We must invest in young men to build stronger families and safer communities

On Father’s Day, we are reminded of the vital role that fathers play in our society. Men, including criminal justice-involved young men of color, want to be good dads, and supporting their journey towards responsible fatherhood is not only a matter of personal growth but also crucial for building safe and healthy communities.

In our roles as Brooklyn district attorney and as a program manager working in Brownsville, we are calling today for greater investments in solutions that provide young fathers and children experiencing domestic violence with the tools, resources, and people to help them believe they can be good parents and deserve the opportunity to do so.


In historically excluded, heavily-policed communities like Brownsville, some people have been left in a constant state of surviving instead of thriving — leaving many without a roadmap for healthy interpersonal relationships. Such relationships require feeling safe both with one another and within oneself. It is vital that we create spaces where young Black and Brown men can address the ways they have learned what love is, while receiving the vital support to live safe and stable lives.

It is not enough to focus solely on teaching young men how to be better partners and fathers later in life. We must address these challenges early on by investing in prevention and intervention programs that provide guidance and support to those who have experienced domestic violence, helping them develop the necessary skills to navigate relationships, communicate effectively, and cultivate empathy as they grow older.


Part of the problem lies in the early lessons of love shown to children in environments plagued by violence. When violence becomes synonymous with love, children grow up believing that respect is gained through force and that safety is earned through power and control. This distorted perception perpetuates cycles of violence and damages future relationships.

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Exposure to violence has devastating effects on mental health, leading to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and aggression. Furthermore, the absence of fathers due to abandonment or incarceration can result in compromised emotional and physical security, difficulties with social adjustment, truancy, and even juvenile delinquency. The consequences of these issues extend far beyond individuals and affect entire communities.

To effectively address these challenges, we must invest in programs like “Heal the Violence, Heal the Ville,” led by Brownsville In, Violence Out (BIVO) and We Build the Block. This initiative recognizes that community and interpersonal violence are public health crises and focuses on providing support to individuals affected by violence. Through weekly healing circles, social services, job readiness training, and job placement, young men are given the tools and support to overcome their anxieties and fears around fatherhood. They can break free from harmful myths and become responsible and engaged fathers, and better community members who are less likely to commit acts of gender-based violence or other crimes.

Spaces of healing where young men feel seen and heard are absolutely vital to public safety. “Heal the Ville” participants are able to recover from the traumas they have experienced, learn their triggers, recognize how they have been taught what love is, and start to do the hard work of regaining a sense of safety within their bodies and their community. Assistance with navigating the complexities of visitation and child support, along with access to vital documents, housing, education and employment allows them and their families to move forward toward stabilization with healthy interpersonal dynamics.

The success of programs like “Heal the Ville” — which enjoys the support of the district attorney and members of the police department — demonstrates that a trauma-informed approach for system-involved young fathers is the most effective way to reduce violence and build stronger individuals, families, and communities. By investing in prevention and interventions, we can spare our communities from the devastating consequences of violence, protect potential victims, and keep young men out of the court system.

And these investments are far more cost-effective than attempting to address these issues later in life with punitive outcomes. Our city and state would be smart to provide more resources for these types of initiatives.

As we celebrate Father’s Day, let us recognize that investing in young men is not only an act of compassion but also a strategic and effective investment in community safety. Together, we need to build a future where every young man has the support and investment necessary to break free from cycles of violence, create healthy relationships, and become positive forces in our society.

Gonzalez is the Brooklyn district attorney. Almond is the program manager at BIVO.