Ed. Note: Story is modified from an article that first appeared in the St. Louis American. Read the original story here.
Mario Turner sat among 22 members of the Fathers' Support Center of St. Louis' 100th graduating class hosted by Bank of America on Wednesday, February 19, 2014.
His two-year-old daughter, Mia, sat on her father's knee, bashfully holding her father's folder containing his graduation certificate.
Turner said he joined the program to learn how to be a better father and he learned how to be more loving and understanding.
"I'm not a quitter at anything," Turner said. "I believe in following it all the way through."
Halbert Sullivan, President and CEO of Fathers' Support Center (FSC), said the graduating class of 22 started with more than 60 men.
"Men sharpen men," Sullivan said. "We have 22 who stood the test, and I'd like to give them my own applause."
"Fatherhood is one of the greatest callings that we ever receive in our lifetime," said Michael McMillan, President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, who gave the keynote address.
Also on hand were representatives from Sen. Claire McCaskill's office, Sen. Roy Blunt's office, Dr. Jeffery M. Johnson, President and CEO for the National Partnership for Community Leadership and author of the Fatherhood Development Curriculum.
Learn more about Fathers’ Support Center in St. Louis at www.fatherssupportcenter.org
Ed. Note: This story previously appeared on the AdoptUsKids and ACF websites. View the posting on the ACF Family Room Blog.
Barry Farmer's family is unusual, but not just because he is black and his son is white.
Although, he admits, that is pretty unusual.
“I would have never thought in a million years that I would adopt a white child,” he said with a laugh. He tells his son, Darrell, 10, that their family is unique. “You probably won't see anybody like us in your lifetime. It's rare.”
“I have no problem adopting outside of my race,” he said. “Everybody deserves love and deserves a family.”
The heart, he said, knows no color. Farmer's extended family embraced Darrell with open arms.
“He fits right in. He doesn't look like he fits in, but he fits in,” Farmer said. “He's like a little rock star when he goes to my aunt's house. When they hear he is coming, they get so excited.”
Becoming a Foster Parent
Farmer's route to becoming an adoptive parent didn't have many detours. Not only is Farmer single, he is also 25 years old. He started the process to become a foster parent when he was 20.
“I've never been the type of guy to party or go to the club,” he said. “I wanted a family. I wanted a child to take care of and to show them different things and share experiences with them before I got too old.”
When he first considered fostering, he didn't think beyond providing a temporary, loving home to a child in need.
“I just thought foster kids go back to their birth families, or they move along,” he said.
Farmer describes the early stages of the process for him as “going out on a limb.” At the time, he was working in a daycare and knew it was his calling to work with youth. Now Farmer is a behavioral counselor working with children with emotional issues.
“I thought this was the perfect chance to make a difference,” he said. He saw an ad in the newspaper for foster parent training and investigated. Although he was young, he said the social worker with whom he met saw potential in him.
Part of the desire to become a foster parent was his own experience of his grandmother raising him after his birth mother neglected him and his siblings.
“I know the feeling to have nothing, to be hopeless,” he said. “I knew I could relate to these kids on that level and give them hope, some light at the end of the tunnel to show them they can come out of it.”
He credits his grandmother with helping him become the man he is today.
“Living with my grandmother, she taught me independence, to go out into the world,” Farmer said. “She taught me to mingle with different people, to not just stick to one characteristic of people, to broaden your horizons.”
His first foster placement, when Farmer was 21, was a teenager who arrived at Farmer's apartment on his 16th birthday.
The teen was considered a “high risk placement,” Farmer said, and stayed for eight months.
Farmer said he did well, and formed a tight bond with the youth. Ultimately, however, the teen was moved to a residence that could attend to his special needs.
“I hated to see him go,” Farmer said.
A month later, he received an email about a 7-year-old boy named Darrell.
“I only got to meet him for 30 minutes,” Farmer said. “By the end of the week he was in my home and has never left.”
Transitioning From Fostering to Adopting
At first, Farmer believed the arrangement was temporary. Then Darrell began calling Farmer “Dad,” and their bond grew strong.
When Darrell received word that his mother had her parental rights terminated, Farmer's heart broke along with his son's.
“I could see the hurt in his face,” Farmer said.
The time came for Darrell to leave Farmer's house, and he was placed with a potential adoptive family that caseworkers believed fit his needs.
