Podcast: Frontline Fathers
Tova and guest Scott Impola, head of Urban Promise in Little Havana, discuss the important role of fathers in the lives of children, how to heal father wounds and to find healthy father figures.
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Tova Kreps: 00:00 Welcome to Wellspring on the Air. I'm Tova, Co-founder and President of Wellspring Counseling and today's program is titled Frontline Fathers and in honor of Father's Day and actually every day when we need our fathers. We want to talk today about meeting father's on the frontline and with me today in the studio, I have Scott Impola from Urban Promise. Hi Scott. Today we want to talk about the important role of fathers. I invited you to talk to me about this because I know you a little bit and because we work with you, right, we're partners and I know you're passionate about addressing the issue of fatherlessness. So tell us about you and about your program and the work you do.
Scott Impola: 01:04 Sure. Yeah. So I'm the executive director of Urban Promise Miami and four years ago I started as the first male staff and I really continue this journey that I've been on myself of exploring my own father wound. And uh, now we have a community center in East Little Havana where we serve 80 youth. And uh, many, many of these youth do not have fathers, about 70%. And so it's really been quite a journey for us over the last three to four years.
Tova Kreps: 01:27 So you work in an area with 70% without fathers. That's a pretty high rate. The national rate, I had a statistic on this is about 34% of children in America live without their biological father. That's a whole lot of kids without fathers. Wow. One in three. It's amazing. But in your area and you in Urban Promise, you have even higher.
Scott Impola: 01:49 Yeah, we really serve, we serve primarily the lower income families and families that are really in need. And so I would say really have the the most marginalized population. You know, most of the statistics that we see nationally, most of ours are double when it comes to the high school dropout and poverty.
Tova Kreps: 02:09 Well and I just want to compliment your work. Wellspring is working with you just for our audience to know we're even applying for a grant to do more of this, but partnering to provide some Counseling Services and support for you guys there cause you're doing such great work, but in that work you've come to really appreciate the need for men and them stepping up to the front lines, right? Yes, absolutely. So Scott, I'm so glad you're joining us and are passionate about this today and that we're having on the show. I also have with us today on this show. Melody Caton. Hi Melody. Hello. And Melody is one of the therapists at Wellspring. And so she's just going to kind of chime in here a little bit as we talk about the role of fathers. And so I'm just happy to have both of you in here to talk about this important subject today.
Tova Kreps: 02:48 So let's talk about the role of fathers in our lives and how important they are. And we can look at our heavenly father to know what that role should be. I think first of all, one of the primary roles of a father is to protect his children. And our heavenly father absolutely protects us. We have many, many scriptures that talk about that. A second role that fathers have is to provide, and our, again, our heavenly father provides for all of us the sparrows in each one of us. I think the third attribute that fathers need to have and why they're so important is that they are role models. Our heavenly father is a role model and Jesus was a role model of sacrificial love in the New Testament. When they talk to fathers and husbands, they talk about loving their wives sacrificially. And so that role model of a father loving his children, sacrificing for them, providing for them, attending to them, attuning to them is that sacrificial man, a man who loves his children.
Tova Kreps: 03:46 And the fourth that I have is to lead. Men are particularly gifted at leadership. God has made them that way. They're really good at making decisions. That kind of sifting through the what needs to be done and taking action, the more action oriented. And so we need men to lead. We need men to solve problems because they're good problem solvers and they want to solve them. We even when we don't want them solved, but that's their gift to us and to their children and to the families is to lead. So protect, provide, be a sacrificial, loving role model and leading. So I've been talking for a little bit. So what do you guys think? Is that the role of men, fathers? What do you think?
Scott Impola: 04:22 Yeah, absolutely. I think one thing that I've learned over the years working with children is that parents are intended to be almost like a mini version of the world. That's where you learn trust and you learn security and you learn confidence and self respect. And so when you're missing one part of that, it really leaves you with a big gap. I'm sure you're all familiar with the father wound term that leaves you hunting to fill that gap.
Tova Kreps: 04:45 That's true. Melody, what do you think the roles of fathers are? Well I totally agree with what you just said and I think that our boys are yearning for that and they want that and so I think no matter who you are, if you can step up and fill that gap. Boy, what a huge difference it makes in a young man's life and young girl's life too. I was going to add that in. It's not just boys who need fathers is girls who need fathers. Yeah. The statistics are quite shocking about this that girls without fathers are much more likely to get pregnant early to move out of the house earlier and to also get in abusive relationships earlier because they don't have that father figure or they haven't learned how to find a good man cause I don't have one as a model for them.
