Some fathers in the community face a number of legal and personal hurdles when reconnecting with their children. Luckily, a coalition of programs in Summit County is working to make local fathers more a part of their children’s lives, and helping local men understand their basic parenting rights.
Summit County Children Services has collaborated with Fame Fathers to recently graduate 10 local dads from the Father Factor program, which provides parents with education, resources and support to be active participants in their child’s life.
The program consists of nine mandatory classes and helps fathers address various needs including establishing paternity, gaining visitation, getting their license back and child support modification.
One local man was in the throes of addiction, which cost him custody of his daughter. With the help of Fame Fathers and Summit County Children Services, he established a case plan, improved his self image, got sober and found a job as a painter. Throughout his struggle, he kept a picture of his daughter in his pocket for motivation. The father, which the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood refers to as “MG,” now has regained custody of his child.
A program facilitator notes that one of the most important aspects of this and other like-minded programs is building a community of support for men. “It really turns into a father support group for men, which seldom and rarely happens, to talk about issues they are having (and) to be open about their cases,” said Program Facilitator Tarik West.
Another dad said the program emphasized the importance of being actively involved in his children’s lives and inspired feelings of responsibility and education through action. “All the money in the world, all the merchandise is nothing like spending time with your child. That’s the most important thing, and that’s what I got from the program.”
“Fame Fathers is trying to create a safe space and make a mark that cannot be erased,” said West. “We’re just trying to impact as many dads, families and children as possible.”
Fame Fathers is one of three organizations comprising the Summit County Fatherhood Initiative, a coalition assembled in 2013 with funding support from Akron Community Foundation. The other two programs are Man2Man and Fathers & Sons of Northeast Ohio.
For info about Summit County Children Services Father Factor program and upcoming events, contact Ann Ream at (330) 379-2070.