May 31, 2011

Columbia Star Highlights Success of Fatherhood Initiatives in South Carolina

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina and South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families were featured in the following Columbia Star story for their work to enlighten the minds, encourage the hearts, and empower the spirits of men as fathers.

In 1996, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina began examining the family structure through research that revealed father absence is a key contributor to fractured families, poverty, and many negative social and economic outcomes for children. The foundation launched the Fatherhood Initiative, Reducing Poverty Through Father Engagement, with two goals: to support the development of fatherhood programs and to build community capacity. In 1997 the Foundation pooled several community partners to apply for planning grants. The foundation funded 17 fatherhood programs for three years and extended funding with the help of the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS).

In 2002, the foundation created the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families to serve as the driving force to ensure that the programs continue through resource development, expansion, and policy research.

Today there are currently six programs, 11 sites serving the following areas: Columbia, Lexington, Winnsboro, Conway, Myrtle Beach, North Charleston, Georgetown, Bennettsville, Lancaster, Greenville, and Spartanburg.

Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, serving in Richland, Lexington, and Fairfield counties has been in existence since 1999. It serves a minimal of 340 fathers and over 680 children annually. They work with fathers who volunteer to enroll in the program as well as fathers who are court ordered (mandated) to the program through Family Court.

Mandated fathers are enrolled into a component of the program called Alternative to Incarceration or ATI. ATI provides fathers who are in non–compliance with their child support payments an opportunity to meet both their emotional and financial responsibilities through the program instead of serving a jail sentence.

The success of this component has been contributed to the support of SCDSS Child Support Enforcement and Family Court. In 2006 alone, we served 301 court-ordered fathers. These fathers, on average, would have cost the state nearly $2.3 million if incarcerated for six months, the average child support non–payment sentence. Instead, they completed the fatherhood program, paid $699,530 in child support and arrears, and spent time with their children: better results at a fraction of the cost.

The constant desire is to enlighten the minds, encourage the hearts, and empower the spirits of men as fathers. The programs aim is for the activities to produce effective, civic–minded, responsible individuals who will lead their children into the world of great integrity, character, and success.

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina and the South Carolina Center for Father and Families are ministries of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

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From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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