I am a father, and on Father’s Day, I contemplate and honor all of the courageous and loving fathers I have had the privilege to know and support. Whether in my personal life or professional one, most of the fathers I know are bound by a commitment to do the best they can for their children. At Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services, we serve some heroic dads, like Samuel.
Samuel was thrust back into parenting after losing his child. You see, Samuel’s adult daughter and her husband were killed in a car accident. The couple left behind two devastated children. With no other options, Samuel immediately became a father to his orphaned grandsons. He was forced to deal with the trauma of losing a child and raising two young boys simultaneously.
This difficult transition proved to be more than Samuel believed he could handle. He knew he needed help and contacted PCHAS. A PCHAS Child and Family Specialist worked with Samuel to guide him along as he faced this new challenge. Samuel focused on learning new parenting skills and developed the tools he needed to help his grandsons heal from their trauma. Today, Samuel and his children are thriving!
This story highlights the challenge of equipping parents (and grandparents) with attitudes and skills that help them cope with and resolve trauma in their own lives and in those of their children. Fairly recent breakthroughs in our understanding of trauma’s impact -- on a child’s brain, body and subsequent behaviors -- have accelerated our ability to assist children to heal and to change the trajectory of their lives. That is the work of PCHAS.
When I began working at PCHAS 15 years ago, my twin sons were five years old. My PCHAS journey has interwoven with my own growth as a father. For decades I have taught others to be better parents, but raising my twin boys has driven the lessons much deeper. Now I better understand the depth of love that a parent feels and the pain and anger that can spring up in any given moment.
If you ask me, “What is the most important work you do at PCHAS?” I would answer, unequivocally, that it is teaching and empowering parents. They must be empowered to give the love and support required by their children so they can overcome the ravages of trauma. This love and support positions children to receive nurture and understand healthy relationships for the rest of their lives.
As I reflect on Father’s Day, I hold a confidence in the critical role I play in the lives of my sons. And I pray for every father, that they will lean into that same responsibility and great privilege. Our families will be better for it.
Randy Spencer, MSW, has been a social service executive for 36 years and is PCHAS' vice president of Organizational Impact. Read about all of our programs that strengthen families or call 800-888-1904 for more information.