‘Be vulnerable’: Program continues to break the cycle of violence starting with fatherhood

SAN ANTONIO – It’s a program actively preventing violence in our community by showing love and attention to fathers.

The San Antonio Fatherhood Campaign has helped thousands of dads deal with their own trauma, learn about healthy relationships, and become incredible parents.

“I grew up in the inner city San Antonio, 78207 area. I was a child in a family violence home. Very, very intense home. Now couple that with an intense violent community, and then couple that with a lack of resources. I shouldn’t be here right now,” said survivor Frank Castro.

Castro was able to heal and decided to spend his career pouring love back into communities like his by focusing on one thing: fatherhood.

“We know, and studies have shown that father involvement is very critical in so many different areas, from academic achievement to success in life,” Castro said.

He agreed with experts who say people who grew up in violent areas or violent families are more likely to have violence later in their lives.

It’s called the cycle of violence, and for 24 years Castro has been trying to interrupt it.

“Being victims can contribute to certain parts of who we are as victimizing somebody else unless we talk about it in a healthy and hopeful way. But we have to be willing to be vulnerable,” Castro said.

In 2000, he helped create a space for that vulnerability called the San Antonio Fatherhood Campaign.

“We can have discussions about, ‘How do I parent my child’, to issues of domestic violence, to child wellness or relationships,” Castro said.

Men often have to unlearn things they saw growing up that they once thought were normal.

“They don’t have to assert themselves physically to be able to express themselves emotionally,” Castro said. “Acknowledge that some of the things that we did learn are cultural beliefs, false beliefs at times, that men should behave in a certain way to distinguish themselves as masculine as men.”

Some of that learning takes place in classroom or counseling settings, but many times, it’s just a conversation over coffee with staff members like Castro.

“We have mentors, we have parent educators, we have domestic violence social workers, we have a clinician on board,” he said.

The reach of the organization has been astounding, representing the size of the local problem.

“I myself have seen over 10,000 men that I have provided workshops, classes, mentoring. But the campaign over the last 24 years has seen 10,000′s of men,” Castro said.

Most of that starts with a phone call to the organization’s hotline.

“We get as many as 400 calls a month. It’s a hotline where you can just ask questions. You don’t even have to come in. You can do it anonymously and say, ‘This is what’s going on. What do you guys suggest? What do you guys recommend?’” Castro said.

There are also a few offices in town where any type of father figure can go in person for counseling, classes, or to pick up resources like diapers.

“And now it’s not just men reaching out to us. It’s their wives, their partners. Couples come in and together saying, ‘How can I learn as much from him as he’s learning from me?’” Castro said.

They offer classes for parents as soon as they find out they’re pregnant and support them throughout the process.

Every year on Father’s Day weekend, the entire network of families, staff, and community partners gather for the Father’s Day Fiesta.

It’s a big celebration surrounded by resources like housing from Opportunity Homes, health with Methodist Healthcare Ministries, and domestic violence help with the P.E.A.C.E. Initiative.

The most important piece of the day shows the true fellowship and camaraderie these men have built.

“Men actually honor other men by letting them know. ‘I’ve seen you as a member of our community, as a role model and I want to give you this award.’ So the first year we gave away about five awards. Now we’re giving as many as 30 awards,” Castro said.

Dads of all kinds get to accept that praise in front of their kids — the next generation who will truly know fatherly love.

The Father’s Day Fiesta is this Saturday, June 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It’s at Opportunity Home Park: 818 S Flores St., San Antonio, TX 78204. There will be food, music, crafts, games, awards, and tons of family resources.

The San Antonio Fatherhood Campaign hotline number is (210) 227-3463.

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