Scott Impola: 05:31 Yeah. There's one where as a staff at urban promise, we're reading through a book called the boy crisis. And, and I mentioned this to you before, the show, he talks about that masculine energy is something that needs to be channeled. And if it's channeled by a father, it can be one of the most constructive forces in the world. You can can build cities and nations and, and everything. But if it's not channeled, it can be very aimless and it can be one of the most destructive forces in the world, you know, gangs and criminal activity. And so we see that.
Tova Kreps: 05:58 Okay. So define masculine energy for just a moment. What does that mean?
Scott Impola: 06:00 I think what some of the things you just mentioned of having leadership and healthy masculine traits, you know, there's obviously been misconstruing culturally of masculinity but I think there's some healthy leadership, some ability to build and to vision and to strategize that are healthy, masculine energy and traits.
Tova Kreps: 06:20 So to super simplify, yeah, men have energy, right? They got a lot of energy, right? They got testosterone running in and they've got energy to be spent. And they can either channel it into positive things, leadership and building and productive things or football playing. They could channel it into football, right. Um, all sorts of things I can channel that energy into or they can channel it into destructive energy. Right. And that's what you're saying. Yeah. And we need fathers to teach us how to do that. Is that right? Yeah. Melody, what do you think? . I'm just listening to all that you're saying. And again, I agree. I think there's a need for attachment for male figures to their children and for men to learn what that looks like. I think sometimes we've kind of brushed that aside when we get caught up in all of the typical macho male role models that we have grown up to say, this is what you have to be.
Tova Kreps: 07:14 And I think there's a lot to be learned. I think that masculine energy can be misconstrued where we say strong is brute or strong is dominant or overpowering and a negative power versus the positive power that it's designed to be by God. It's a very positive force, but it can be miss labeled as oh strong means, you know, I don't cry and I mean that's not strength. That's just brutality. Yeah. Let's talk about the need though. I, we have some interesting statistics here that are a little discouraging, but I think speak to the fact that this is such an important topic. So youths who kill themselves are five times more likely to come from a fatherless home five times more likely. That's an amazing statistic.
Scott Impola: 07:59 Yeah. Another one that came up is that 90% of homeless and runaway children are also from fatherless homes, which is 32 times the average. I mean it's just off the charts
Tova Kreps: 08:08 90% yeah. So if that fathers in the home, that child may not run away. Yeah. That that may be the glue that keeps a child in a home. That's an amazing stat. Also had that high school dropouts are more likely to come from a father was home nine times more likely to come from a father was home dropping out of school.
Scott Impola: 08:27 One thing that struck me is recently in this year we've been really kind of digging into strategy and Statistics and, and trying to become more strategic, which is partly the partnership with you guys because you do best in class mental health care. And so we're excited to have you on onsite with us. But we, I started reading through a recent national survey on poverty that was released and it was a 600 page binder that I printed out and I was reading through and I got maybe about a third of the way through and I was just amazed that there was no reference to any of these type of stats. And we're talking about 600 pages, a two year study on poverty. And most of the recommendations were increasing food stamps, increasing welfare, and, and some of those may certainly be needed, but if there's no addressing of the deeper issues, I don't know how much success you're going to have. It was amazing. I couldn't believe I was, I was reading through this that there was no addressing of these deeper issues.
Tova Kreps: 09:18 Yeah. And these are the issues of really intact homes, bonding and attachment that we've talked about on another show and just the importance of this behavior disorders in children 20 times more likely to be from a father was home and let's put some positive stats in here to children with fathers who are involved are more likely to get A's in school, are more likely to enjoy school, to engage in extracurricular activities. It's awesome. What positive can be done by having that father in? Yeah, absolutely. All right. We've moved into the statistics. We don't want to discourage people. We want to encourage our listeners of the importance of this and what to do about it and said we're going to take a little break and we'll be right back. Today we are talking about frontline fathers and with me on the show today I have Scott and up from urban promise and I have Melody Caton who's a therapist with wellspring and we'll be right back.
