In this Episode, Ed Davies, the directer of Power of Fathers joins us to discuss the work he is conducting in our communities. Hosted by Dr. Kirk E Harris, this informative episode will expound upon how FFHC integrates with the Power of Fathers, and the collaborative work that is being progressed. Tune in!
In this episode brother Ronald Clay breaks down the challenges he has faced as a returning citizen father, and how FFHC has helped encourage and assist in his walk as a father.
FFHC’s Work with Jane Addams Resource Corporation
The Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC) held an On The Table discussion on January 27, 2017. Fifteen (15) men discussed issues surrounding the training they received to obtain manufacturing jobs and the constraints they face as members of the program. The men discussed what success for them would entail and how their successes could help JARC in the future. The men also discussed their roles and responsibilities in meeting their goals after successful completion of JARC’s program.
FFHC’s Work with Gary Commission for the Social Status of Black Males
The Gary Commission for the Social Status of Black Males (GCSSBM) held On The Table events August 11, 2016; January 21, 2017 and April 20, 2017. Over eighty (80) black men and young black men discussed their daily challenges, their responsibilities, and their roles in improving their quality of life. Throughout these meetings, the men discussed challenges related to transportation, safety, employment and their perceptions about how society perceives black men and young black men. These three meetings will help the GCSSBM plan around the priorities participants voted were the most important to them for one final convening before the end of 2017 to see what decisions and resources stakeholders will need to create solutions for black men and young black men in Northwest Indiana.
Ongoing Work to Advance the Future of Black Men and Boys
Fathers, Families, and Healthy Communities (FFHC) hosted over 20 meetings with various organizations in Chicago discussing issues black men and young black men face in Chicago throughout May 2016. Most of these meetings involved 10 to 20 participants, and over 200 participants were involved in these intimate discussions. Participants discussed their attempts at “maintaining optimism and hope” as older black men, and younger black men discussed the importance of “keeping a level head” while trying to balance being assertive” as a part of their daily challenges. Discussions about personal accountability and the responsibilities of stakeholders and policy makers that work with black men and young black men were also held to provide solutions in the near future.
Come join us for our annual Father Appreciation BBQ. We will have plenty of food, fun, and good times for the whole family. The bbq will start at 4:00pm and end at 8:00pm. So don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to show our father’s love within our community!
In this introductory podcast, Dr. Kirk Harris interviews Dr. Michael Bennett and Sequane Lawrence. They discuss the vision and purpose of Fathers Families & Healthy Communities. Topics include:
- History of Fathers, Families and Healthy Communities at DePaul
- History of FFHC Demonstration
- Importance of father engagement
- How FFHC advances the work of fatherhood and father engagement
I view my future as being bright. As long as I can support and provide for my children and keep them on the right path.
Growing up in Chicago’s Back of the Yards Neighborhood, Larry Morris recalls “a lot of drug-selling, drug usage, gang-banging and poverty.”
He contrasts those memories with the experience of first becoming a father. “Becoming a father was wonderful,” he says. He also, however, calls it “shocking and scary.”
Morris does odd jobs to provide for his children and their mothers; he has also played indoor professional football. He says his goal is “to get employment and be able to gain growth in a company.” “When I’m employed, I make my child support payments,” Morris says. “My experience with child support is that it accumulates real quick and fast.” He adds that child support should change its ways “just a little to make it feasible for the fathers trying and wanting to be in their child’s life.”
Morris often comes back to the theme of communication when talking about his relationship with the mothers of his children. “Our relationships are OK – we still have arguments from time to time. One thing I like to change is our communication. The biggest barrier to having a healthy working relationship is being on the same page.” Meanwhile, Morris describes his relationship with his “kids” as “fine.” “The biggest barrier I have for my children is not being there every day.”
Participating in FFHC activities, he says, has helped him address various barriers. “It made me do a lot of thinking,” he says of FFHC’s peer-to-peer activities. “I communicate better with the mother of my kids.”
“I view my future as being bright,” he adds. “As long as I can support and provide for my children and keep them on the right path.”
