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Center for Fathers, Families and Workforce Development

The Father's Journey

 /upload/images/familystrengthening/fathers1.jpg(c) 2004 Jim Graham

The Center for Fathers, Families and Workforce Development (CFWD) strengthens families by serving an historically underserved member, the father. CFWD reaches out to young, low-income men in Baltimore, MD and helps them in their roles as fathers, emotionally and financially. "In low-income communities, fathers are often alienated by child support efforts and programs," says Joseph Jones, founder, president and CEO. CFWD brings them into a network of supports and opportunities.

CFWD offers parenting classes and support groups for these men, the majority of whom are unemployed. Advocates help fathers reach goals they set together, such as paying child support, getting and keeping jobs and finishing school. "Teaching young guys to be parents is tough," Jones says. "There is a street culture that says fatherhood isn't macho." CFWD developed a curriculum to counteract the stigma many of the men associate with being a caregiver. Ex-offenders find special help re-connecting to their families and getting jobs.

The Center also works with couples, together and estranged, in its 50/50 program, which teaches parenting skills and helps each couple develop a parenting plan. CFWD provides employment training for men and women through STRIVE, (Support and Training Result in Valuable Employees), a national workforce development agency. CareerPath, yet another CFWD program, helps STRIVE graduates advance in their jobs and increase their wages.

Initially, the biggest challenge for CFWD was recruiting men from tough communities. "Establishing trust was a big hurdle," explains Jones. "We did it with our consistent staff and presence in the community." CFWD has helped more than 2,000 families get stronger. Jones is now setting his sights outside Baltimore on Washington DC, where he is working to change policy to meet the needs of low-income fathers and families.

"The support of other fathers has given me confidence as a dad. I spend as much time as possible with my son and love being part of his development."

Dominick Walker, graduate of CFWD's 50/50 program

Preparing for the Future

At 18 years old, Dominick Walker and his fiancée, Charice Diggs, found themselves poised to be parents. Both had just graduated from high school and were unsure about having a baby. Diggs took part in a maternal and child health program, which referred them to the Center for Fathers, Families and Workforce Development (CFWD).

Walker and Diggs attended classes in CFWD's 50/50 parenting program every Monday night for ten weeks, and Walker joined a support group for fathers. "It was important," says Walker, who was working two jobs. "I had to make the time."

(c) 2004 Jim Graham

Class topics ranged from practical information, such as changing diapers, to more emotional subjects, such as assessing relationships, communications between partners and developing a co-parenting plan. "Being pregnant was hard," says Diggs. "The 50/50 classes made me feel better. They helped Dominick and me communicate better, prepare for being parents and set personal goals to improve ourselves."

The couple's son, Zion Xavier Walker, was born in April 2003. "We are stronger parents because of the support we got at CFWD," says Walker. "It's hard work, our relationship has grown as a result."

A Healthy Start for Families

"We need to change the way we look at fatherhood in this country, to see fathers as important parts of families. We need to work at bringing them in, not send them running."

Joseph Jones
President and CEO

The Center for Fathers, Families and Workforce Development (CFWD) grew from the work of Joseph Jones, the founder, president and CEO, in the early 1990s at Baltimore Healthy Start. In an effort to reduce infant mortality rates, Jones counseled young, drug-addicted and pregnant women, many of whom beat their addictions only to go home to men who were addicts or engaged in the drug trade. "We were spinning our wheels," says Jones. "The male partners were not getting the support they needed so they could help the women." Jones started Men's Services, a division of Healthy Start, to recruit the mother's male partners. In 1999, with backing from the Baltimore Health Commissioner, Jones opened CFWD to expand services. He rolled Men's Services into CFWD and added STRIVE and CareerPath, two programs that help participants prepare for work, find jobs and advance in the workplace to strengthen family resources.

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