Family Values @ Work

Danny – Fathers and Those First Milestones

Danny – Fathers and Those First Milestones

June 15, 2017

After a dysfunctional childhood and more than a decade in prison, Danny Contreras turned his life around. He now helps other kids avoid gangs, works as a drug and alcohol counselor at The County of Santa Cruz Health Services Agency, is finishing a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and planning on getting his master’s in social work. He’s also a devoted husband and father, one who treasures the fact that he lives in a state with paid family leave.

“For years, people have thought that it’s the mother’s job to take care of a new baby,” Danny says. “But for me, and for many other men today, it’s important that the father be part of those first milestones. Birth is sacred; you should be there. It helps create a stronger bond with your kids.

When his first son, Jo-Jo, was born three years ago, Danny took the full six weeks of leave. The time became even more important two years later when baby Junior arrived after an emergency c-section. Danny described it as a difficult pregnancy; his wife had been in and out of the hospital. “She couldn’t watch the kids when she was trying to heal up herself.”

He considers the leave beneficial to himself and to his family, allowing him to take his wife to her doctor appointments and his son to his well baby visits. “I needed the time, but I also needed income to pay PG&E, the mortgage, and other bills,” Danny said. He can’t imagine how the family would have managed if he’d had to go back to work right away.

For Danny Contreras, paid leave is important modeling. “It’s a good example for our kids to see our family functioning as a unit,” he said.

But that time at home also gave Danny special time with his nine-year-old stepson. The boy was dealing with the aftermath of seeing his mother in an earlier abusive relationship. Danny was able to work closely with him during those weeks. “I couldn’t have done it without that leave,” he said. The child, who had been having lots of trouble in school, is now at the top of his class.

After meeting an organizer with the California Work and Family Coalition, Danny has been speaking out about paid leave, sharing his experience on the History Channel and writing to then Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who blogged about it. “I’m all for trying to help others to know their rights and what they can do for themselves and their family and community,” Danny said. “Sometimes people won’t listen to someone – they say that person hasn’t walked in my shoes. But a lot of people can relate to me. I’ve been where they’re at or worse.”

FACT: States with paid leave have seen an Increase in men taking time to care for a new baby.

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