Sometimes being a highly visible single dad blogging about children, parenting and divorce has some unexpected benefits. For one, I get really interesting email messages from people located all over the planet. Groups that are doing great work and that I’m happy to help gain visibility. That’s the case with the following letter from Amy Gridley from La Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados. Read on, see what you think…
Dave, I have been sifting through many, many, MANY pages of parenting blogs over the past few weeks. You are likely very aware of this, but you have an incredibly unique premise. Not just a father, not just a single father, but a single father interested in (and a huge proponent of) those typically “mommy” issues like attachment parenting, breastfeeding, and the like.
After being involved with (personally and then professionally) children with special needs for over half of my 25 years, from mentoring fellow students in middle school to working with children and families as an occupational therapy assistant in an Early Intervention (EI) program in the US for 4 years, I have been introduced to many of the concepts you espouse. While my (childless) friends and boyfriends are more than a little perturbed at the level of interest I have in parent/child issues, I always felt it was my responsibility to be as educated as possible. When working as a therapist and case coordinator in EI, parents sought my professional advice regarding a million different aspects of caring for their children.
The holistic, attachment-based approach that you speak so highly of is one that I am trying very hard to incorporate into my current work. After several months of back-and-forth travel, I made the big jump down to Guatemala and accepted a position coordinating volunteers at Casa Jackson (a hospital for malnourished children). Due to the overwhelming social stressors the patients’ families face, the children live at the hospital 24/7 until healthy and nourished, and until their parents have received the education needed to prevent the children from becoming so sick again.
As you can imagine, the challenges are numerous. In a country where that warm, fuzzy “nurture and bond and be close with your baby” mentality is almost completely overshadowed by extreme poverty and the back-breaking or menial labor that many of our parents must undertake, it’s difficult to even determine what level of change is reasonable or fair to ask or expect of our families.
Each year, we see a number of children that have abusive pasts. Many of these children are abandoned or removed from their homes and due to the ban on foreign adoptions, will almost certainly grow up in an orphanage. Without any hope for one consistent caregiver to help them form a healthy attachment and begin to heal from their trauma, it’s incredibly frustrating and heart-breaking to try and help these children. On my own blog, I have a number of posts about the work I’m doing at Casa Jackson, and the last two posts refer specifically to the challenges of working with abused children in this inconsistent setting: http://amy-thewanderer.blogspot.com/
Despite my frustrations in the impossibility of providing ALL children with the ideal setting (safe, loving, supportive, consistent caregiver), I am happy to say that we do provide each of our tiny patients with incredibly skilled medical care as well as constant attention, affection, and stimulation. Their parents are taught about every aspect of nutrition, and how to nurture their child more fully. In a country where almost 50% of children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished, this really does make a difference.
As part of our December fundraising drive, our parent organization is asking blogs to donate a post to Casa Jackson. Below is a link to the press information, complete with statistics on malnutrition, details on our program, and pictures of some of the children we’ve treated. Please read the information, and visit my blog. If you feel inclined to help us spread the word about malnutrition in Guatemala and the work we’re doing at Casa Jackson, we would be honored if you would use your platform and readership to say a few words about our program during the month of December.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! Although my recent search for parenting blogs was driven by this fundraising drive, I have really enjoyed reading your blog and being reassured that there ARE wonderful, committed fathers out there who have just as much as an interest in attachment and nurturing as most moms do.
If you have any further questions about Casa Jackson, I would be honored to answer them. The children and families we work with are incredible, and so deserving and in need of the support we provide. I believe very strongly in the work that we do… and if this message hasn’t made it clear, I could go on about it all day. 🙂
Great stuff, and a dedicated group helping out children in a culture that’s light years from our day-to-day experience in liberal, wealthy Boulder, Colorado, and, dare I say, quite different from what you and your children experience too. Maybe it’s a great opportunity to click on the link above and help out with even a small contribution from your heart.