DadTalk Blog: OFA Highlights: Austin and Phoenix House

OFA Highlights: Austin and Phoenix House

Ed. Note: This highlight is a repost from a series entitled Highlights from the Field: Office of Family Assistance Programs at Work for American Families from the Office of Family Assistance Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Technical Assistance Project. Read the original posting here.

This Highlight from the Field features Austin, a participant of the Phoenix House program, a Healthy Marriage grantee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Family Assistance.

Phoenix House: Austin- Part One Phoenix House Logo

It is well-documented that children that have higher levels of parental communication and involvement are more likely to be more successful in school. These children also have higher levels of education and experience better emotional health. Re-establishing parental communication and engagement has taken on a new meaning for the national responsible fatherhood community. Funded by the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance, Phoenix House provides social and emotional supports to fathers and families in order to improve communication lines. Phoenix House works to strengthen relationships and stabilize interactions between fathers, their children and their children’s mother.

Austin had not seen or spoken to his two sons in more than two years when he began attending the Connections parenting and relationship education group at Phoenix House in New York. Austin’s work with the Connections staff allowed him to open a line of communication with his boys. Even though the boys’ mother was estranged from Austin and harbored bitter feelings toward him, he was able to convince her that he indeed had a changed attitude and a renewed commitment to her kids.  To achieve this, Austin wrote a letter to his sons’ mother, thanking her for all her hard work in raising their children, and asking if she would meet with him to talk things over and clear the air. She agreed to allow him to visit his youngest son, eventually pick him up at school, and take him to the movies or out to eat on weekends.

Austin’s own recovery from using drugs increased his ability to connect with his son.  He remarked that “Both my parents were there. They never abandoned us. We had proper guidance,” Austin remembers. “It started to bother me, conscience-wise, that I was away from my sons, even though I’m not together with their mother. Part of my recovery is about changing, not just abstinence.”Reviving a relationship with his 18-year-old son was more challenging for Austin. His son had started using drugs, had gotten into trouble with the law, and was struggling in school. After discussing the situation with Connections counselors, and based on his own experiences, Austin and the Connections counselors were able to develop a strategy that reassured his son of his father’s commitment.  They began slowly, but now see each other regularly and talk on the phone almost every day. His son has stayed in school, is in an alternative-to-incarceration program, and holds down a part-time job.

With some hard work and determination, not to mention some assistance from Phoenix House counselors and staff, Austin was able to stabilize his relationship with his kids. He was able to improve communication with the mother of his boys and now he’s well on his way to being even more involved in his kids’ lives.

Stay tuned to hear more about Austin’s success, including his transition into the workforce!

Learn more about Phoenix House and other Office of Family Assistance funded Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs at

Office of Family Assistance

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The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) promotes stability and economic security for families through various programs, like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the Tribal TANF... More about this author

OFA Highlights: Austin and Phoenix House

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