“I was absolutely distraught,” Farmer said. “I didn't know I was going to be that upset. I was physically sick. I love that kid. That kid should be with me.”
Although on paper it appeared Darrell's new family would have been a great fit – he had said he wanted a mother, a father, and a brother – Darrell lasted a week before wanting to return to Farmer.
The caseworker called Farmer and asked if he was interested in adoption.
“Me?” Farmer remembers saying. “Yeah, show me the papers, we can do that tomorrow. I love that kid.”
The next time he saw Darrell, the boy ran to him and jumped in his arms.
Farmer has shifted his focus away from solely fostering, and is interested in adopting as many as two more children. He recently located a boy from Pennsylvania on AdoptUSKids’ photolisting of waiting children, and met with him this month.
“I don't take kids just to give them back,” Farmer said. “If I don't like what he is doing, I want to help him improve.”
Engaging African American Families to Foster and Adopt
The key to engaging African American families in foster care and adoption, Farmer said, is to help families gain a better understanding of the children in the system and to stop believing the “horror stories.”
“It takes really understanding what is going on with the children,” he said. “To put themselves in those kids' shoes, and then they can understand that they can make a real difference.”
The children, Farmer said, have something to say.
“The problem is nobody is listening. When somebody hears them, they start to feel better. They start to heal and start to move on. If more African American families understood that, they would jump at the opportunity to foster or adopt. If they truly understood that all they have to do sometimes is listen to them.”
After talking to Darrell about their family, and how it feels to be in a mixed-ethnicity home, Darrell is happy with his forever family.
“He says, 'I'm glad I'm different, I like to stick out now,'” Farmer said, recalling Darrell's words. “'I get to show people what love really is.'”
AdoptUSKids is a service of the U.S. Children’s Bureau and has been in operation since 2002 by the Adoption Exchange Association under a cooperative agreement (grant #90CQ0003). The mission of AdoptUSKids is two-fold: to raise public awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families for children in the public child welfare system; and to assist U.S. States, Territories, and Tribes to recruit and retain foster and adoptive families and connect them with children.
Dads are often superheroes at home, but what their job can vary pretty drastically from day to day. A company that supports the balance between work and family helps dads be super no matter where they are.
Most jobs meet the basic function of giving dads the pay that allows them to support their family. But some companies are offering perks that strengthen dads’ ability to take care of the home and family.
Many companies offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) for their employees to provide support in their personal lives, typically at no additional cost to employees. EAPs are usually operated through human resources departments. They offer assistance with finding child or adult care, mental health support, wellness services, planning for college, or parenting and relationship classes. Large and small companies offer EAPs and often for all employees, full-and part-time.
Beyond a EAPs, here’s a list of father-friendly perks, and the companies behind them from Business Insider’s list of 2013 Top 50 Employers. These companies are strengthening families through offering their employees parental superpowers.
Note: Click on the benefit to learn more. Click on the company to search their open opportunities.
1. Unlimited Sick Days and Free On-Site Health Care – SAS Institute
2. Free Yacht Rentals for Family Relaxation – JM Family Enterprises
3. Six-Week Paid Sabbatical Every Four Years – Autodesk
4. On-Site Farmers Market and Veggie Subscriptions – QualComm
5. Free Flights for the Entire Family – Southwest Airlines
6. Paid Time Off for Field Trips, Parent-Teacher Conferences, and More - Mattel, Inc.
7. Private Concierge to Help You Tackle the Chores – Johnson & Johnson
8. Winter Recess and 12 Holidays – Boeing
9. Fitness Centers for the Whole Family – The Hershey Company
10. 3 Weeks of Leave from the Start – General Mills
11. On-Site Doctors, Physical Therapists, and More – Cisco Systems
12. On-Site Kindergarten and After-School Programs – Campbell’s Soup Company
If you’re a dad, these could be a few cool places to work.
If you’re an employer, use this list to inspire adjustments to your perk list and benefit offerings to help strengthen dads and families.
Jovan Hackley, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
Barbershops in Dothan, Alabama have been buzzing with the news--stronger fathers build stronger communities. Spearheaded by Kris Doss with Healthy You, Inc., this Fall's Fatherhood Buzz brought four local barbershops together to facilitate a conversation between local dads on why staying healthy is so important. Over 175 people came into the four shops during the two-day event to talk and learn about the importance of fatherhood.
