Fathers coalition opening in Sumter

BY JACK OSTEEN
jack@theitem.com
Posted 2/19/16

"A father is a man who expects his children to be as good as he meant to be."

This was just one of the many messages brought to a room full of more than 50 community leaders Wednesday at University of South Carolina Sumter at what some think is …

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Fathers coalition opening in Sumter

Posted

"A father is a man who expects his children to be as good as he meant to be."

This was just one of the many messages brought to a room full of more than 50 community leaders Wednesday at University of South Carolina Sumter at what some think is one of Sumter, Lee and Clarendon counties' most important new initiatives.

The Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, which helps non-custodial dads become responsible fathers to their children, is opening an office in Sumter in connection with a plan by the state Department of Social Services to expand such services statewide. This will be the 13th office in South Carolina.

During the last few years, DSS has embraced the approach taken by Midlands Family Coalition and its affiliated programs. Traditionally, enforcing child support was about finding "deadbeat dads" and sending them to jail, where they couldn't help their kids or anyone else. The program hopes to turn those dads' lives - and those of the children - around completely by getting them jobs and teaching them better parenting skills.

"We need for this to be successful," said Mayor Joe McElveen. He also emphasized to the crowd how important these types of initiatives are to the community and that "we need to lift everyone up."

The program informed community leaders about the seven types of poverty that fathers can deal with at different points in their lives. Also, the program enlightened everyone on the importance of providing these fathers with job readiness skills, quick job training, relationship skills, child support, mediation and visitation.

"We need to treat people with a handshake, not a hammer," said Katie Morgan, director of Integrated Child Support Services Division for DSS.

Morgan said this type of program is the best way to engage dads that is also constructive for the children. She also emphasized that 90 percent of the staff involved with Fatherhood Coalition is men.

"The key strategy in getting rid of poverty is strengthening families," said Patricia Littlejohn, executive director for the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families. "This is part of something even bigger in the state of South Carolina."

Keith Ivey, site director for the new Sumter office, told the crowd he felt like he won the lottery with this job.

"Men in this community can be more successful if they know there is someone there to help and guide them," he said.

Ivey said the temporary location will be at South Sumter Resource Center at 337 Manning Ave. The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina founded the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families in 2002 as an outgrowth of its Fatherhood Initiative, Reducing Poverty though Father Engagement. For more information, go to www.scfathersandfamilies.com, or call (803) 227-8800.