Improving outcomes for fathers, families and communities
By K. Wayne Thornley
Children who grow up without the presence of a supportive father are four times more likely to live in poverty. They are more likely to drop out of school, engage in criminal activity, and abuse alcohol and drugs. The detrimental outcomes of father absence for children are many, but all fall within the scope of the mission of the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families.
In 2002, the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families was created to reduce child poverty through father engagement – a mission which sprang from an initiative of the Sisters of Charity Foundation. The Center, which began as a connecting point for a number of independent, Foundation-funded fatherhood programs across the state, has grown to become the hub of a statewide network of fatherhood organizations providing programs and services that are improving outcomes for thousands of fathers, children, families and communities each year.
This statewide network of resources for fathers has been recognized as a unique service delivery model in the nation. As the longest-running fatherhood-focused organization in the state, the Center has served more than 20,000 fathers to date.
The experienced-based responsible fatherhood curriculum is designed to help men become fathers who are positively engaged in the lives of their children. The core components focus on parenting and co-parenting, economic mobility, job readiness and employment skills assessment, healthy relationships, and men’s health.
Individual coaching, group sessions and peer support help program participants change their lives, rebuild relationships, and reconnect with their children.
Engaged fathers leads to a stronger communities
The Center’ mission is enhanced by innovative initiatives that not only strengthen families, but build stronger communities as well. One example is the Jobs Not Jail initiative, an alternative to incarceration for underemployed non-custodial fathers struggling to make child support payments. Judges have the option of referring men to a fatherhood program and avoiding jail time, which further inhibits a father’s ability to provide financial and emotional support for his child. Additionally, over the last five years, this initiative has saved S.C. taxpayers an average of $6.22 million in incarceration costs annually.
The Center is currently investing in expansion of programs targeting young men ages 16 to 20 with a program called Reality Check, a crash course in the realities and responsibilities of early fatherhood.
“We help men of all ages understand the responsibilities of fatherhood and set them on a path to becoming the best providers, nurturers and role models they can be,” said Center President Pat Littlejohn. “As we make plans to celebrate 20 years of service to improving the lives of fathers and families, we are humbled to know that our approach to addressing the physical, mental and spiritual needs of fathers is working.”
K. Wayne Thornley is the South Carolina Fathers and Families director of communications. Learn more about the importance of fathers in our society or connect someone to the nearest fatherhood program at scfathersandfamilies.com. Photo courtesy of South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families
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