Tova Kreps: 10:26 Welcome back. This is Tova at wellspring on the air and if you are just joining us, stick with us. Today we're going to talk about the importance of fatherhood frontline fathers that we need those men on those front lines, all the men in all the different ways they can do that, but particularly as fathers with me on the show today I have Scott and polo with urban promise and melody Caitlyn who is a therapist with wellspring and we were talking about this. If you miss the beginning of the show, you can find us on your favorite podcast, wellspring on the air. Just find your favorite podcasts, wells, brown, the Aaron. You can go back and hear the beginning of the show. So far, we've been talking about some pretty profound statistics that tell us that fathers in the home are really important and that it affects the rates of incarceration and suicide and school performance and behavior performance and kids are not doomed if they don't have fathers. We're not trying to say that, but the statistics tell us how important it is, and so we want to acknowledge the importance of that and move forward. So now we're going to talk a little bit more. Scott, you shared with me that you have a journey on this yourself or with your own father as your providers. I'd love for you to just share that a little bit.
Scott Impola: 11:29 Yeah, definitely. It's been amazing. I never imagined that it would take this long and it would still be a continuing. Today there's a Terman mental health that I've heard that it's like an onions. You just keep peeling back layers after layers. And so now one of my eye, I really love to latch onto quotes and analogies, and one of my favorite quotes is that your pain has a purpose. For a long time, I couldn't really see why I went through what I did. But now I'm able to see that I am able to be a father figure and about 70 youths. Life's a lot of them that don't have fathers. And you see, like we talked about earlier, just the hunger, you know, like I'll have kids that are acting up and, and they have to come to my office and talk to me and they'll just burst into tears and they don't know why they're crying, but they're just, you know, filled with angst and just this energy of, of wanting to be noticed and, and to be seen.
Scott Impola: 12:14 And so I was struck by a story my first day of therapy about 10 days ago or 10 years ago, not 10 days ago. I wish that, uh, funny, ironically enough it happens to be out about our president who at that time we had no idea who he would be the president. But it talked about how, I don't know 20 years ago or so, he was opening one of his buildings and he raised his hands to the sky and he said, dad, are you proud of me yet? And I would imagine he was probably in his, maybe in his sixties at that point. And it just struck me how long a father wound can continue throughout all of your life. And if you don't dig into that and try, he'll that it can really have a lot of adverse effects. And so I've been kind of on a two part journey and now they've kind of come together in my own story of hunting for identity in a lot of different areas, you know, in career and cars and people and, and lots of things.
Scott Impola: 13:09 And finally realizing that none of that really brings satisfaction. Uh, another quote that I heard that oftentimes if you struggle with your earthly father, you're going to really struggle to trust your heavenly father. And that's been absolutely my experience. I had a lot of kind of strongholds of wanting to hang on to the tight control on my money and never be independent. And so about four years ago, the path of urban promise and giving back and my own story kind of blended together. I had been working for about seven or eight years and jumping through a lot of jobs, getting salary raises, rising up the ranks, but really not, not satisfied. It wasn't, it wasn't bringing satisfaction. And so in 2015 I lost my job. I got laid off and I really didn't necessarily want to go back into the corporate world. I was, I was thinking about something different.
Scott Impola: 13:59 I actually started a masters in counseling, went through one semester and decided I wasn't going to go to the licensing route, but I was wanting to be exposed to the process and took career finder tests a lot about being a teacher about, really was open to a lot of things. At one point as my savings were getting a little low, I applied to 40 jobs in one day, just kind of out of a panic desperation. And I didn't hear back from a single one. And I said, okay, God, I think you're, you're trying to tell me something here. And so about a month later, I, uh, I was invited to go to our urban promise gala in October, 2015 and I found out they were looking for someone to come in and take it from kind of a startup from more of the co founders had brought it and bring someone in with a business background, uh, that could take it to the next chapter. And so it took a leap of faith and, and here I am four years later, it's been quite the journey to just see it grow up and to see what we've been to do and the stories that we've had developed.
Tova Kreps: 14:53 And I just have to say, I've been over there. You've moved in a new, a different building. You've built out that building, you've brought your business skills into it and your passion and love for God and for kids all rolled into one and you're just doing a great job in that, in that program. Yeah. Thank you. It's been quite the year. Yeah, it was awesome to see. So kind of back to fatherhood's, you know, you've, you've had a journey with your own father, you healed your father, wounds, got therapy. We have to put plugs in for that. We are wellspring counseling after all. And now you're doing this ministry. It's awesome. So let's talk about where is the boy go that doesn't have a father? What, what are the solutions for this?
