On Father's Day, the Post and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina) highlighted the work the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families does to help men play active roles in their children's lives and why dads are so vital to the well-being of their children, the safety of communities and the economy of the state. The article also highlighted the impact the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina has had on the center.
The text of the article is below or available here.
by Rickey Ciapha Dennis Jr.
The Post and Courier
June 19, 2021
The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina is widely known for the millions of dollars the faith-based group gives to organizations combating poverty.
The $80 million distributed over the past two decades to help improve people’s lives is a substantial amount of money. But the group’s work extends beyond awarding grants.
The foundation’s S.C. Center for Fathers and Families aims to help men play active roles in their children’s lives.
“Children need both parents,” said Pat Littlejohn, president of the center which guides the work of six fatherhood programs throughout the state.
The center grew out of a statewide initiative launched by the Sisters of Charity Foundation in 1997 targeting at reducing child poverty by reengaging dads with families. The center operates as a public-private partnership with the Department of Social Services.
There are connections between a family’s socioeconomic status and the involvement of the male parent, Littlejohn said.
Children are five times more likely to be poor if they come from fatherless homes, she said. Also, the likelihood for teens to commit suicide, drop out of high school and get pregnant also rises when dads are absent, Littlejohn said.
Fathers who lack a presence in their children’s lives are often deemed “deadbeat dads,” said Tom Keith, president of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina.
That label is unfair to most fathers because the men, especially those with criminal backgrounds, often struggle to get jobs with livable wages, Keith said.
“There are many complicated factors that play into a father’s lack of success,” Keith said.
One effort of the center to keep men from going to jail for not paying child support has been the center’s alternative incarceration program. The initiative enables family court judges to send men to a local fatherhood coalition where they learn about parenting and economic mobility, and also participate in peer group sessions.
The goal is to help the men overcome barriers that are hindering their ability to pay child support.
“So many men are willing, but unable to pay,” Littlejohn said.
Some fathers need legal support to gain visitation.
Columbia resident James Rogers connected with the center two years ago. His now-ex-wife had at the time been preventing Rogers from seeing their two daughters, Rogers said.
Rogers, a veteran who works as a Columbia police officer, learned about the fatherhood coalition in the Midlands. The group provided him with a case worker and also connected him with a lawyer. In two years, Rogers successfully obtained rights to see his girls.
Being with his daughters, which happens every other weekend, is an indescribable accomplishment, Rogers said.
“It’s such a good feeling to know they’re here,” he said.
Rogers agrees children benefit from having two-parent households.
As a father who works in law enforcement, he is able to relay to his children the importance of being safe and vigilant, he said. Rogers emphasizes to his girls the need to stay away from strangers and to always look out for each other.
″(Fathers) have that stern, alpha male instinct to say, ‘You see danger, you walk away from danger,’ ” he said.
The fatherhood program has has economic benefits, too, leaders said. Forty percent of the men who came to the program from 2015 to 2020 entered as an alternative to incarceration. If those men had instead been placed in jail, it would have cost taxpayers $27 million, Littlejohn said.
“I think the more stable families we have, the more stable communities we have,” she said.
The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families and the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina are ministries of the Sisters of Charity Health System.
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