipment plugged into it, when a power surge occurs. I often wonder why there aren’t more programs to help men understand the root cause of their “domestic violence” behavior. The father mentioned earlier (perhaps, like many other fathers), had distorted views of his role as a “man” and “father”. We, as a society, need to put more surge protectors (services for men) in our community. If we are going to stop Domestic Violence, we have to provide programs to both the victims and the perpetrators. A community with few or no services to aide men in understanding the affects of Domestic Violence is like a home without a surge protector; both can suffer from the abuse of power.

 

 © Copyright 2014 Glen Warren/Fathers Forever All Rights Reserved