Scott Impola: 15:30 So great question. One thing that we've been, uh, going through, uh, also as a staff is a documentary called the mask you live in and it talks about masculinity in America. And a lot of those sources were boys will go to video games to media, to music, to people in the street. A lot of really negative influences that can sway a boy and put them on a multiyear path of, of some pretty negative influences.
Tova Kreps: 15:55 And you know, it's also about girls. So I think the importance of boys and fathers is that that's where they need that role model it takes, I have a good friend who says it takes a man to teach a man to be a man. And I love that saying it's really true. But it also takes Amanda teach a girl how to be a woman and how to be loved by a man. And so I think they're both true. So I want to talk a little bit about solutions. So what are the solutions? So someone who doesn't have a good father, are they doomed to all these terrible statistics or what, what do we want to do?
Scott Impola: 16:25 No, not at all. I think honestly, uh, we have limited resources at urban promise, for example. And so we've had to get creative about how we have the most impact with the limited resources we have. And so one of our goals this year has been increasing the physical presence of healthy male role models. Just starting as simple as that. I think just presence can be really powerful. Probably 90% of the, I'm going to call it conversations, but times that I have boys that are acting up in my office, we're not talking, we're just, they're crying or they're upset or, or sometimes I, I wrote a newsletter recently about this. I do probably three or four fake trips in the mailbox per day because it's the perfect little stroll for a boy that's agitated and, and worked up and it's works a little better than sitting in a kind of a claustrophobic office. And so we'll take a little stroll and it's that five minutes a day that that can be really critical. And I think
Tova Kreps: 17:18 seen the impact of it, I think is important. I know melody, you've said this though, you've talked about the importance of having just one, one role model. It has been spoken about and so many different platforms. If a child has one person behind them, their ability to move, grow and be successful comes into play. So I just think that presence is huge and it can be an uncle, it can be a youth leader, it can be right. All sorts people. It could be Scott, if you're at urban promise, it could be friends and family, but the people who do not have those followers are actually going to have to actively look for them. Maybe ask someone, you know, hey, can I spend some time with you? Or it could be a coach or something. And, and I think it's okay to ask, you know, it's a pretty big risk to say, hey, could I spend a little more time with you for a kid to ask a girl or a boy?
Tova Kreps: 18:11 But it's a wonderful thing. I have to say. I was blessed with a good father who did protect and provide and was there on a, was a godly role model in a sacrificial man. Um, and I have a husband who's similar and I'm sure that's because I knew to look for someone like my dad, but I know my, my husband has brought in a number of people into our lives that he fills that role for. He walked one of our extra daughters down the aisle last year when she got married and, and had the privilege of being in that role with her. And so people can step up to that and be present in a lot of ways. And so if you're out there listening to this show and you have a father wound, you, you have kind of two main tasks to do. One is to maybe get some therapy and do the work on grieving what you didn't have that you wished you did or maybe what you had that was not kind.
Tova Kreps: 18:58 And um, and then the other part is to go find those people and look for them and read about them in books and, and find him in real life and go to church and get a pastoral figure. An elder in the church that could step up to that. And I think one thing, an important dimension there is it's not a mountain top experience. In my own experience. I've experienced a lot of times where I've thought I, I don't know if I'm qualified to be a leader, you know, I'm still waiting through so much of this myself. Like how can I lead other people? But it's, it's, that's not what it's about. That physical presence can be important. Even if you're not perfect, even if you haven't completed the journey, it's, it's an ongoing thing. It's not going to be you've arrived and you're ready to be a leader.
Tova Kreps: 19:38 Like I think that you can be more authentic and real if you share that you're actively in the process. Actually, a role model who's arrived doesn't teach us how to do that journey, so we need to have role models who, who do the journey for us. I agree 100% in year, three minute walks to the mailbox. I think that's a key thing right there. I read that our children experience and loving homes in the morning and the afternoon in the evening, three quality moments spent on just them and it sets their tone for the day. So imagine in just a few minutes what we can give to kids who need it. It's not as hard as we think to just be present in people's lives. You know, as we think about God as our father and the perfect role model, it's interesting how he does those, those things. God isn't protector. He is a provider. He is attuned to us.
