Father-Daughter Tea is Steeped in Fun

February 6, 2019
Ryan Imondi

Project Fatherhood welcomed 35 families to CII’s Otis Booth campus on a rainy Saturday in February for the 7th annual Father-Daughter Tea. The princess-themed party included tea cup painting, manicures, frame decorating and tiaras.

The event celebrates the unique relationship between fathers and daughters, and is one of a dozen special programs that CII’s Project Fatherhood organizes each year.

The Junior League of Los Angeles has been a long-time sponsor of the Father-Daughter Tea. This year, the group sent 30 volunteers and donated the tea sets and picture frames.

Noemi Vasquez, Care Coordinator at Project Fatherhood and lead organizer of the event, said the Father-Daughter Tea is one of the most popular events each year.

“From the moment the girls get that tiara you see them feel special,” Vasquez said. “It’s amazing to watch the reactions of daughters being celebrated while also looking up to their fathers.”

Victor lost his dad at a young age while growing up in a gang-affiliated part of Los Angeles, and never thought he could have a close, supportive relationship with his own children. He said going to the event with his two daughters is like a dream come true.

“My 5-year-old daughter was so excited that she asked me to go out with her to buy a dress,” Victor said. “Just knowing that she will always remember special times like this makes me feel happy and blessed to be a dad.”

Jessie was also at the event with his five daughters. Taking a break from doing crafts, he said he appreciated Project Fatherhood and what the program has brought to his life. He said it was clear why this event, and Project Fatherhood as a whole, was so important to his own relationship with his kids.

“Project Fatherhood taught me to never give up on my children and to never let them down no matter how rough life gets,” he said. “I just love being a dad.”

Just knowing that she will always remember special times like this makes me feel happy and blessed to be a dad.

-Victor, Father enrolled in CII’s Project Fatherhood

Tracy Klein, Chair of the Done in a Day Committee for the Junior League of Los Angeles, said the group has been a long-time partner of CII and loves supporting the event.

“It is always one of the most anticipated Done in a Day events for our member volunteers, bringing us as much joy in participating as we hoped it brought the fathers and daughters who take part,” Klein said.

For Keith Parker, Director of Project Fatherhood, the event is an opportunity to advance the program’s goal of improving the connection between fathers and their daughters. Parker, who joined CII in November to oversee Project Fatherhood, strongly believes in the event.

“Father-Daughter Tea is an opportunity for fathers to spend time with their daughters and work on ways to communicate with each other better,” he said.

Children's Institute Father Daughter TeaVolunteers from the Junior League of Los Angeles carry around trays of desserts to fathers and daughters as they enjoy the event.

While the Father-Daughter Tea is full of fun activities, the core purpose of the event is to educate and encourage dads to be involved in the lives of their children. This philosophy is central to the mission of the Project Fatherhood program at CII.

Started in 1996 by Dr. Hershel K. Swinger, Project Fatherhood ensures fathers who grow up facing adversity are given the tools, support and education to succeed when caring for their own children. Dr. Swinger believed fathers sometimes face barriers and challenges that can prevent them from fulfilling their parental duties. He wanted to create a space where fathers could openly share their love.

In the program, fathers gain access to a group support system, therapeutic activities, and discussions around healthier decision making in relationships.

At the time of the program’s creation, roughly 50 percent of children growing up in poverty lived with only their mother. Often, children who grow up in homes without fathers repeat the cycle with their own family.

A father poses with his daughter as they take a break from festivities at CII’s Father-Daughter Tea.

Edward Berumen, Senior Clinical Supervisor at Project Fatherhood, said Dr. Swinger saw the effects on children when a father is no longer present. With the right support, Dr. Swinger believed in Project Fatherhood’s ability to break the generational cycle of absent fathers. They could help them be present in their own child’s success.

“Fathers play an essential role in families and contribute to a child’s success in school and greater self-esteem,” said Edward Berumen, Program Supervisor, Project Fatherhood. “The focus of Project Fatherhood is to provide a space where fathers can openly share and affirm the love they have for their children.”

Over its 20-plus years, the program has worked with 15,000 fathers and 23,000 children across Los Angeles County.

Berumen said they also hold upwards of 12 events each year that give fathers time to bond with their kids. While the Father-Daughter Tea is all about the leading ladies in their lives, Project Fatherhood hosts softball games, group hikes and movie nights that aren’t gender specific.

“Each event is designed with activities that dads can replicate when they spend time with their kids at home,” Berumen said.