“I was determined to provide a two-parent home for my child,” says Blake Myles, whose own turbulent childhood made him want to become a better father.
When he was just two months old, his parents realized they would be happier apart than together. While his mom battled addiction issues, Blake lived with his father.
“I felt safe and cared for,” says Blake.
But at the age of six, a new stepmother changed everything for him.
“My stepmother demanded respect, but didn’t give it. This led to angry outbursts, and before long I was living with my mom, who was now clean,” he continues.
But that reunion was bittersweet. His mom’s fiancé made Blake feel like extra baggage. When Blake was told he was a “waste of money,” a fistfight ensued, and Blake was kicked to the curb.
For a few years, Blake shuffled between extended family members. Each home carried its own stress and tension.
“I didn’t fit anywhere,” he goes on to say. “I had no one to talk to and nowhere to let my feelings out. I craved stability and security and had no idea how to achieve it.”
When Blake met Amber, he began to trust again. He moved into her family home but it, too, was plagued by unpredictability and chaos. When the 18-year-olds learned of Amber’s pregnancy, they began to formulate plans to secure an apartment of their own.
In his efforts to support his young family, Blake obtained employment as a construction worker. But it wasn’t long before a wrist injury left him applying for social assistance.
Receiving that assistance, though, meant Blake had to develop a plan for finding employment. He was well aware that his decision to drop out of school after Grade 11 would make it harder for him to find a job. Now, he dedicated himself to completing high school.
Located in Ottawa, The Salvation Army Bethany Hope Centre for Young Parents continues nearly a century’s tradition of providing a wide range of services to pregnant and parenting youth and their children.
In 2011, Blake, who struggled with human interaction and was extremely shy, completed the centre’s high-school correspondence and life-skills courses.
“The Army’s caring, supportive environment restored my self-worth and helped me to move forward,” he says.
Then Blake heard about the centre’s new program designed especially for dads.
“Having my daughter was a life-changing event for me. Being a parent is rewarding, but also complex and challenging. I welcomed the extra help, guidance and support the program offered.”
David Milnes, a fathering worker at the centre, says good kids don’t just happen—they are nurtured by caring, involved and responsible adults.
“Our program focuses on young men who make the conscious choice to be the solid role models their children long for and need,” he explains. “And what better way to learn than from other dads who share their experiences of struggle and joy along the journey.”
Today, 21-year-old Blake is hopeful about the future. He is studying police foundations—a college diploma that prepares students to work in a variety of law-enforcement sectors—and growing and learning all the time. His feelings of emptiness and pain have been replaced by passion and the drive to build a strong, healthy family.
But when Blake feels overwhelmed and tormented by emotional overload, he knows who he can call. At The Salvation Army, he’ll find what he needs.