Supporting active fathers is one of the best ways to create a more vibrant and healthy community. When the father is present in the home, the mother can feel more supported. I have seen daughters often grow up with higher self-esteem and sons benefit from having a positive male role model. This multi-faceted effect on the family creates a better environment in the home and the community. But in order to be there for their families, fathers have to take care of themselves.
The culture of the barbershop lends itself to this type of conversation. Men of all ages spend the time chatting with their friends about a wide variety of topics. They often bring their sons with them, allowing the younger men to hear their fathers speak and learn from their example. It’s a great place to bring up the issues facing fathers today in a relaxed and comfortable environment.
Two barbershops, DJ’s Classic Cuts and His and Hers Barber and Beauty, hosted the first events with about 100 people who discussed why dads matter. The second event nearly doubled in size, adding Squirt and Louie’s and Styles Unlimited to the participating shops. With such a positive response from both the Dothan community and local media, events like Fatherhood Buzz are set to bring change to the area. A third Fatherhood Buzz event is planned for early next year focusing on relationships between fathers and members of their family.
The mission of Healthy You, Inc. is to enhance quality of life for citizens of Alabama through educational health initiatives and public awareness campaigns teaching personal responsibility when making lifestyle choices. This project is funded in part by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Administration for Children and Families,
Laura Stakelum is Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator for Healthy You Inc.
To find out more about upcoming Fatherhood Buzz efforts and ways to join - visit For Programs - Fatherhood Buzz
A few weeks ago, America was introduced to Doyin Richards, a corporate professional managing many different responsibilities, who decided to take some time for his most important job, being a dad. A photo of himself, an African American father, and his two young daughters—one resting comfortably against his chest and another having her hair brushed as she prepped for school—went viral. In many ways, he hoped that the picture would dispel some of the misperceptions about fathers, in general and African American fathers, in particular. To Doyin and many like him, his role as an engaged and dedicated father is nothing new or out of the ordinary.
According to a recent report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, Mr. Richards is not alone. Today, despite many assumptions, many fathers are more involved in their children’s lives than any other previous generation. Research has shown that increased involvement of fathers in their children’s lives is associated with a range of positive outcomes. The National Center for Health Statistics report conducted a national representative study interviewing fathers on measures of father involvement. The report’s findings challenge many common stereotypes regarding father involvement.
Using data gathered from various racial and ethnic groups, age cohorts, and relationship types, the study finds that father involvement and social outcomes for children were consistently linked. Resident and non-resident fathers played an important role in the development of children. In an interview with NewsOne Now, Kenneth Braswell, Director of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, says, “The perception of fathers as being generally uninvolved and absent is often misleading. Many fathers are vital and active forces in their children’s lives.”
The report finds, among other conclusions, that of fathers living with their children under the age of 5,
- 96% ate meals with their children every day or several times a day;
- 98% played with their children that often; and,
- 90% bathed, diapered or dressed their children every day or several times a week.
For fathers of school aged children (5- to 18-years-old),
- 93% of fathers living with their children ate meals together and
- 92.5% talked with their children about things that happened during their day several times a week or every day.
Of fathers living apart from their children,
- 30% ate meals with their children every day or several times a week;
- 39% played with their children several or more times a week; and,
- 31% bathed, diapered, or dressed their children several times a week.
The study challenged some perceptions of fathers when it looked at father involvement within specific ethnic groups.
- A larger percentage of black fathers (41%) helped co-residential children with homework every day in the last 4 weeks compared with Hispanic (29%) or white (28%) fathers.
- Among fathers living with their school-aged children, 21% took their children to or from activities every day. This percentage was higher, 27%, for black fathers.
- For fathers living with children under the age of 5, black fathers (70%) were most likely to have bathed, dressed, diapered, or helped their children use the toilet every day compared with white (60%) and Hispanic fathers (45%).
“These guys are engaged,” says Braswell. “We need to find the capacity to be able to build them up so they can be more engaged in the lives of their children.” Though through new research like this new study, “daddy blogs” like Doyin Richards’ and others, TV shows featuring all types of dads, and the President’s ongoing support for fathers and fatherhood, involved and engaged fathers are becoming more and more a part of our national conversation.
Across the country, responsible fatherhood programs are encouraging fathers to be more engaged. Programs help connect fathers to each other and their families, build skills, and open eyes to the important impact fathers have on the lives of their children. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families' Office of Family Assistance, and other Federal programs help fund and support fatherhood and father serving programs across the country.