We serve a lot of fathers in the programs throughout our agency. We assist them in feeding their children, help them acquire medical care for their children, assist them in paying child support, and help them find and train for jobs to support their families.
It might be a surprise that we work with so many dads. Much of our work springs from welfare programs instituted over the past 80 years, and much of those were established because of children left behind by dead or absent fathers. But we have evolved tremendously in my 25 years here and fathers are a very important part of our work.
It goes beyond the 75,000 child support cases we oversee and the $127 million we collected on behalf of children last year. Many of the 54,000 people we helped at our OhioMeansJobs Center last year were dads. We helped more than 20,000 abused and neglected children in our children’s services program last year, and we are making greater attempts than ever to engage fathers. Tens of thousands of fathers participate in our food assistance (107,000 consumers a month) and Medicaid programs (218,000 consumers a month) so their children have what they need.
We need to engage and support fathers. That is the goal of our Fatherhood Initiative. Research and data consistently reveal improved outcomes when dads are engaged and involved in solutions for the families in our care. Fatherhood Coordinator Calvin Williams is leading a Design Team of employees and local fathers. The “design” process is a positive, solution-focused way to explore how the agency can improve.
This is crucial work. Our agency sees the effects of families that do not have strong, positive fathers on a daily basis. Whether it be abused or neglected children or children growing up without the emotional and financial support necessary to lead happy healthy lives, we deal with countless numbers of children who could benefit from positive, loving, caring fathers in their life.
I recently heard a positive story about how one of our programs helped a father. The 42-year-old father of three was “broken” when he reached out to the HCJFS Child Support division. He was unemployed, with a criminal record.
Child Support Enforcement Technician Albert Johnson talked to him about the importance of being a positive influence in the lives of his children and referred him to the Talbert House Fatherhood Project. HCJFS contracts with Talbert House to intervene early with fathers who have barriers to paying child support.
Talbert House was able to help the father expunge his criminal record, obtain a GED and find a job. The father also attended and graduated from the Nurturing Fathers class, which provided him with parenting tools and a support group of fathers to help him on his path.
Encouraged by his progress and supported by his “fatherhood” network, he eventually sought and won custody of his two youngest sons. I am told they are very happy and thriving with their dad.
Simply put – we need fathers engaged with our families and we must help them!