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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

‘She Tells Me How Good of a Dad I Am – It Motivates Me to Keep Going’

18-year-old Healthy Families client Chris shares the challenges and the joys of fatherhood and the importance of having a support system to lean on.

Chris was 16 and halfway through his sophomore year of high school when he found out that he was going to become a father.

Two months after their son was born, Chris and his girlfriend joined Catholic Charities Healthy Families North Shore program, a free, home-based family support program that helps young, first-time parents create stable, nurturing environments for their children.

From providing child-proof household items to offering parents therapy referrals and career preparation resources, the Healthy Families Program teaches young parents about proper baby care, promotes nurturing and effective parenting skills, and ensures parents have a solid understanding of healthy child development.

“The program helps with whatever you need,” said Chris. “If you’re struggling with groceries, they connect you to Catholic Charities’ food pantries or give you grocery gift cards. They help supply diapers and toys and give referrals to different services in the area, which has been helpful.”

The program also works with parents to help them achieve their personal goals related to schooling, work, and housing. Subrena Service, a home visitor for Catholic Charities Boston’s Healthy Families North Shore Program in Lynn, has been working with Chris to help him recognize his growth and strengths as father.

Subrena said the couple is committed to becoming the best parents possible for their son, navigating the complexities of parenthood gracefully as a team, while also bearing the responsibilities of high school. Chris and his girlfriend graduated from their high school this June.

Subrena has also helped Chris recognize his potential, empowering him to be confident in himself as an individual and as a father.

“I have shared with Chris on many occasions that I have noticed so much growth in him over the time we’ve been working together. The pride he takes in being a dad to his smart and joyful son is commendable,” said Subrena.

Although they have their hands full with their son, who Chris described as full of energy and curiosity, Chris hopes to attend a trade school in the near future, while his girlfriend plans to go to college–two aspirations that Subrena is determined to help the couple achieve.

Now, Chris said the greatest disruption of his life has also become his greatest source of pride and joy.

“I changed and matured a lot, and at first, I didn’t even really notice it myself, but Subrena recognized it and helped show me my progress. She always tells me how good of a dad I am, which motivates me to keep moving forward.”

Despite unforeseen and unfamiliar challenges over the past two years, Chris said that the unbreakable bond he shares with his son makes every moment worth it.

“The best feeling is at the end of the night when I’m reading him a book and he’s snuggled up against me,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s just a deep emotional connection, like nothing I’ve ever felt before.”

Healthy Families is a voluntary and free home-based family coaching program that supports young, first-time parents and helps them create stable, nurturing environments for their children, in Boston, the North Shore, and Haverhill. The program matches parents with trained professionals who visit families’ homes to provide support during pregnancy and the child’s first three years of life. Home visitors teach parents about proper baby care, promote nurturing and effective parenting skills, and ensure parents have a solid understanding of healthy child development. They also counsel parents on achieving personal goals related to schooling, work, and housing.

Healthy Families Mass is a statewide home visiting program supported by funding from the Children’s Trust. Healthy Families North Shore also receives funding from the Department of Public Health as a Mass Home Visiting site.

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