Dell shares how the Lancaster Fatherhood Program creates a brotherhood where fathers encourage one another to be better men and better fathers.
Michael is the 46 year old father of two girls, ages 14 and six, married, but separated. Michael described his personal relationship with the mother of his daughters as neutral; however, she had a strong desire for the two girls to have a close and positive relationship with their father. Although Michael was court ordered to pay child support, he could not make consistent payments. Since he had several prior charges and/or convictions, finding steady employment was challenging. Serious about making positive changes in his life, Michael was eager to access the services of the Midlands Fatherhood program and he became very focused in the program and anxious to overcome the obstacles in his life.
After enrolling in the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition program in rural Fairfield County, Michael committed to improving his life and the lives of his children. During a one-on-one session, Michael expressed an interest in becoming a certified electrician. Because of his ambition, staff connected him to the Palmetto Training program and in July 2010 Michael began the Palmetto Training program. He received a certificate of completion for NCCER Core, NCCER Level I & II Performance in the Electrical Trade in October 2010. Since achieving his certification Michael has become gainfully employed with Elite Electronic Systems.
While Michael was enrolled in the training program, his daughters were experiencing increasing difficulties living with their mother. One day he received a call from his 14-year-old daughter letting him know that she and her sister were in the custody of the South Carolina Department of Social Services Child Protective Services. During this ordeal, Michael continued to work full time and attend group sessions. Had Michael not already been actively involved in his daughters' lives, they may easily have been processed into the foster care system. Because of his active involvement, Michael received a court order to appear at a hearing on behalf of his daughters which he attended. The support that Michael received from the program and his own readiness led to being granted temporary custody of his daughters. From there Michael pursued custody and, in December of 2010, he was granted full custody of his daughters. While he continued to attend the program, Michael was able to improve his parenting skills and communication with his daughters.
Nathan, a 41 year old divorced father of two teenage children, entered the Lancaster Fatherhood program in rural Lancaster, South Carolina trying to find help to provide for his family. Nathan's relationship with his estranged wife was very volatile. He had been court-ordered to pay child support; but, being unemployed made that very difficult. Speaking with a program counselor, Nathan expressed his embarrassment at not being able to provide for his children.
One of the foundations of the fatherhood programs is to help participants put together personal goals. Nathan's goals included: gaining employment, becoming financially literate, traveling and spending time with his children and being able to financially support his daughter to attend college. Nathan attended the weekly group sessions to gain skills and information on men's health, self concept and work, values clarification, verbal communication skills, decision-making, parenting, healthy relationship skills and communicating with his children.
With guidance and transportation assistance from the program, Nathan raised his commitment level to making his job searching an every day practice. He applied in person, completed on-line job applications, and visited his local One Stop office in search of job openings. After several weeks of despair, disgust, and a brief incarceration for non-payment of child support, he landed a position at Caro-winds' Amusement Park, making $7.25/hour.
For two months Nathan experienced a three-hour transport from home to Caro-winds and worked a three hour shift. He did not give up; rather, Nathan continued to job search and eventually landed an interview for a position with a substantial pay increase at a manufacturing plant closer to his home. After several interviews and training classes, Nathan became employed as a machine operator at an hourly rate of $17.50, plus benefits. Soon thereafter, Nathan met with child support enforcement and requested wage withholding.
Nathan's daughter is currently enrolled in college; he and his son are spending more quality time together. Nathan also created a budget and savings plan to further his goal of becoming financially literate. His desire to improve upon his goals is strong; and, Nathan has re-visited them several times. While his gratitude for what the program has done for him is very evident the program staff often reminds him that his achievements are due to his own elevated commitment, desires, personal discipline and accessing services offered.
Sidney came to the Upstate Fatherhood Coalition (UFC) not really knowing what to expect. A few things were obvious: he was unhealthy because had not taken very good care of himself and his self esteem was very low. Sidney had four child support orders that he could not afford to regularly pay due to being unemployed. Sidney also shared with his counselor that he had good relationships with three of his four children; however, he wanted to be more active, supportive and improve relationships with their mothers. Sadly, he had no communication with one of his children.
