Patrick Ortiz is the Program Director for The Children’s Shelter, TACFS member, and community-based provider in San Antonio. For the last 10 years, he has led the Compadre y Compadre™ (CYC) program, where he has helped develop a safe learning environment for fathers and father-figures to build their knowledge and skills, eventually assisting to develop good, strong, and rewarding relationships with their children and family.
“Compadre builds upon the strength of the father and peels back the layers of their experiences as children. The work of our program often addresses the inter-generational trauma experienced by parents who are often perpetrating the trauma and don’t realize that they are causing undue harm to their children,” Ortiz said.
Currently, CYC educators work with fathers or male caregivers of children who have open Child Protective Services cases. Participants are referred to CYC through Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS), family courts, and domestic violence courts. Most recently, an area school district referred a group of teen fathers to take a CYC ‘Daddy Bootcamp.’ “We are working with all fathers in our community, young and seasoned, to bring awareness and nurturing parenting skills to anyone who wants to be a better father,” said Ortiz.
How it Started
Compadre y Compadre™, was created with seed money from the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, in partnership with The Children’s Shelter, to address the gap in parenting services that work with fathers or male caregivers of children. For more than a decade, CYC has provided services for fathers who 99% of the time have an open Child Protective Services case.
“The term ‘Compadre’ means friend or godfather in Spanish,” Patrick says. “In Latin culture, it’s the person invited to be the godfather to your child. This commitment to not only help raise the child, but also to be the next-in-line if something happens to the parents, is not taken lightly.” The name reflects the intention of the Compadre y Compadre™ program where male educators take on the cases of fathers in a new way. “We do not want these men to feel they are being judged or ridiculed, but accepted and respected.”
More than 6,000 fathers have completed the 15-week course which helps to restore their parental rights and overcome the societal barriers that may have caused their situation.
CYC is a secondary prevention program, with evidence-based curriculum, “Nurturing Fathers” by Mark Perlman. Parent Educators provide instruction in English and Spanish in 15-week increments, two hours a week. This helps build trust with the father and Parent Educator and cultivates an environment of learning and empowerment. The program empowers men to help create a “nurturing” fathering style.
“The holistic program Compadre y Compadre™ provides culminates with a graduation ceremony and progresses to the Compadre Mentor Program, which is an additional 10 weeks focusing on how to advocate for children and offers volunteer opportunities to serve as leaders in the community. For some fathers, this is the first time they experience a graduation; for others, this may be the beginning of the reunification process with their children,“ says Ortiz. “We’re trying to teach every father how to understand and tap into the nurturing that is within them.”
In the last session of each CYC program, the group talks about “Healing the Father Wound.” Patrick explained that so much of what he has seen is generational trauma. Program leaders recommend that each participant continue the work of sorting through personal and family pain (even with their own fathers) as they continue building relationships with their children. “Working with fathers, our Compadres, is at the core of what we do. We believe in looking through their experience with a Trauma-Informed Care lens and addressing their immediate and long-term needs, not only for themselves as individuals, but as fathers to their children.”
Patrick shared an example of a recently graduated father whose story resonates as to why Compadre y Compadre works:
Julio’s young daughter had her life tragically taken by gun violence. His life turned upside-down, he sought revenge, and was incarcerated. Upon his release, Julio entered the Compadre y Compadre program.
“He said that his children are the ones that kept him alive while he was incarcerated, and now his children are the ones that are motivating him to just keep on doing the right thing.”
Julio’s life has completely changed, and he is even mentoring the next class of participants.
“He’s excited for his next chapter in life. And we’re excited for him.”
April is child abuse prevention month! Programs like Compadre y Compadre help prevent child abuse and neglect and system recidivism. TACFS members are doing family-strengthening all over the state. Learn more about child abuse prevention month.