Reaching Disconnected Fathers to Benefit Families and the Community

By Roderick Wheeler

Senior Program Director, Philanthropy, Strada Education Network


Last week, a young father named Tim stopped by Fathers and Families Center in Indianapolis, the hometown of Strada Education NetworkSM. He was dressed for success and ready to share exciting news: After only one month on the job working in security, he had been promoted to lead his work team. His wife, spurred on by his accomplishments, had begun culinary training herself.

The circumstances for Tim and his wife and five children were bleaker when he first visited the center a little more than a year ago. They were struggling, and Tim needed a high school diploma to start himself — and his family — on the path to self-sufficiency. He completed Fathers and Families Center’s three-week Strong Fathers workshop before taking part in the center’s high school equivalency program (HSE).

Not long after receiving his high school equivalency degree, he attended a job fair, where a security company hired him on the spot. By getting on track with his education, Tim started a path toward a fulfilling career that is making a difference for his family and setting an example for his children.

Tim’s story, shared by Anna Melodia, director of operations and grants management at Fathers and Families Center, illustrates the value of the center, not only for the nearly 10,000 disconnected fathers it’s served — but for entire families and the community at large.

Assisting disconnected young adults

Faces of Fatherhood LogoFathers and Families Center’s efforts focus on strong fathers and on strengthening families and serving communities, says its president and CEO, Wallace McLaughlin. The fathers the center serves often arrive without education sufficient to earn livable wages. Many have criminal records. Some struggle with addiction. All need assistance becoming strong fathers who can help provide for their families and become contributing members of society.

The goal of Fathers and Families Center is to strengthen families and to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty caused by low education attainment, joblessness and incarceration. The center works to ensure that current and expecting fathers first understand the importance of fatherhood, with three weeks of daylong training focused on mental health, job readiness and the responsibilities of fatherhood.

Then Fathers and Families Center reconnects program participants to education and training opportunities to achieve job readiness, placement and retention outcomes, while also helping to remove barriers related to involvement with the criminal justice system.

Fathers and Families Center has become a national leader in effective fatherhood initiatives, partnering with other community organizations in training that leads to family reunification, high school completion, postsecondary training, and successful workforce placement and retention efforts.

On this Father’s Day weekend, Fathers and Families Center is celebrating more than 20 years of effectively addressing the root causes of economic marginalization among disconnected young African-American fathers. The center’s Faces of Fatherhood Luncheon, which Strada Education is supporting, on Friday, June 16, will shine the light on the important role fathers play in the lives of their children.

Addressing youth unemployment

The annual Faces of Fatherhood Luncheon, says McLaughlin, serves as a celebration of fathers of all kinds — or faces. From fathers from different backgrounds, to those with disabilities, to stepfathers, to grandfathers, the event aims to show their importance. The event also helps the center tell about its successes, with keynote messages from those who have taken part in the center’s programs.

Fathers and Families Center can celebrate its success in saving lives and improving the quality of life for fathers and their children:

Each year 300 new fathers walk through the center’s doors, with over 500 fathers and their families returning for services and support.Each year 300 new fathers walk through the center’s doors, with over 500 fathers and their families returning for services and support.

 

Nearly one in three enrolled in the center’s HSE program earns a high school diploma within just one year.Nearly one in three enrolled in the center’s HSE program earns a high school diploma within just one year.

 

Three out of five fathers the center serves are placed in a job with the potential of earning 50 percent higher than the state’s minimum wage.Three out of five fathers the center serves are placed in a job with the potential of earning 50 percent higher than the state’s minimum wage.

 

More than half of the fathers are employed at least three months after being placed into market-supported employment opportunities.More than half of the fathers are employed at least three months after being placed into market-supported employment opportunities.

 

As we celebrate fathers this weekend, please join Strada Education in also celebrating the accomplishments of Fathers and Families Center and other national fatherhood models that seek to address disconnected youth populations and reverse the effects of generational poverty through education- and employment-focused initiatives.

Understanding how to effectively serve those who face the greatest challenges, as Fathers and Families Center does, is one way in which Strada Education seeks to influence and impact higher education attainment and workforce participation rates of low-income, disconnected youth across our nation.