SAN ANTONIO – Compadre y Compadre, a program of the Children’s Shelter of San Antonio that's open to any father in Bexar County, in addition to those referred by Child Protective Services, could become a statewide model.
Patrick Ortiz, the program's director, will testify in Austin on Tuesday before the Senate committee on health and human services in support of Senate Bill 1130, which is sponsored by state Sen. Royce West, of Dallas.
If passed, the bill would create a task force promoting father engagement and programs such as Compadre y Compadre, which teach men how to become fathers.
In terms of helping prevent child abuse, Ortiz said, “By helping mothers, you’re only helping half the equation, which means that you’re only providing half the solution.”
Anais Biera, spokeswoman for the Children’s Shelter, said that over the past 10 years, 3,364 fathers have graduated from the 12-week course and 980 of them have gone on for further training as mentors.
According to the Compadre y Compadre website, last year, 584 fathers of 1,553 children went through the program, and 306 graduated, with 164 becoming mentors. The website also noted that 98 percent of the fathers had improved their parenting skills and child-rearing attitudes.
“We want to move men from being a stereotype dad to a prototype father," Ortiz said.
The program, which includes a two-week “boot camp,” teaches what a father needs know about the essentials, which range from changing diapers to managing stress and being emotionally involved with their families to child abuse awareness, including shaken baby syndrome.
“We’ve noticed that men struggle with fatherhood because they don’t understand manhood," Ortiz said.