Sandra Austin doesn’t think fathers get the respect they deserve.
She tells a story about a man she knows whose significant other passed away. They had been raising six kids together—and four of them aren’t biologically his own. Nonetheless, he’s carrying on: He’s now a single father, and doing everything he can for those six kids.
“He stepped up,” Austin says. “That’s commendable. He needs support.”
That’s one reason why Austin—the co-founder of the Family Health and Support Network—has given the nonprofit organization’s annual Juneteenth in the Coachella Valley event the theme “Fatherhood: Dispel the Myth.”
The sixth-annual event, presented by Augustine Casino, takes place on Saturday, June 15, at the La Quinta Resort. The celebration of African-American culture and heritage is a benefit for the Family Health and Support Network’s foster-care program. Performers include gospel/soul singer Gina Carey, and headlining singer L. Young. E.M. Abdulmumin, the founder of the DuBois Institute and the developer of Riverside County’s Building Resilience in African-American Families program, will offer the keynote address.
Every year, Juneteenth has had a different theme. However, Austin feels so strongly about the need to support good fathers that she says she may give the event a focus on fatherhood every year from now on.
“It’s really needed in our community,” she says.
While Juneteenth in the Coachella Valley focuses on African-American heritage—Austin says she’s been trying for years to “motivate” the valley’s black population to show off its culture—FHSN’s foster-care efforts involve the entire community. Frankly, the foster-care community needs all the support it can get, especially here in the Coachella Valley.
FHSN has contracts with Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties to place children who need foster care. Austin says FHSN—which she co-founded a decade ago—currently works with around 38 foster homes, and about 10 of those are in the Coachella Valley.
That’s not nearly enough.
“We’re one of the very few agencies physically located in the Coachella Valley, so we often get the calls (for Coachella Valley kids needing foster homes) first,” Austin says.
More than half of the time, when FHSN receives a call about a foster child needing placement, FHSN has to say no, Austin says: There aren’t enough qualified foster homes in the valley. That means those children get placed by other agencies in homes that are farther away from the area those kids know.
“Our primary goal is to put out the plea for foster parents,” Austin says. “… Maybe it’s because we have the reputation for being a resort town or whatever; there wasn’t much awareness. Some people didn’t even know they receive financial assistance (when they take in a foster child).”
So this year’s Juneteenth celebration has multiple goals, according to Sandra Austin. It’s a fundraiser for the foster-care program; it’s an event to honor African-American culture; and it’s an opportunity to give the community’s good, caring fathers a much-needed shout-out.
“That’s been my focus, that people will become aware that there is an African-American community here. And there’s a need for foster parents. And there’s a need for elders—African-American (and other) men to work with the youth population,” she says.
Juneteenth in the Coachella Valley, presented by Augustine Casino, takes place on Saturday, June 15, at the La Quinta Resort and Club, 49499 Eisenhower Drive in La Quinta. The theme for this year’s event, a benefit for the Family Health and Support Network, is “Fatherhood: Dispel the Myth.” The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a VIP reception, and is followed by dinner, performances, the keynote and the Pioneer Awards ceremony at 7 p.m. Guests are encouraged to wear “smart casual white.” Tickets are $60 for general admission, and $50 for FHSN foster parents; VIP tickets are sold out. For more information or to buy tickets, call 760-340-2442, or visit www.juneteenthcv.com. For more information on the Family Health and Support Network, visit www.fhsnet.org.