The Father Factor
Jeffrey Sefrin, a 19-year-old from Indianapolis, was born into a troubled family, and never really knew his father. His parents separated before he turned two. Jeffrey was 15 when he finally saw his father again – in a casket.
In his short life, Sefrin has faced unemployment and homelessness, battled depression and is expecting his first child, outcomes, studies say, that aren’t surprising. Researchers have found a strong and troubling link between growing up without an involved, caring father and developmental issues including crime, drug and alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy. It’s a phenomenon the National Fatherhood Initiative calls “the father factor.”
Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school, are at a higher risk of being incarcerated and 68% more likely to smoke, drink or use drugs as teens from two-parent households. According to the Initiative, “Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor.” Infant mortality rates for unwed mothers are nearly two times higher than married mothers, and fatherless teens, according to another study, were twice as likely to engage in early sexual activity, and seven times more likely to get pregnant as an adolescent.
Sefrin is living proof of the consequences associated with fatherlessness, a family structure that plagues 24 million other children across the United States. Yet he’s also living proof of another catalyst for social change, the “Fathers and Families Factor.”
The Fathers and Families Factor
Fathers and Families Center works with men like Jeffrey who are soon-to-be fathers, as well as men who already have children, to become better fathers. The agency helps men in the program play a more meaningful role in their children’s lives, and empowers them with the skills and tools to contribute financially and emotionally to their families by offering free counseling and opportunities for further education and professional development.
“If Fathers and Families weren’t here, I might still be doing the same things,” Sefrin says.
By the “same things,” he means abusing drugs, struggling to make a living and in an unproductive relationship with the expectant mother of his child. Sefrin is a recent graduate of Fathers and Families Center’s Fatherhood Development Workshop. They’ve helped Sefrin start a career, supported his efforts to stay off drugs and helped him improve his relationship with the mother of his child. It’s all part of the program’s mission to “build a noble legacy of fatherhood” for men like Jeffrey, men who have little idea about how an involved and caring father behaves – because they’ve never known one.
“Whether you know us or not, you’re impacted by our work, no matter where you live,” Dr. Wallace McLaughlin, Executive Director of Fathers and Families Center, says. “If this agency was not here many of the men we help would be back in prison, dead, not contributing to society and having even more children out of wedlock.”
The average man that comes through the agency’s doors is 22-years-old and already facing barriers to success: 80% lack a GED; 70% are involved with the justice system; 50% couldn’t pass a drug test; and about 50% are also suffering from mental problems.
“For many of them, this is the last chance they have at changing their lives,” says McLaughlin.
In October 2011, Fathers and Families received an institutional grant from Central Indiana Community Foundation. The grant will support the efforts of their eastside facility to transform, fathers, families and entire communities.
“The CICF grant will help keep our door open so that we can bring hope and opportunity,” McLaughlin says. “We’re affecting another generation of leaders and workers and making better and safer neighborhoods.”
The grant will ensure that Fathers and families will continue to provide a place for young men like Sefrin to receive counseling, access to opportunities to improve their lives and assistance with jobs and improving relationships.
“Everybody passes on the knowledge they get here to their friends on the outside. The change goes beyond the person,” Sefrin says.
Since graduating from the workshop, Sefrin is continuing to improve his relationship with the mother of his child. He has several interviews lined up and hopes to start working soon. He is also finding time to volunteer for Project Up and to act as a mentor for other men in enrolled in the programs at Fathers and Families Resource Center.
You can make a difference!
Our mission at Central Indiana Community Foundation is to inspire, support, and practice philanthropy, leadership and service in the community. We do that by: identifying community-wide issues; working with effective not-for-profits to address those needs; and serving as a philanthropic partner to individuals, family foundations and businesses who are interested in making central Indiana a better place for everyone.
To find out how you can play a role in addressing the needs identified in this story (or any of the stories posted at cicf.org), please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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