Forestdale is an incredible organization founded in 1854 when a group of local women began to teach low-income NYC children basic trade skills. In the late 19th century, they pivoted to providing residential care for abused and abandoned youths. Today, as the only child welfare agency headquartered in Queens, their mission is to serve as a resource for all families in the borough. While they still work to ensure the well-being of abused and neglected children through foster care and adoption services, every single program at Forestdale is designed to strengthen families in any way possible.
One of their programs, Strong Fathers, is an amazing sessions-based curriculum designed to encourage fathers to emotionally and financially support their families. Through lectures, lessons, group discussions, and individual counseling, the essence of the program is to train men how to play a central role in the healthy development of their children and their families. As they like to say, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes commitment to be a great dad.” Many of the men come from homes where there was no male role model in their lives so the program teaches them about commitment, responsibility, and communication.
In September, I had the great honor and pleasure of attending Forestdale’s Stepping Up Graduation, a ceremony meant to honor the latest group of men who had completed the Strong Father’s program. It was an extremely moving celebration on many levels. Proud children and mothers watched and cheered as the men received their graduation certificates and more than one man had tears in their eyes as they walked off the podium.
I had the opportunity to talk to most of them about their experiences in the program and what they had gotten out of it. Every single one of the men spoke about how being part of the Forestdale program was a life-altering experience. Not only did they form close bonds with the fellow fathers in the program, but they also learned how to tighten the bonds between themselves and their children. They spoke about how they learned to emotionally open up to their children, while at the same time, learning how to play and interact with them. Furthermore, Forestdale’s program not only teaches critical life skills (like learning how to co-parent with the mother of your child), but it also provides amazing job training and works to place any unemployed men in jobs.
Forestdale is an incredible NYC institution that relies heavily on public funding and charitable donations. While speaking to Executive Director William Weisberg, he expressed concerns about how the city has been cutting resources of family welfare programs, potentially putting the Strong Fathers program at risk. Through the generous support of organizations like GOOD+ Foundation, they can continue to go beyond just serving the needs of children and truly addressing the needs of families as a whole. I urge all of you to research more about Forestdale and their programs and see how you can help.
Pierre Kim is a member of the GOOD+ Foundation Fatherhood Leadership Council and a founding board member of the SEO Andrew Golkin Memorial Scholarship Fund. Pierre lives in New York City with his wife and three daughters. He’s a self-avowed book nerd who has an unhealthy relationship with soup dumplings, the NY Mets, and the Sunday crossword.