Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Becoming Dad: Why Fatherhood Programs are Ineffective at Best and Dangerous to Children at Worst (Memphis, Tennessee)

This is one of those garden variety pro-fatherhood program articles that are very common in the media these days. But I want to point out a few things I find interesting.

As usual, do-gooders are barking up the wrong tree. As we divert ever scarcer resources to programs like this--which at best are ineffective, and at worse are busy diverting child custody to criminal fathers--we continue to ignore some of the most fundamental problems in this country. Namely SKY HIGH unemployment, especially in the Black community but hardly exclusively within the Black community. And why do we have such high unemployment? Need we go into the wholesale shipment of American jobs overseas to countries paying peanut wages? All so "American" corporations can squeeze out a few more dollars in profit while collecting handsome U.S. tax benefits in the process? But once again the real story of why fathers (and people in general) have become "marginalized" within the Brave New Economy is ignored and unaddressed.

Job training is lovely, but often the jobs are for lower paying service jobs which have a way of evaporating over time as as well (or never materializing to start with). And where job training DOES make a difference, why are we tying up all the funding in Fatherhood programs? Absolutely ridiculous! Job training and mentoring should be available to EVERYONE--regardless of sex, gender, or parenthood status. It is nothing but rank discrimination to exclude other people who also need these services.

In reality, I think more work needs to be done with those coming out of the jail and prison, too. These days, many, many people are sent to prison for nothing but having drug addiction issues. Many of these people could be helped to re-enter society with with just a little assistance with housing, drug treatment, etc. . But again, why is the work being cloaked under "fatherhood"? Can't women benefit from assistance in coming out of prison? Men who never "fathered" a child? (And in reality, many of these guys were never married to the mother and NEVER played any role in that child's life. So calling them "fathers" is just a bit misleading as they are "fathers" in the biological sense only.)

Moment of honesty. Maybe the dad featured below is truly a Nice Guy who made some Bad Choices. On the other hand, maybe he really is a violent thug--after all, he was in prison for ARMED ROBBERY.

Unfortunately, future employers really don't know which, and that's why they're reluctant to hire these guys. For better or for worse, employers have a choice. They don't let themselves get "guilt tripped" into hiring just anybody. And if they do hire these guys, it's going to be a level where they're not able to do much damage. You're not going to hand the books over to an ex-offender. Or the weekly payroll. Or hire them as teacher's aides. In fact, trust has to be EARNED if they are to retain an even low-paying, entry-level job.

The same courtesies are NOT awarded to the ex-girlfriends, the mothers of children "fathered" by these ex-offenders. Too often, these programs basically pressure these ex-girlfriends to "get on board" with the program, and may offer them a false sense of assurance that their ex has "really changed" and has become a safe person to "co-parent" with.

NO! A few weeks of mentoring DOES NOT change a guy with a volatile temper and a low frustration level--a guy with a criminal record no less--into a loving caregiver of babies. It does NOT mean that Daddy is ready for joint custody or regular "babysitting."


According to the Child Advocacy Center, since 2005, the group has raised a flag, in honor of a murdered child, 40 times. Almost 60 percent of the perpetrators charged were male caregivers, either the biological father, step father, or the mother's boyfriend. Of the 40 children who were killed, 28 percent were killed by the actual father.

And these programs want to send MORE KIDS into care by men? Why? So more kids will die?


Becoming Dad: One Man’s Journey to Fatherhood
Updated: Monday, 14 Feb 2011, 8:08 PM CST
Published : Monday, 14 Feb 2011, 8:08 PM CST

Lauren Johnson

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - In our continuing coverage of the teen pregnancy issue, we take a look at another program focused on fathers and soon to be dads. In Memphis, 52% of kids are being raised by single mothers. One program at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital is hoping to improve that grim statistic by focusing on fathers.

“I can't do nothing but cope with it.”

24-year old Willie Jackson Jr. is opening up about his life to his mentor Oliver Williams.

“He was like just give me three months to work with you, I said, ok, I'll give it a try,” said Jackson.

The two met by chance, and now Williams is walking alongside Jackson for support. The advice is free, but the payoff is priceless.

They talk it out. Williams asks questions to learn more about Jackson's journey.

“It’s difficult for me because I have a felony,” said Jackson.

Jackson said he ran with the wrong crowd as a teen. A string of robberies landed him behind bars, and when he was 18-years old, he was sentenced to five years in prison. Jackson admits he's paying for his troubled past now.

“That's one thing I do have working against me,” said Jackson.

He was released 14 months ago and is trying to change his path in life. He's going back to school to get his GED but the job search hasn't been so promising.

“Probably about 25 to 30 a week. (Reporter) Really? (Jackson) Trying to get a job.”

He knows exactly why he's having trouble, but he's in a race against time to make money.

“(Reporter) What kind of father do you want to be? (Jackson) the best I can be.”

His 20-year old girlfriend is expecting a baby.

“The result came back and it was like huh, like seriously are you? ok? (Reporter) So were you completely shocked? (Jackson) Yeah, I was like ok so now that this is here, we need to deal with it.”

Notice he said "we" not "she." Jackson said although they aren't married, he doesn't want to be a deadbeat dad.

Jackson signed himself up for the fatherhood program at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital to help teach him strategies and skill. Its how he met Williams, a fatherhood educator.

“The ratios and the numbers that I have are suggesting some of them do not have a father present in their home, so because of the fatherlessness in their home, they've taken it upon themselves to be better fathers,” said Williams.

Williams said the goal of the program is to help young men, 16 to 24 years old, become responsible fathers through education and mentoring.

“Our program is going to work for you to help you become a responsible father and I want to take what you get from us and really open doors for others, cause that’s what its all about,” said Williams.

Preventing child abuse and neglect is also a major part of the model. Statistics show many kids killed in Shelby County die at the hands of a male caregiver.

According to the Child Advocacy Center, since 2005, the group has raised a flag, in honor of a murdered child, 40 times. Almost 60 percent of the perpetrators charged were male caregivers, either the biological father, step father, or the mother's boyfriend. Of the 40 children who were killed, 28 percent were killed by the actual father.

Jackson wants to do better.

“I want to be able to be at my child first game, I want to be able to be there when my child takes his first steps, be around, whether I’m with the mother or not,” said Jackson.

He's learning. It’s a slow, gradual process, but its working.

“I got a lot of confidence in you man, I believe you can do it,” said Williams to Jackson.

The journey is not always an easy one. The desire to nurture the next generation isn't a job for one man.

“The need is great; the need is so great that it’s too big for one organization. Here at Le Bonheur, we only have one piece of the pie,” said Williams.

While the soon-to-be father continues his search for gainful employment before the baby arrives, his mentor, friend, and confidant will continue to encourage, listen, and pray until they meet again.