As statistics show, children without fathers in their home tend to go astray. It will affect all of us – even society as a whole.
Though he lived in a violent community while growing up, James Gilliam said his home was ”a pretty stable environment.” He also describes a life in which he became a father and was incarcerated – both before he turned 20.
Gilliam became a father at the age of 16. “I was excited because it was something new,” he says. “It was something different. It was something that I looked forward to doing successfully because my father wasn’t in my life. I told myself when I was a young boy that I would never abandon any of my children. When my baby was born, I was there every day, active in her life. I found out years later that she wasn’t mine. I was hurt but at the same time, I still see myself as a father to her.” Later, he had a son. “I’ve been in his life every day of his life,” he says.
At the age of 18, he was sent to prison. He regrets having been away from his daughter, but says the experience “made me stronger. It taught me how to turn a bad situation into a good one.” Though his path has been impacted by this experience, he says “I didn’t let that stop me.”
Gilliam, a construction worker who is currently unemployed, says his “credit has been shattered because of child support payments.” Like thousands of men in Illinois who pay child support, he contributes payments to a system that typically results in payments going to the state – not to the child (FFHC is working to change this situation). Gilliam says he has been persecuted by the state, and that his driver’s license has been suspended and passport revoked because of the state’s child support system. One result: he can’t work in many construction jobs because he doesn’t have a driver’s license. In addition, even though he is unemployed, he hasn’t been able to get a modification in his child care payments because mothers of his children haven’t appeared in court to approve the modification.
Regarding the state, Gilliam says “I don’t even know why they’re in my business anyway.” The way the system is set up, he says, “makes me feel like a second-rate dad.”
Meanwhile, Gilliam has very different relationships with the mother of his children. He has a good relationship with the mother of his son, but says his daughter’s mom doesn’t “allow me to be in my daughter’s life.” She has multiple children by multiple men…she didn’t have a healthy relationship with her dad. It’s not important to her.” He says he is trying to get visitation rights and joint custody “because daughters need their fathers as well.” While he has a strong relationship with his son – “we do things every day together” – he hasn’t talked to his daughter or seen her in three years.
Gilliam, however, has found an outlet for his concerns through Fathers, Families and Healthy Communities. He calls it “a great organization” that is assisting fathers as they get “our rights together.” For him, that means advocating for a child support system that is more geared to children and families and enhancing his ability to see his children “when they want to see me.”
Despite the barriers he faces, Gilliam says he “sees a prosperous future….as long as he is able to lift this destructive force that the child support system has become in my life.” His observations – and hopes — are not just based on personal experience, but data. “As statistics show, children without fathers in their home tend to go astray,” he says. “It will affect all of us – even society as a whole.”
I have the mindset to succeed and continue to be a great father for both of my children.
Reggie Lee is matter-of-fact about his growing up years. “I grew up in an environment that was stressful from gang-banging and drug dealing. My mom and pops were on drugs. My father was a drug dealer and drug user and he was absent from my life a lot.”
Today, as Lee reflects on his current life, he tries to overcome barriers and help create a different reality for his two children – a son and a daughter. His life however, has at different times been impacted by incarceration, the challenge of making child support payments, struggles to make it in the workplace, relationships and other factors. His children have two different mothers; when his daughter (his older child) was young, he lost his job and got divorced from her mother. Later, he met his son’s father; now he takes care of his son. “I’m in his life as my father was not in mine,” he says.
He feels the impact of being incarcerated, which at one time separated Lee from his children. “When I was first incarcerated it drove a wedge between me and my daughter’s mom as well as my daughter because I wasn’t able to be physically see her and talk to her on the phone when I tried calling. For my son, being incarcerated made me realize that I need not be doing something that would hinder me from being there for him in the future.”
Like many who have been incarcerated, gaining a foothold in the workforce can be hugely difficult for Lee. As Lee says, “for the last seven years I’ve been applying for jobs and being turned down for jobs. I’ve been told that my background has hindered me.”
