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DADS Committee helps support fathers in their desire to be better parents

Carlos Alden connects fathers to resources.

Having been a stay-at-home father for 15 years while his two children were growing, Carlos Alden now helps other fathers be better dads through his work for six years as the Fatherhood Project coordinator and counselor with Catholic Charities’ Childbirth and Parenting Assistance (CAPA).

He leads a fathers’ support group, teaches parenting classes and does counseling.

Soon after he started at CAPA, he joined the DADS Committee, a coalition of people from the Department of Social and Health Services, Children’s Home Society, Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, Office of Support Enforcement, health care professionals and other agencies.

Service providers, who realized there were few services for fathers, networked with father-friendly agencies to form the DADS Committee in 1993.

“Research shows fathers that if fathers are involved in a healthy way, children do better,” Carlos said.  “We need to train professionals and look at barriers.  Fathers need to be involved with DSHS child foster care as much as mothers.”

Ten years ago, the DADS Committee decided to do an Engaging Fatherhood Conference.

In 2018, the annual Engaging Fatherhood Conference and Resource Fair will be from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Friday, March 30, in the Lair Student Center at Spokane Community College, 1810 N. Greene St.

The event includes a keynote speaker, Clint Edwards, author of the “No Idea What I’m Doing” parenting blog.

Workshops include fathering success, digital device safety, the importance of dads, co-parenting issues, whole-brain parenting and reconnecting with older children after recovery.  Workshops for social service professionals are on creating fatherhood groups and delivering father-friendly services.

Clint, who saw his father infrequently after he left when Clint was nine, knows it’s challenging for fathers who do not have a model, but says if fathers know and love their children, they can be good fathers.

Carlos said 40 to 100 caregivers, fathers, mothers, social workers and counselors usually attend.

At CAPA, the Fatherhood Project helps men be good fathers.  It has a facilitated group that meets once a week for fathers of children who are five years or younger, and referred by a social worker, the court or a friend.

Catholic Charities has five volunteer father mentors to help with groups of two to eight fathers. Some come to a group one or two times.  Others come for one to three years.

“It’s a place to share the joys and struggles of being a father,” Carlos said.

“People come to CAPA to grow as parents.  They work hard to be parents.  The system sometimes can prevent fathers from being with their kids.  Dads are hungry to be with their children,” he said.

Carlos’ roots were in Buffalo, N.Y. He spent three years at the Rochester Institute of Technology and studied at the School of Visual Arts and Painting in New York City, in 1976.  He graduated in 1979 from San Francisco State University with a master’s in psychology in 1983. 

From 1986 to 1987, he and his wife Janine taught English in China.

Then they lived in California’s Central Valley of California, where they had good jobs. He was an outpatient counselor with an agency there.  They found that his license as a licensed marriage and family counselor would transfer to Washington.  They decided to move to Spokane in 1992.

Janine began teaching English as a Second Language to Japanese students at Eastern Washington University and retired in August.

When they moved to Spokane, Carlos decided to be a stay-at-home father for their children, Zac and Michaela, were two and four years old.  They are now 26 and 29 years old.

“I liked doing art and music with them.  I play banjo, guitar and mandolin. Zac, now an aspiring musician in three bands in Portland, learned electric guitar and base.  Michaela studied piano for eight years,” he said.  “I painted, drew and did crafts with them, sharing from my art education,” said Carlos. 

“When they went to school, I picked them up and volunteered at school.  I volunteered at church, at KPBX and with a band,” he said.

“I wanted my children to see I was there for them and in school with them.  Most of their friends’ fathers were the breadwinners,” he said.

“I learned how to be a good parent without slipping into being a professional counselor,” he said.

Carlos advises fathers to look at their long-term goals, accept their mistakes and simply be involved, so they know their children.

“Recently when I visited Zac, we were on a panel about fathers.  He was aware that things were different because I was around,” he said.  “I was the carpool person, the one who shopped, bought food and cooked.  My role challenged expectations of fathers.”

Carlos said he experienced what many mothers experience, feeling alone and lacking adult company.

“My eyes were open to what mothers go through to maintain their sanity, and their fears of losing their college education and the goals they had before they were parents,” he said. 

He kept up with continuing education when their children went to middle school and high school so he could return to the work force.

Carlos grew up Episcopal and tried different churches as a young man.  He and Janine began attending Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ when they first came to Spokane.  He was involved with the music program there.

“Where I work now, I feel I’m serving people who may be encountering challenges or lacking resources.  Some come to CAPA after riding two buses for 40 minutes, carrying a baby and bringing a toddler.

“Parenting classes help parents be the parents they want to be, do things to change,” Carlos said.

For information, call 455-4966 or email calden@ccspokane.org.





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