The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping fathers become great dads through 15 fatherhood program centers across the state, has launched the 2016 Celebrating Fathers Campaign to educate the public on why and how “Dads Make a Difference” and to build awareness about the devastating impact of father absence on children and families.
The focal point of the campaign is a microsite, CelebratingFathers.com, which provides a snapshot of the importance of fatherhood programs, statewide impact by the numbers, and ways to support the work of the organization.
“With a mission to help fathers become the best dads they can be, the weeks leading up to Father’s Day provide the perfect time to celebrate the irreplaceable role of dads in building strong, stable families,” said Pat Littlejohn, executive director of The Center. “It is also a time to increase understanding about father absence and how children are adversely affected by it.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live in father-absent homes. Research shows that children raised without the presence of a nurturing father are four times more likely to live a life in poverty. They are more likely to drop out of school, engage in criminal activity, abuse drugs or alcohol and experience teen pregnancy.
While the term “deadbeat dad” is often used to describe absent fathers, the term does not apply to most fathers estranged from their children.
“The reality of the situation, especially in South Carolina, is that most dads are dead broke dads rather than deadbeat dads. They are living at or below the poverty line themselves,” said Richard Barr, director of community development and programming. “Most of these fathers really want to be a positive presence in the lives of their children but they are unemployed or working low-wage jobs that don’t provide the income to support a family. Many lack the education and training they need to secure better jobs. Many need help with understanding the legalities of things like child support and visitation. Most simply need a welcoming place to start. That’s where our work begins.”
The programs focus on parenting and communication skills, job readiness, legal education, and peer support. Fathers entering the program receive an orientation and a needs assessment for developing their “One Man Plan” which outlines the key areas of focus and work required to complete the six-month program.
In 2015, more than 1,500 fathers participated in fatherhood programs in their communities. Of those, 1,070 men gained and kept a job. Program participants paid a total of $1.22 million dollars in child support. Spending time in jobs, not jail, saved taxpayers more than $5.22 million in incarceration costs. Most importantly, more than 3,400 children’s lives were changed for the better.
Multiplying these results by the 12,600 father served since 2002 when The Center was established provides numbers that indicate the positive impact of fatherhood programs for children and families.
“Our work celebrates the importance of fathers every day,” said Littlejohn. “This Father’s Day, we invite people to visit CelebratingFathers.com to learn more about the positive impact of our work and to support our efforts to help dads become the responsible, engaged role models they need to be for their children and those who care about them.”
The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.
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