Single fathers in recovery: the challenges they overcome

Homeward House is dedicated to recognizing and supporting fathers and fathers-to-be in overcoming substance use disorders and poverty

In the past decade, research has confirmed what is obvious to those who work with families: Children do better when fathers are involved in their lives. Unfortunately, fathers tend to be invisible to many programs and services designed to support families in crisis treatment and recovery. 

Most services are centered around mothers and children. Whether it’s housing, treatment, or employment, we’re typically encircling the mom, and the dad is kinda pushed off to the side. 

Monica Turner

Parent Ally Mentor, Homeward House Collaborative

Increasing evidence underscores the vital role fathers play in their children’s lives

Fortunately, research about dads’ critical role in their children’s lives is growing. For example, we now know that, on average, children whose fathers are actively involved tend to have fewer problems with school achievement, behavior, and social interaction than children whose fathers are not actively involved in their lives. Increasingly, policymakers and practitioners alike are looking for ways to engage fathers in programming. 

Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring. 

Dr. David Popenoe

A pioneer in the relatively young field of research into fathers and fatherhood

Single fathers facing substance use disorders find coordinated support at Homeward House

Substance use disorders affect millions of lives each year, yet the unique challenges faced by fathers in recovery often go unrecognized. While treatment programs have increasingly incorporated motherhood-focused components for women, the parenting needs of men seeking help have been largely overlooked. Despite evidence suggesting that addressing fatherhood in treatment can significantly improve outcomes, this oversight persists.

At Homeward House, a growing number of fathers are seeking support and services and navigating a path traditionally associated with mothers. These men overcome unique challenges as they balance recovery with the responsibilities of single parenthood.

The following profiles highlight three such dads who, with the support of Homeward House and others, have not only overcome their substance use disorders but are creating healthy, stable environments in which their kids can thrive.

Theo: Reuniting Family and Pursuing Dreams

Theo, a devoted single father of four daughters ages 10 to 13, is a resilient Tulalip Tribes member. His inspiring story centers on family reunification and personal growth.

“Theo has been one of the biggest success stories of not only Homeward House but also his tribe.” — Monica Turner, Parent Ally Mentor

His profile is featured in the Highlights of 2023. Read it here.

Edward: A Dad’s Journey to Bring His Family Back Together

Edward’s story exemplifies the unique challenges faced by single fathers in recovery. Featured on KOMO News, his journey began when he secured temporary housing through Interfaith Family Shelter, a member of the Homeward House Collaborative.

In Snohomish County, shelter options for single fathers are scarce, often presenting a paradoxical situation: fathers can’t obtain housing without custody of their children, yet can’t gain custody without stable housing. Homeward House’s collaborative approach with multiple resources has been instrumental in breaking down these barriers for fathers like Edward.

Edward’s parent ally mentor provided crucial support, encouragement, and resource connections throughout his recovery, guiding him through each phase of his family’s stabilization process.

Two years later, Edward’s progress is remarkable:

  • Successfully reunified with all four sons
  • Secured permanent housing
  • Prioritized his children’s education, including addressing the special needs of his two younger boys
  • Maintained recovery and active participation in local NA and AA meetings

While Edward looks forward to rejoining the workforce once his children’s lives are more settled, his current focus remains on creating a stable, nurturing environment for his sons. His story underscores the transformative power of comprehensive support for fathers in recovery from a trained peer mentor.

Ricky: From Incarceration to Devoted Single Father

Ricky’s inspiring story exemplifies Homeward House’s longstanding commitment to supporting single fathers through unique challenges. As one of the program’s first success stories, Ricky’s experience—beginning with his incarceration at the time of his daughter’s birth—highlights the significant obstacles fathers must overcome.

After his release, like Edward, Ricky couldn’t get approved to enter a family shelter without his daughter, yet could not take the steps to be awarded custody without a stable living situation. Determined to unite with his daughter, Ricky sought help from Homeward House Collaborative, which coordinated a reunification plan involving multiple agencies. It provided Ricky with a path to secure permanent housing and legal guardianship. It wasn’t easy or without hurdles, but Ricky persevered.

Five years later, as his daughter Angelina prepares to graduate from kindergarten, Ricky reflects on his growth as a devoted dad:

  • Parenting classes, parent coaching from Housing Hope, and conversations with other parents helped him develop from an inexperienced parent to a man comfortable with himself and ability to be a father.
  • Initially hard on himself, Ricky learned that imperfection and mistakes are normal parts of parenting.
  • The support he received fostered patience, presence, and the ability to be “comfortable in my own skin” in his role as a father.

Ricky and daughter Angelina enjoy a summer day in the park after her graduation from kindergarden.

Ricky now treasures moments with Angelina, from attending a school concert to engaging in meaningful conversations.

“There are so many moments, just being able to stick with it and go through her ages and stages with her, attitudes and all, are my best moments — all of them,” says Ricky.

Ricky notes that the experience of raising a daughter has changed him, softening his self-described “hardcore guy” demeanor into that of a “mushy softie.”