More dads are joining SJRC’s fatherhood program, helping cut down on parenting stress

The Big Give fundraiser helps support fatherhood program, many other SJRC programs

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – During San Antonio’s huge charity initiative, the Big Give, we’re highlighting one organization with services that span 27 counties in Texas.

Foster care agency SJRC Texas offers placement services and education for foster families and runs foster campuses. However, they also take a proactive approach with an array of programs for any parents in the community.

“It is pretty difficult sometimes,” father Casey Heckendorf said about parenting.

Heckendorf has two kids, ages 15 and 4, so he knows how fast the stages change.

Casey Heckendorf (CREDIT: SJRC Texas)

“You’re always constantly worrying. ‘OK, how am I going to make money?’ You know, ‘How am I going to protect this little one?’” he said.

Heckendorf agreed there’s a stigma for dads about reaching out for help.

Two years ago, he broke out of that and turned to SJRC’s Fatherhood Initiative program geared specifically toward men who are caregivers.

“So that they understand the milestones of children, what to expect. Knowing what the expectations of your child should be helps to lower child abuse and prevent those things from happening,” said SJRC Community Prevention Supervisor Meliss Loyola.

Loyola said participation in the fatherhood program has spiked over the past four years.

“We do a father-child fishing event, so it’s super fun. We also partner with our local gym to do what we call gym games,” she said.

“Even something as simple as like, ‘Hey, let’s plan something at the park and have all the families come out and have a fishing competition,’” Heckendorf said.

They express that there is power in parents connecting and relating to common stressors.

Heckendorf said he doesn’t have family that lives nearby, so the parenthood journey can feel lonely.

“They step in, and Meliss is like family, so she’s been there with me a lot of the steps of the way and gives me a lot of coaching opportunities and things like that to be able to advance in fatherhood,” he said.

The support is around the clock for big or small issues.

“Like, one day, they could like mac and cheese. The next day, they don’t. They’re kind of coaching you, like, ‘Maybe try this. Include them in cooking it.’ Then you’re like, ‘Hey, it worked!’” Heckendorf said.

Heckendorf still can’t believe the program is free.

“This program needs to be like throughout the whole world. The things that this program does is beyond amazing,” he said.

He hopes the community will continue to help fund it and the long list of other SJRC programs.

The Big Give starts Wednesday at 6 p.m. and ends Thursday at 6 p.m.

If you want to donate or learn more about the Fatherhood Initiative program or SJRC, head to their website.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.