Sidney enrolled in the program and began to attend job readiness, parenting and healthy relationship classes. Within a few short weeks Sidney gained part-time employment at Red Lobster; soon thereafter he obtained a second position with Diamond Detail which offered full-time hours and a salary adequate to fulfill his financial obligations as a father. As Sidney began to feel better about himself and his direction his efforts to improve stepped up.
Through continued work with staff, attending and engaging in peer support sessions, Sidney began to understand more clearly about life's choices and decisions. He made a conscious effort to become a better person and father. Communication with the mothers of his children showed considerable improvement. By working through the court system and with the Department of Social Services (DSS) one of the mothers closed her child support case which led to more regular visitation for Sydney and the child. He also established new child support orders with the other mothers and has committed to making regular payments towards the child support orders. Having successfully reached out to the mother of the child with whom he had no communication, Sydney has begun to receive pictures of his daughter for the first time. All of his continuous efforts have given Sidney a sense of joy and decreased the stress and tension in his life.
Sidney feels that he has learned a great deal about relationships. Throughout his time as a program participant Sydney has expressed his enjoyment and thankfulness for the insight, support, encouragement and food (smiles) provided by the UFC staff. Even though he has graduated, he continues to be an active part of the fatherhood program. To Sidney, we have become family!
Henry came to the program discouraged, unemployed, and separated from his children. The father of five, Henry was very disheartened because he was unemployed, unable to pay child support and unable to spend time with his kids, one of whom was disabled. The disabled child was diagnosed with a cerebellum that was too small, missing brain parts and requiring the aid of a feeding tube. Often neglected, the disabled child was dropped off to different people while the mother went out on weekends to party with friends. The baby's feeding tube stayed dirty; and, she was not getting medicine administered to her which resulted in being very underweight for a 12-month-old. Henry felt hopeless, like giving up on everything, because there was nothing he could do.
Having completed the intake process, Henry began attending helpful sessions, including: negotiating legal systems, how to get the job and keep it, men's health, building healthy relationships, how to be a better parent, establishing paternity, anger management, effective communication skills, making right decisions, and being financially stable. The Fatherhood program was able to help him acquire a job, modify his child support order to a manageable amount, and to get joint custody of his four children and full custody of his disabled child as a result of the mother having been charged with neglect and child abuse.
Henry credits the program for supporting him when his baby needed surgery, providing one-on-one counseling when he was depressed and frustrated certain that no one understood what he was going through. Today, his relationship with both mothers is much improved; and, he confirms that the fatherhood program helped him to make life-changing decisions that resulted in him becoming a better father. Henry is now the primary care-giver for his disabled daughter who is now four years and weighs 32 pounds. He has become a teacher to the nurse assistants, demonstrating how to handle his little girl and provide the proper care. Henry stated, "If it wasn't for the program I wouldn't be where I am today."
Deltavis or "Tavis" as his friends call him voluntarily enrolled in the Father-to-Father program in November of 2005. Although he came from a sound family background, he succumbed to the temptations of the streets and pursued a life of easy money and quick highs and was actively using drugs and alcohol at the time of his enrollment in the program.
Tavis has a GED and is the father of five children by four different women. He does not work because of a physical disability. Having realized that living the street life was not good for him or his children, Tavis came to the program simply to ask for help. He was weary from "living that life."
Becoming active in his church and the father-to-father program, the only time Tavis missed a meeting was to attend a church function. He freely admits that he lived a life of drugs and alcohol; but, with the help of the Father-to-Father Project, Inc. and his decision to give his life to Jesus Christ, Tavis has conquered all of his addictions and is now focused is on being a better man, a better father and a better Christian.
When Tavis enrolled in the program, he scored 19 on the Barksdale Self-esteem Scale. A score of 50 or less indicates a "crippling" lack of self-esteem. Prior to graduation from the program, Tavis took the Barksdale Self-esteem again and scored an impressive 88.
A truly changed man, Tavis gives most of the credit to his relationship with Christ; but, a significant credit also goes to the North Charleston Father-to-Father Project.