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Caring Dads program helps fathers break cycle of domestic abuse

Options Community Services runs the program
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Daniel Gabrick said he has learned valuable emotion regulation and communication skills in the program. (Submitted photo)

The Caring Dads program has had a lasting impact on Surrey resident, Daniel Gabrick and his family.

It is an intervention program by Surrey-based charity Options Community Services that helps families that have experienced domestic violence.

The program is specifically for medium- to high-risk fathers who have “physically or emotionally abused or neglected their children and/or exposed them to abusive choices of behaviour towards their mother,” reads a post on options.bc.ca.

Harpal Johl, the program manager for the domestic violence intervention program, said the participants are referred by a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

“Through this program, we provide counselling services to the perpetrator of intimate relationship violence,” Johl said.

Sometimes the man may not know how his behaviour is impacting his partner and children, but when they receive feedback from other men in the group who are in the same boat, they are more likely to pay attention, Johl said.

The men are also taught communication and emotional regulation skills in the program. Through the group, the fathers are taught to recognize their potentially abusive behaviour.

The program delivers specialized therapeutic services over four months and consists of 17 weekly sessions that are led by a trained counsellor. This includes one-on-one and group counselling.

The dads meet as a group once a week for two hours, the first of which is spent checking in and sharing with each other. Johl said the group is a safe space for the other men to call out and challenge one another in a respectful way.

Daniel Gabrick said the program has real sense of community.

“We all have kind of like a camaraderie between us because we all have different stories, but we can all understand the emotions and feelings of what we’re overall going through,” Gabrick said.

“It’s very unique to get a bunch of guys, and especially dads, into a room and have them open up, and we all open up and we all share our struggles, our successes and everything that’s been going on in our lives, which is I think is like a beautiful thing,” he said.

The program has helped him be more calm with his family and to respond instead of immediately react in situations.

“We learn how to be mindful with our actions and words, and how we react to situations,” Gabrick said.

“We learn how to listen better and just understand our partners better and be, like, being more mindful, bringing it to our attention on how certain actions, words, behaviours can be detrimental towards kids and our partners as well,” he said

But you only get out of the program what you put into it, Gabrick said.

“If you’re willing to be participate in it and share and be honest and truthful, you will get a lot more than if somebody that’s just going through the bare minimum, you’re gonna get the bare minimum out of it,” Gabrick said.

The project is funded by the Ministry of Children and Family Development and started six years ago.

More than 140 men were referred to the program last year, 99 of whom completed the program.

Options also partners with South Asian Legal Clinic of British Columbia. Clients often have questions about the law and their charges.

A lawyer from the the legal clinic attends one of the group sessions and the men have a chance to ask questions such as: Why am I charged? Why did the police act like this? Why am I out of the house? and Why do I have to pay child support?

Options also has a program available for mothers who have experienced intimate partner violence, called moms’ empowerment groups.

For information about both groups, visit options.bc.ca.



Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I cover health care, non-profits and social issues-related topics for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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