Watch D.O.G.S. – Dad’s on campus

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Return to Table of Contents: 2013 Winter Edition of Family Business Quarterly

Jason Torrey in this photo with Jennifer Rodriguez, is a Watch D.O.G.S. volunteer on the school campus of Jennifer’s daughters.

To be certain, fatherlessness is not a new problem. Children have been dealing with absent fathers throughout the ages. As described in the story below about Jason Torrey and his experience with Watch D.O.G.S., there is always hope in a community; he describes how quickly other people’s children respond to fatherly love.

For children whose father’s are not present, for whatever reason, there is hope because fatherly love is not tied to the biological connection. Every man can be a positive, fatherly presence in the life of a child. Jason Torrey, of Orangevale, California, has no biological children of his own, but is a father figure for the daughters, 10 and 12 years old, of his fiancée, Jennifer Rodriguez.

Rodriguez and her daughters escaped a violent marriage, and she shares custody with their biological dad. The girls visit their dad on weekends. “I didn’t want to deny my children to have a connection with their father,” Rodriguez said. “It is difficult, but I have trained them to be able to handle the controlling behavior of their dad that is abusive if you allow it. He is their dad and I will always respect that.”

Torrey considers Rodriguez’s daughters to be his own daughters in mind and spirit. “I am not replacing their father,” Torrey said. “They have a relationship with their father, but being the biological father is not the same thing as providing the love the kids need from a man in their life. It is possible to be a dad to kids who are not yours biologically.”

Torrey acknowledges that there are a lot of reasons why the biological father is absent. Perhaps they passed away, have medical problems, or are deployed in the armed service. “However, the most damage done to kids is when dads are emotionally absent,” Torrey reflects. “When the kids are treated like a piece of furniture, the psychological scars don’t heal without help,” Torrey said.

Torrey belongs to a group called Watch D.O.G.S., a program launched by The National Center for Fathering.  According to Torrey it was founded by two dads who were affected by a school shooting. “They were concerned about the children for many reasons besides the school shooting. Drop out rates, teen pregnancy, and crime rates were all symptomatic of a population of kids who don’t realize they matter; they need genuine attention from men in their lives,” Torrey said.

Photo: http://www.fathers.com

Watch D.O.G.S. mobilizes the men in the school and parent community to volunteer on campus for various duties in the classroom and on the playgrounds.   The program goals are 1) to provide positive male role models for the students, demonstrating by their presence that education is important, and 2) provide extra sets of eyes and ears to enhance school security and reduce bullying. Today the  program operates in 2,659 schools in 46 states plus D.C.

“I volunteer on the girls campuses, and there is a variety of dads volunteering,” Torrey said. “Some in business suits others in jeans and t-shirts with tattoos.”  Torrey is blind, and the kids have come to accept his disability as cool. “On the rare occasion that a student mocks him, plenty of kids speak up to tell them to stop,” Torrey said. “They have my back.”

According to Torrey, being on campus is an instant celebrity-hood. “The kids flock to you, boys and girls,” he said. “They just want the attention. They just want to experience your presence.” Torrey described mob scenes of kids surrounding Watch D.O.G.S. dads on the playground, hanging on their arms and necks. “The dads in the program get so much out of being here. It is such a rewarding experience,” Torrey said.

Torrey tutors students. One child in particular improved his math grade from failing to a “B”. Tears welled in his eyes as he spoke with about this child who responded to his support with such determination to excel. “I am so proud,” Torrey said. “It is as if he was my own son. I am so proud. It is such a gratifying experience to help kids achieve their potential.”

*****

At Fathers.com, we believe every child needs a dad they can count on. The research is clear: children thrive when they have an involved father—someone who loves them, knows them, guides them, and helps them achieve their destiny. We inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need.”National Center for Fathering at Fathers.com

Return to Table of Contents: 2013 Winter Edition of Family Business Quarterly

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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