While most parents face a steep learning curve when it comes to raising happy, healthy children, Matthew James Sepulveda faced a steeper learning curve than most. In 2019, he was notified by Child Protective Services that he had a 5-month-old daughter who was in their custody.
“It was a bit of a shock,” he says. “As soon as it was confirmed that I was the father, it was full-throttle, do-everything-I-can to provide the best life for my daughter.”
Luckily for Sepulveda, CPS connected him with the Family Impact Center, where he was able to take part in the center’s Positive Parenting Program, which has not only helped him learn better parenting and communication skills, but provided the new father with emotional support as well.
“They have been incredible. … If not for them, I would have been lost because I was not ready for a child,” he says. “Everyone was friendly, it was just like an extension of my own family. If you’re doing something incorrectly, … (they) show by example how another way would work better and be more effective. It’s very positive, it’s loving, … I feel very comfortable with their direction.”
In addition to parenting classes and moral support, Sepulveda says the Family Impact Center was also able to help him with other tangible forms of support, including essential supplies and even a referral to legal assistance.
“They’re an incredible resource in San Benito County, I’ve come to find out. If there’s something you can’t get at the moment, they’re more than happy to help. They’re there for you,” he says. “If you ever need anything parenting-wise, they can get you educational materials, they can get you legal referrals, household supplies, they pretty much have everything you could think of that you would need (while) parenting. I was surprised.”
Today, Sepulveda shares legal custody of his 2-year-old daughter with his ex-partner. He says the skills he’s learned at the center have not only helped him build a loving father-daughter relationship, but also how to communicate effectively with his daughter’s mother, with whom he has a strained relationship.
“We’ve established a very good foundation now. She knows I’m Daddy and she loves me and I love her too,” he says of his daughter. “It not only helped me wrap my mind around being a dad, it was also focused on co-parenting … (and) helping me cope with that type of relationship.”
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