Tova Kreps: 20:31 He listens to us, he loves US sacrificially. He does all those things. But you know, people with father wounds often don't know that about God because we actually create God into the image of our fathers. We often do. So if our fathers were mean, we think God is me. If our fathers were absent, we think God is absent. If our father isn't attuned to us, we think, Oh God doesn't notice me. And he's not attuned to me. It's a profound thing that fathers are meant to model God, but when they don't, the river's still happens. We still think God is like them. Do you agree?
Scott Impola: 21:05 Yeah, absolutely. And I'll talk a little bit about the, I call it the sparrow story. So this was a in 2015 when I was starting this journey of, of changing careers and, and digging more into my story, I had this experience that has always stuck with me. Uh, my, my friends are definitely tired of the story, but I'm a little goofy about it. But there's a verse in the Bible that I'm going to paraphrase that, that God talks about providing for the birds of the field and that they don't store anything up. They don't put anything in barns. But yeah, every day God gives them food. And a father is supposed to give you the security and the comfort as a child so that you don't, you're not left in this starvation mentality of hunting and always worrying about what you might, what, what you might need.
Scott Impola: 21:48 And, and so in, in 2015, when I made this career change, it was really a leap of faith for me. I'd put a lot of security and my, my salary and making sure I was financially stable and that I could take care of myself. And so I, I really made a leap of faith there. Ended around December of that year, I was, I was traveling home and I had a, about a three hour layover in the Chicago airport. And so I was watching on Netflix, a son of God movie. And, um, for about maybe about a minute after Jesus in the movie, talked about the birds of the field and the sparrows. I was way deep inside the airport and I looked over and there was a sparrow on the ledge inside the airport and it was making noise and it was chirping and I have a picture of us, I'm not hallucinating, but just the fact that it was within a minute of seeing the story, it was just like Whoa, you know, like a literal physical representation of just that. Well that was one of my biggest fears is like, will I be okay? Will it be on the street? You know, I never really would be. But the, just a physical representation that God will provide for me everyday. And I've just seen that play out over the last three, four years. I mean, just incredible ways that we've been able to privately fund raise and keep our doors open and stay as a free program. I mean just again and again and again the, the provision of God.
Tova Kreps: 23:09 Well you are a good role model in that and then thrilled to hear that journey. And God does give us just what we need. Not really a lot extra. I kind of experienced the manner thank [inaudible] we're toys just barely enough for today, but it is always enough and any does provide for us. Yeah, I agree and I think that's an awesome story. I think that time and time again that when we, when we start to not think that God is there, he just shows up in a little bird or in a big mighty way. And so that's really a true story. You know, I think the encouragement to about God our father is that in some 65 it says that God is the father of orphans and the protector of widows. That's who he is. And so I think it's important to remember that even for those of us who have father wounds, that we have a heavenly father who, who will step in and fill that gap. He feels it for those of us who have great followers and those of us who don't, he's the perfect father, the heavenly father. And we can look to him on how to be a father and how to find fathers. And we can read the scripture and understand and, and change what we believe God is like by what his word tells us he's actually like and then experience those father things.
Scott Impola: 24:22 Yeah. So the last thing I would share would just be the, the last verse that I had prepared for this time was that I have this up on my wall in front of my desk, in my office, cause I needed often when it's, when it's not the mountain top experience and it's the ups and downs. So it's be confident in this that he who began a good work in you would carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. And last year my church went through a sermon series where they talked about the story of Joseph, where he went essentially from the pit to the prison to the palace in each step of the way he was putting in his best and having character and he kept rising up through the ranks. And so we've definitely experienced that. We, we, you know, we went through some challenging years at urban promise, but now that really kind of, that I've released that control in a lot of ways, you know, we now have a site that's triple the space and our budget is funded and you know, just making incredible partnerships and being able to serve and have an incredible staff.
Scott Impola: 25:16 And so I just have to have that as a constant reminder for me. Yeah.
Tova Kreps: 25:20 God has provided for you as a father and now you're following those around you and yeah. So we want to encourage your listeners to heal your father wound through God himself and his word come to therapy. You're welcome there. Find Mentors, be mentors, step into each other's lives and be present and fill those father roles. And if you're a father out there, step up, step up and do the job with your kids because they need you more than you ever realized probably. So it's time to wrap up. Thank you melody for joining me. Thank you Scott for joining me. I'm, and I'm tova closing out with wellspring on the air because hearts and minds matter.