Jesse Sadler took all the steps necessary to transform his life and regain custody of his daughter; he engaged in therapy, secured housing, participated in parenting classes, and attended a Substance Use Disorder treatment. Last week, the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) recognized his hard work and persistence by awarding him the inaugural Engaging Father Award following his successful reunification.
When Jesse was told he had been nominated and selected as the award recipient, he was overcome with emotions. Despite being nervous, he said he wanted to help fathers with his story.
"I didn't get the protection I needed as a child that my daughter did," said Sadler. "But a light clicked in my head, and now I will always give her my best."
Sadler had never parented his daughter when she was removed from her mother's care in 2020; even with her hours away, he began attempting to have her placed with him. He started with Promoting First Relationships (PFR) to support his connection and bond with his daughter.
"Jesse took all the steps to stabilize and get his daughter back in his care," said Abbie Jardine, a provider who nominated him for the award. "As he developed relationships with providers, he began to trust the process and the suggestions that were made."
Once his daughter was placed with him, Jesse received Family Preservation Services (FPS) to help him with discipline and establishing boundaries. He quit drugs "cold turkey" but began drinking, which led to his daughter being removed from his care following a DUI car accident with his daughter in the vehicle. Despite the setback and discouragement from engaging, Jesse received treatment, completed Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT), and secured housing. By March 2023, dependency was dismissed.
"Despite what had happened or what circumstances Jesse found himself in, he fought hard for his child," said Brenda Sullen, another provider who nominated him for the award. "I have been doing this work with families since 2000. I have never seen the determination and resilience that Jesse Sadler has shown in his fight to change his life for the love of his child."
Despite the fact that fathers play a critical role in a child's physical, emotional, and social development, child welfare agencies have historically not engaged enough with fathers. As a result, fathers are less willing to engage.
The Engaging Father award is part of DCYF's Engaging Fathers project (previously called Fathers Matter), an engagement effort for legal fathers with children in the child welfare system. DCYF received dozens of nominees from caseworkers, family members, and providers for fathers across the state who have had a successful outcome with their child welfare cases.
Last week, Sadler thanked his providers, therapist, and caseworker, Matthew Lang, for never giving up on him. In addition to his award, he received an all-expenses paid trip to Great Wolf Lodge to celebrate with his daughter.
"This award may be about me and my daughter, but it wouldn't have happened if it weren't for those five people. They showed me kindness, care, and love, which I never experienced," said Sadler. "It is not easy for any father, but fathers have been fighting."
To learn more, visit the Engaging Fathers webpage.
Nancy Gutierrez, Communications Administrator | 360-789-3451 | firstname.lastname@example.org