Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Fathers and Families Moving Forward in the Land of Enchantment

The efforts to help dads be better dads got a big boost on August 10 at the second New Mexico Fatherhood Forum. Hosted by the New Mexico Alliance for Fathers and Families at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, this gathering highlighted the efforts of President Obama’s responsible fatherhood initiative and many others.

The New Mexico Alliance brings together almost 20 organizations and agencies from around the state, in coordination with the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.  Led by Allan Shedlin, Crispin Clarke, Erwin Rivera, Esther Devall and others, the New Mexico Alliance continues to shine the spotlight on how government policies, community efforts and culture can all contribute to strengthening families through helping fathers.

This is the second time interested parties from federal, state and local governments, civil society and others have gathered to highlight initiatives to help fathers.  Two years ago, we gathered in rural Valencia for the inaugural meeting.  Since then, the Alliance issued a comprehensive report of their recommendations and the New Mexico State Legislature passed a memorial designating August 10, 2012 as “New Mexico Fathers and Families Day.”  The theme continued to highlight the cultural traditions of Rural America, Hispanic and Native Americans.

Participants heard from President Obama on his belief in the importance of fathers via video, greetings from U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, a personal perspective on his own dad from Las Cruces native and Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Ed Avalos, Al Pooley of Native American Fathers and Families, and a White House  Father’s Day honoree, Jerry Tello of National Latino Fatherhood and Families Institute.

One of the highlights was learning of the “Strengthening Families” program through our host, New Mexico State University. Their Extension Service is working with community partners, including Sierra Vista Community Church, to offer seminars to fathers and families in an effort to address many of the issues worsened by the absence of dads in their kids’ lives.  I was enchanted and encouraged by all of the committed efforts happening in New Mexico to promote dads, fathers and families.

Max Finberg is a Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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