Fatherhood program lends support to dads

Published 10:50 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2012

John Doe is the father of 10 children born to nine mothers.

That’s not something he is especially proud of, but he is proud of his children and wants to do what is right by them. It’s not as simple as it sounds.

When Doe had a steady job and a decent income, he was able to provide financial support to his children. Then he lost his job and, with no money coming in, there was nothing for the many hands reaching out to him.

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He looked to the Pike County Fatherhood Initiative program for answers.

“About 10 weeks ago, I volunteered to come to the Fatherhood program because I needed somebody that could give me advice and help me through a real hard time,” Doe said. “But I’d just got started good when the court ordered me to go to the program because I couldn’t make my child support payments.

“I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have any money to pay my own bills, so I didn’t have any money to give to support my children. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to give them any money; I didn’t have any to give.”

Doe is one of 50 fathers enrolled in the Pike County Fatherhood Initiative Program offered through OCAP. The program receives funding through a partnership with the Department of Human Resources.

“DHR receives federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families dollars to fund Fatherhood programs across Alabama,” said Kim Livingston, Pike County Fatherhood Initiative coordinator. “This is the fifth year that we have received funding.

“In 2011-2012, the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, in partnership with the Alabama DHR, awarded more than $974,745 to 23 Fatherhood Programs across the state. The programs reinforce the rights and responsibilities of being a parent, as well as, offer case management and encourage financial and emotional support of Alabama children.”

Doe said the money is well spent.

“What I need is a job and the Fatherhood program has listings of jobs that I could do and it gets me going in the right direction,” he said. “Just because you are behind in your child support payments doesn’t mean that you won’t work and do a good job at it. Being in the Fatherhood program and attending the meetings shows that I’m trying.”

Doe said Livingston has been very helpful in his job search. “She knows what’s out there and offers her support,” he said. “She’s been very helpful and, with her help, I know that I’m going to get a job. I just hope it’s soon.”

Doe said the Fatherhood program is also helpful in that it’s a place where he can go to “vent.”

“We’re all in the same kind of situation and sometimes what we have gone through will help somebody else,” he said. “I know that listening to others and how they have handled situations has helped me. We all have issues and talking about them helps. One of the biggest issues is accountability. We have to make child support payments but we don’t know where our money goes. We want to make sure it’s going to help our children. We talk about a lot of things and it helps to vent. I feel better every time I leave a meeting.”

“I know that this program has helped me. I look forward to the meetings on Wednesday night. I don’t want to miss a one of them.”

Livingston said most of the men in the Pike County Fatherhood program are there because of court orders.

“Their situations are different in many ways but they are all there because they are non-custodial fathers, meaning that they are not paying their child support,” Livingston said. “Even if the have lost their jobs, they are still responsible for the child support payments. When they do get a job, they must make payment in arrears so what they owe continues to mount up and their situation becomes even more difficult. We try to help these men understand that it is imperative that they pay something every month, only if it’s just a little, to demonstrate their intent to pay.”

Doe said there are probably some fathers who just don’t want to pay and won’t.

“But there are some that are doing the best they can but, if you can’t find work, all you can do is tell your children that you want to help them but just can’t,” he said.  “I see my children every chance I get and we do things together. Right now that’s the best I can do. When I can do better, I will.”

Doe said he appreciates the support he has received from the Pike County Fatherhood Program. “It’s good to have somebody that believes in you,” he said.

“It is the goal of the Fatherhood program to help the non-custodial fathers, who have a DHR child support case, obtain gainful employment or get their GED so they can have a better chance at finding employment,” Livingston said.