Charisma Community Connection
Working with the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood since 2009, Fame Fathers helps Ohio dads to reengage and recommit to their children.
Fame Fathers: Bringing Men Back Into Family Life
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of three children in America now live in homes where the biological father is absent. 56 percent of the households in Summit County with adolescent children are single-parent households.
According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor – and they have significantly greater rates of future incarceration – than kids from families where dad is active and engaged. By contrast, children with fathers or significant males in their lives are more likely to earn higher grades, graduate from high school, avoid violence, and cope better with negative peer pressure.
Clearly, fathers matter.
Since 2009, Akron-based Fame Fathers has worked with over 700 men in five Ohio counties. The organization’s approach is designed for men from all cultures, races, religions, and backgrounds. Programs include:
- 24/7 Dads: a certified, national six-session program for fathers wishing to become better parents including a session on ‘the seven habits of a 24/7 dad’;
- Daddy Boot Camp: a one-day class for experienced dads to prepare and coach new or expectant dads in collaboration with local health facilities;
- Inside-Out Dads: preparing incarcerated fathers for re-entry.
Fame Fathers’ CEO Eugene Norris says, “Childhood is a special time in your life. It is a valuable time of increasing curiosity and limitless potential. It is a time that in many ways sets the foundation upon which your life’s work will be built. At Fame Fathers, we recognize how important good fathers are to the development of happy, healthy, well-adjusted children.”
A major part of Fame Fathers’ work is their outreach effort. “Most fathers already think they are good dads,” says Norris, “so getting their buy-in to the program and keeping them engaged can at times be a challenge.” Darrell, a recent graduate of the program said, “When I first attended I didn’t think I needed it, but after a couple of sessions I really learned a lot and enjoyed it.” Fame Fathers works closely with Child Protective Services, Child Support, schools, and churches to help men strengthen their relationship with their children and to be responsible committed and involved fathers. Fame Fathers’ representatives are found at sporting events, correctional facilities, booths at events sponsored by the Attorney General’s office, and other community outreach events. “We go where the men go,” says Norris.
Once participants are in the program, they work through one of the fatherhood curriculums. The end results are different for each family. For many, the success of the program is measured by how much more time the fathers are spending with their children. Fame Fathers has seen about a quarter of their graduates increase that time. The quality of the time matters too. Ron, another recent program graduate, says: “Fatherhood is being present. It’s one thing to be in the room, but being present is being active so that they know you care.”
Committing to support their children financially is another variable tracked by Fame Fathers. “Understanding that raising a child is expensive, and recognizing their responsibility in providing for their child” is an important measure of success for the organization, says Norris. A Census Bureau report from December 2011 indicated that only 41 percent of divorced moms awarded child support actually received it. Less is known about the rates of support provided by unwed fathers, though researchers digging into the data from the national Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study have suggested that high percentages of biological fathers not married to their child’s mother are either unwilling or unable to provide financial support. In this light, the fact that nearly 30 percent of Fame Fathers’ participants step up to provide financial support for their kids is notable, even if more progress is still needed. Ryan, another recent graduate, reflects the attitude Fame Fathers is trying to instill. “Fatherhood is taking care of responsibilities,” he says.
In addition to providing direct services to dads, Norris (who is also a pastor) is passionate about creating “father-friendly” atmospheres. If you go to hospitals, Child Protection Services, Child Support, and even schools,” he laments, “fathers often do not feel welcomed.” Most fathers are not what is perceived as “dead beat dads,” Norris believes. “They want to be involved with their children but the community around them doesn’t often promote it.”
To help address this, Fame Fathers encourages fathers or significant males to accompany their child to school for a day. This initiative, in partnership with local schools, is designed to increase father involvement with their child’s education and receive information that mothers would have customarily heard throughout the year. One young father said of his attendance at one of these days that, “I am here because I love my child and I want them to see that.” A principle at one of the schools was so overwhelmed that, through her tears, said “I’ve never seen this many men in our school and we haven’t had any discipline problems today!”
The nonprofit also sponsors the annual “Fame Fathers Walk” to raise the profile of the program and get men to actively partake in a fun and memorable activity with their kids. Over 11,000 men have participated in this Walk over the past four years.
Fame Fathers, a program of Charisma Community Connection and the Summit County Fatherhood Initiative, is one out of seven groups in the state that receives funding from the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood. “The [Commission] has been a tremendous support through the resources they have opened to us,” says Norris, “alongside what we have learned from the Cuyahoga County Fatherhood initiative and the Ohio Practitioner Network of Fathers and families.” “We could not do [our work] without the assistance of organizations like these.”
Norris reports that his organization has developed its curricula by attending other programs, gleaning their best practices, and learning which organizations had the best materials and were achieving good outcomes. From such research, Fame Fathers’ own programs are continually developing to best reflect the fathers’ needs and desires to have meaningful relationships with their children.
Not only does Fame Fathers conduct their program themselves, they also “train other groups and organizations to run the initiative so that if funding goes, the program and knowledge stay within our community and the work can go on,” Norris explains.
Norris is proud of the work his group does. In 2014, Charisma Community Connection was awarded the State of Ohio’s Martin Luther King Holiday Commission ‘Economic Opportunity Award’ for the work they do in getting fathers back into sustainable jobs in their community. “We were also invited to the White House along with other national fatherhood organizations to discuss this work and other fatherhood activities,” Norris reports enthusiastically.