Breaking the Cycle: A Young Father’s Story

Published On June 14th 2018

Abused, addicted, abandoned. Daniel’s young life has been full of challenges, though you wouldn’t know it immediately by looking at his cheerful smile.

As a child, he experienced physical abuse at the hands of his father. When he began to fear for his life, he persuaded a school guidance counsellor to place him in a foster home. While in care he fought, got high and sold drugs and guns. In hindsight, he now realizes he was “mirroring the abuse I experienced at home.” He bounced around in 17 different foster and group homes before leaving to live with a drug-dealing “friend” who eventually stabbed him when he contemplated leaving the criminal lifestyle.

It took an overdose at Mill Lake before life began to change for the better. Concerned he was going to die, family from across Canada gathered to see him. As he recovered, his father took him to Alberta to help him get clean, but due to their volatile relationship that didn’t last long. Still just in his teens, Daniel worked in a bar and as a gravedigger in their rural hamlet until the cousins he was staying with decided to move to B.C.

From Overdose to Dad

Back in Abbotsford, Daniel was still in the early stages of recovery. A young woman he had a relationship with told him he was the father of her baby, and he says he always knew he’d straighten his life out once he had a child. Despite eventually learning the baby wasn’t his, he managed to stay clean. He got a job, moved in with friends, began a new relationship and soon found out he was actually going to be a dad.

With the birth of his daughter fast approaching and the knowledge social services would be involved from the start, Daniel started doing everything he could to become her primary caregiver. He connected with Abbotsford Community Services and took advantage of multiple opportunities to improve his ability to parent.

daniel graduates

From attending the Abby Dads program twice a week to the Parent Project, Triple P Parenting and Nobody’s Perfect classes, if there was a course or service he could access, Daniel was there. He also took anger management, food skills classes and saw a drug counsellor.

Daniel’s infant daughter stayed with him for some time, but personal challenges brought her temporarily back into foster care. What some people may have seen as a setback, the ever-resilient Daniel took as just another opportunity for self-improvement. He immediately began attending more parenting programs, started seeing an attachment specialist and continued working on completing secondary school.

Daniel’s New Beginning

Today, Daniel is about to graduate from secondary school through the New Beginnings Young Parent program. He’s been accepted into the welding program at UFV and is close to having his daughter living with him full-time. His approach to life and ability to connect with other young dads even led to him become a school speaker warning about the realities of teen pregnancy and parenting through the Community Education about Adolescent Sexuality (CEAS) program.

As the first man in his family to graduate, Daniel is focused. He wants to improve quality of life for himself and his daughter, ensuring they both have brighter futures. While he readily admits he wasn’t a nice person in the past, today he’s proud of who he is and the work he’s done. “I moved from intimidation to communication,” he says.

daniel and his daughter

Father’s Day Hope

With Father’s Day just around the corner, Daniel wants to be an example to other young dads and dads-to-be, especially those who are struggling as he has. He acknowledges that dealing with life’s challenges is difficult, but wants to focus on what’s next.

Daniel encourages other fathers to start by trying drop-in programs like Abby Dads’ Dad Chat. While everyone is allowed to complain about tough situations, participants are then encouraged to figure out what they can personally do to improve the situation. The dads ask hard questions, talk through their troubles and identify how to move forward in life.

When you learn you’re going to be a young father, “it’s not over!” insists Daniel. “The first step (towards happiness and positive parenting) is getting the help you need.” “You’re not alone,’ he insists. “Come to Dad Chat.”