Summit County Fatherhood Initiative

Dina Younis \
June 21, 2016

After spending nearly 28 years of his life in and out of prison, the setting was all too familiar for Michael as he stood in the court room facing charges for domestic violence and child endangering. This time, however, Michael knew it was time to make things right.

During his last trial, he made the unusual request to speak to the judge privately, where he expressed his motivation to change and asked to plead guilty to all six counts against him. Impressed with his motivation to do better, the judge sentenced him to six years in prison, instead of the expected 18-21 years.

While serving his sentence, Michael attended every anger management, behavior modification and parenting class available to him.  He began working on a certificate in barbering so he had a vocation upon re-entering the community. Michael was so committed to completing his certificate that he declined his eligibility for a six month early release in order to complete his courses.

After prison, Michael became the father to a baby boy named Anthony. As a result of his mother’s addiction and drug use, Anthony spent four weeks in intensive care to overcome the effects of the drugs. As this began to take a toll on Michael, he was referred to the Summit County Fatherhood Initiative (SCFI) for fatherhood classes.

Here, Michael found guidance to achieve personal success and support to become a better father.

Based on a national initiative, SCFI is a local collaborative that was founded by three Summit County fatherhood service providers; Pastor Eugene Norris of Fame Fathers, Don Lykes of Fathers and Sons of Northeast Ohio, and Frank Williams of Man2Man. SCFI equips fathers like Michael with the skills and resources they need to become involved, responsible, and committed parents.

Studies show that children whose fathers are stable and involved perform better in socially and emotionally, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior. Even when fathers do not share a home with their children, their active involvement can have a lasting and positive impact.

SCFI offers free education and mentoring programs for all fathers, including remarried, single, co-parenting, custodial, non custodial, recovering, formerly incarcerated and re-entry fathers. SCFI also provides fathers with job readiness skills and family-friendly social events to connect with their children.

The end result is stronger families and children who grow up to become involved, responsible adults.

After Anthony was released from the hospital and placed into foster care, Michael asked for and received unsupervised home visits, which then lead to protective custody. The court, impressed with Michael’s commitment to Anthony and becoming a good father, terminated the case granting Michael full custody.

Today, Michael and Anthony live as father and son in an apartment in Akron. Michael takes little Anthony to work with him each day, where he is gainfully employed as a barber in the neighborhood in which he grew up. This past fall, he was recognized by Governor Kasich and the Public Children Services Association of Ohio with the 2015 Family of the Year Award.  Achieving a goal as ambitious as the one Michael set that day in the court room is no easy feat, especially when the odds always seem to be stacked against you.  With perseverance, mentorship, and a hopeful heart, Michael was able to achieve personal change and success as a father.

For more information about the Summit County Fatherhood Initiative and family-focused events, visit their website summitfathers.org.

 

*this story originally appeared in the December, 2015 SCFI newsletter. It was edited for GAR’s use.
Header image by Chetan Menaria