Glass Hearts is designed to come alongside and guide young fathers ages 16-21 in successfully building into the critical areas of their lives--physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and educational. The components of our program draw on positive long-term relationships to build key personal strength and skill-sets in the young dads. All of this resulting in young fathers finding employment and moving towards careers; which is a key component of stepping out of poverty. This is accomplished through building trust and focusing on the dad's gifts, talents, and abilities rather than their deficiencies and/or lack of resources.
Glass Hearts was founded to be a safe haven and resource bridge to serve wounded young adults within the Denver-Metro area. It was quickly discovered that there was a desperate need in serving young fathers due to the lack of resources and programs to serve them. Over the past five years, Glass Hearts has fine tuned from a larger focus on young adults to a specific program serving young fathers. This started within Jefferson County and has expanded to our sole focus is offering services in Aurora, serving within Arapahoe and Adams County. Our signature program, Young Dads Achieving Careers (YDAC) utilizes best practices to support father/child relationships and support young fathers aged 16-21 in providing for and nurturing their children on an ongoing and permanent basis.
Juan, a Latino young dad with a one-year-old daughter, was encouraged to contact Glass Hearts. He took the normal route and didn't contact me. I left him a phone message and again a normal response--no response. It was right after Christmas and I received a text. Juan didn't want to "meet up," rather, just come and check out the program in person.
Juan showed up to the group and it was immediately clear that he struggled with trust issues: no eye contact, he didn't want to talk, and constantly checked his cell phone. As we started to eat dinner, Juan made it crystal clear that it was his lady who wanted him to come. But I knew from experience that since he showed up there was a desire to be there.
Juan is covered with tattoos, some of which had gang ties; most with huge emotional attachments. It was also apparent that he had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and more importantly, he was angry with that deep-seated anger that if not dealt with drives young men towards some very destructive choices.
As the group discussion started, I could tell that Juan didn't want to talk, but we soon found out that he had a lot to say. He began by sharing about a father in prison for life and a mother in and out of jail and rehab. He talked about a brother and grandmother who had raised him. Then, he broke down and shared that December 25th was the one year anniversary for his brother being killed in a gang-related murder. Juan quickly pulled his emotions back (typical to these young men) and said that he never talks to anyone about these feelings--even his lady.
The meeting ended, and I told Juan that we wanted him to join our program, but like all other young dads he would have to fill out an application. He said he would drop it off to me the next day. It was about 30 minutes after the meeting had ended, and to our astonishment, he brought in the completed application!
Juan started to attend the weekly foundation group time and never missed a meeting. We discussed issues such as values (or code for young dads), manhood, jobs, and the big one; "How can I be a good dad when I never had one?" The further we have dug down into Juan's life the freer and more empowered he became.
The many hours of discussion have brought him to a place where he actually enjoys talking. I have talked with his lady and had the privilege of being around his daughter. His lady says the change in Juan is phenomenal. She uses words such as: less anger, desires to be closer, being more responsible, plays more with kids (his daughter and her son) and other important changes.
Juan has worked a construction job for six years, but is not treated well and dreams of being an electrical engineer. We are working with Juan to move towards this dream trying to find a way for him to either take less hours or have us help him find a part-time job so he can get the secondary education he needs.
I recently had the privilege of planning and taking part in a funeral for his 23-year-old cousin. It was amazing to speak with his mom, grandmother, and other family members who shared of a 180 degree change within Juan.
It's been our privilege and honor to serve Juan and his family. Like 99% of young dads we serve, Juan just needed someone to believe in him! Someone to look beyond the tats, piercings, rough background, and see the great steps he has taken, and see the beautiful heart underneath that truly desires to provide stability, safety, and become a great dad.