In 1997, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina set out to address childhood poverty in a way that many don’t think about – through the perspective of the role of fathers. Compelled by the fact that children in father-absent homes experienced poverty at more than four times the rate of children in married-parent homes, the Foundation began a fatherhood initiative to focus on the specific need to assist dads in overcoming barriers to becoming better fathers. In 2002, the Foundation founded The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, a stand-alone nonprofit and now the only state-wide fatherhood program in the nation.
“We have a long standing commitment to this issue,” said Tom Keith, president of the Foundation. “I believe that our investment in the Center has truly paid huge dividends which makes it one of the top organizations we have ever funded. We really have taken great pride in its evolution and tremendous success.”
The program has a broad network of services and staff to offer comprehensive support for dads. The curriculum ranges from job readiness and employment, economic, healthy relationships, and co-parenting and parenting classes.
Being a hub focused on fathers and families allows the Center to hone in on the advocacy needed to raise awareness and, when warranted, improve the systems specifically affecting dads. Two such advocacy examples include the recently launched awareness campaign and website Father365.com and the successful “Jobs Not Jail” program coordinated with South Carolina’s judicial system.
Through Jobs Not Jail, men who fall behind in child support payments can be court-ordered to enroll in the Center’s program. Instead of going to jail for six months – which results in loss of wages and mounting child support arrears – these dads get back on track and pay child support, ultimately improving the lives of their children and bringing full circle the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina’s original intent.
The Foundation has funded more than 2,500 organizations in its 21 year history. Addressing the root causes of poverty and understanding all the issues surrounding those causes is fundamental to the Sister of Charity of South Carolina’s mission, explained Tom. “By applying our core values of collaboration, respect, courage, justice, and compassion, we see fathers improving their lives and also the lives of their children every day.”