In 2011, Lee was placed on child support and ordered to pay on a monthly basis. Currently, he says that because he is taking care of his son, “child support should not be taking money from me. It’s very ineffective because I take care of my son and have to pay child support at the same time. I’m not getting any support from his mother.” The child support system, in fact, essentially pulls funds from fathers – funds that reimburse the state but don’t benefit the child.
Lee describes his relationships with his children and the mothers of his children in a way that suggests the challenge of staying connected that he has faced. He reports that the relationship between him and his daughter’s mother is “shaky” because he’s not in constant contact with her nor, he says, “can I reach out and call her.” (He describes his relationship with his daughter as “not good” for the same reasons). However, his relationship with his son’s mother is “perfectly fine” – and he calls his relationship with his son “perfect.”
Lee points to FFHC as a significant and positive influence on his life as a father. In particular, he praises the “peer-to-peer opportunities where I’m able to socialize and come together in a group of men that are dealing with or have dealt with a situation that is similar to mine.”
Being with FFHC, he says, “I feel as though I’m able to overcome a lot of barriers so I am able to take care of my family. I have the mindset to succeed and continue to be a great father for both of my children.”
It’s my responsibility to keep an eye on the community.
Darnell Watkins, who grew up in what he calls a typical and loving household, speaks glowingly of what it was like for him to become a father for the first (and only) time. Soon after his son was born, he says, he “would come home, and look at him sitting on the couch like, ‘Where did you come from? How are you here? What are you doing sitting on my couch? Come here and give me a kiss,” says Watkins. “Yes, good times.”
But Watkins speaks of the challenges he has faced as a father in recent years. He hasn’t heard from his son and ex-wife in years, and lives with his parents, who support him. He has a link card. And he was incarcerated for a DUI offense. Sentenced to two years, he lost his job and, he says, “hurt my family.” “When I think back to that, I was selfish, self- centered selfish.” He adds that “being locked up has affected my ability to provide…..I have that scar on my background of being a felon and sometimes you’re…not regarded as a full citizen. Other than that, given the opportunity I’m sure I’d be a good provider just like was once before I was locked up.”
These days, he is not working and “not able to pay child support payments. I’m in the process of dealing with child support to get those payments downsized or deleted if possible.” Watkins says. He says that when he starts a job, “within the modification….I won’t have any problem pertaining to child support because that’s part of my responsibility, so that’s how I feel about that.” Currently, his says he is “trying to get into get into a CNC [Computer Numerical Control] program.”
These days, Watkins is eager to “humble himself” and “come to an agreement” with the mother of his child. “I want to be with the boy,” he says.
How can he reconnect with his son? That’s a complex question, but he says that FFHC and the dialogue he has had with other fathers are making a difference. Through FFHC, he is learning more about legal issues, child support and other issues that impact his life. He is also, he says, concerned about the bigger picture — community and issues that impact the nation like the Trayvon Martin case. “It’s my responsibility to keep an eye on the community. “Every once in a while,” he says, “I see a young cat, and I’ll try to pull him to the side and say some of the experiences that I’ve had and relate that to him in a respectful manner.” Meanwhile, his response to the Martin case evokes personal memories. “They used to sic the dogs on us, so there’s so many things when I think about that, it’s just racism.”
Even with the barriers and challenges he faces, Watkins retains a strong sense of hope.
“I’m excited about my future,” Watkins adds. “Even though I’ve been out of work for a while I’m in the process of bettering myself. As far as being with my son, I’m hoping that he would accept me for who I am, but at the same time I want to make him proud of me. I want him to look at me and be proud of me and say: “Hey, this is my Pops.”
- Father Profile: Larry MorrisI view my future as being bright. As long as I can support and provide for my children and keep […]
- Father Profile: James GilliamAs statistics show, children without fathers in their home tend to go astray. It will affect all of […]
- Father Profile: Reggie LeeI have the mindset to succeed and continue to be a great father for both of my children. Reggie Lee […]
- Father Profile: Darnell WatkinsIt’s my responsibility to keep an eye on the community. Darnell Watkins, who grew up in what he […]