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Fathering programs help dads reconnect with kids and community

It's hard enough being a father. For noncustodial fathers, the challenge is more than making child support payments, dealing with child custody issues or visitation schedules. In too many cases, the challenge is maintaining a solid relationship with the child or children.

Illinois was one of the first states to introduce a program to help fathers understand and embrace their responsibilities. Nowadays, the programs are more common. All around the country, nonprofit organizations and state agencies offer resources for dads who need work, treatment or other services.

Fathering Court is one of those programs, but it's a program that targets a specific group of men: men who have just gotten out of prison. The program helps participants comply with child support orders and, while they're at it, improve their parenting skills.

Since its inception in 2008, Fathering Court has helped 50 fathers get back on their feet. Participants must be recently released from prison, and they must have child support obligations. The program helps with job searches, offers counseling services and provides other programs about parenting.

Most participants come into the program with health and relationship problems. Fathering Court may not provide direct services in every area, but the staff is able to connect participants with other programs or services that do address their needs. One of the thirteen dads who recently graduated from the year-long program commented that he had grown as a person and as a parent.

In some cases, the dads end the program with renewed relationships with their children. For others, completing the program makes it possible to begin that reconnection. Either way, children end up with more responsible dads who are better equipped to support them for years to come.

Source: The Blog of Legal Times, "Fourteen Men Graduate from 2011 Fathering Court Program in D.C.," Zoe Tillman, Jan. 27, 2012

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