SAN ANTONIO – When it first opened its doors back in 1983, St Jude’s Ranch for Children was a secure, caring place for children in need. It is now known as SJRC Texas, but their mission of taking care of kids hasn’t changed, as they have just added to it.
Now, SJRC is reaching out to adults. They are trying to help mom’s and dad’s become better parents, which in turn will reduce the number of kids who actually need a safe place to escape to.
“We wanted to begin offering services to the community and to families. We wanted to support families in an effort to help establish healthy relationships,” said Jaci Gonzales, chief prevention officer. ”Healthy families grow healthy children. It’s an effort to prevent child abuse before they end up in the foster care system or somewhere else.”
The department began serving families last year. This summer, they are taking on the task of educating and supporting father figures, either if they are married or single dads.
“We do see a lot of moms, but we know there are gaps in services for dads, for fathers and father figures,” Gonzales said. ”So we specifically started our fatherhood initiative just for fathers and father figures who are raising young children.”
One of the events previously held this summer was the Father-Child Fishing Experience. Erick Loyola took his two and a half-year-old son, Oliver and said it was a great experience.
“I definitely learned patience,” Loyola said.
Loyola said Oliver lasted about five seconds before he was ready to wonder around. But that is part of the initiative, bonding with children.
“I wanted to be a part of the program, so I know how to be a great father,” he said.
SJRC said other initiatives will take place, like their “Science of being a Dad” series.
SJRC will be hosting three events through the summer and fall. Their block party takes place July 17 and there is another fatherhood initiative on September 18 and on November 13.
Joel Gonzales is the leader of a simple, scientific based activity to teach connecting by building a strong base. Gonzales uses hands on techniques with children’s toys by building blocks, legos and plastic panels.
“We want to build a strong bond with our child. That starts with a good base, so yeah, that’s what we are looking for,” Gonzales said. “There are times where it is going to sway. There’s times where that relationship is going to get a little rickety. There are times where that relationship may even crumble. But the important thing is rebuilding a making sure it’s strong, making sure the foundation is always there.”