When President Barack Obama launched a national mentoring initiative in 2010 to coincide with Father’s Day he stated, “Our children don’t need us to be superheroes; they don’t need us to be perfect. They do need us to be present.”
Thanks to the efforts of organizations such as the Center for Self-Sufficiency (CFSS), more dads are present for their children on this Father’s Day. CFSS has developed a comprehensive re-entry program for men who have been or are incarcerated. Called Project 180, the overarching goal of this program is to reduce the recidivism rate of Wisconsin Department of Corrections’ offenders as they transition from incarceration into society and help adult offenders (ages 18 and older) more successfully integrate into society to become productive citizens. The cornerstone of this program’s success is on pairing the offenders with mentors. In addition they receive a variety of services including employment, substance abuse/mental health treatment, transportation, housing and driver’s license restoration, and issues related to fatherhood.
According to the Department of Corrections, at the end of 2010, there were 22,171 inmates in state prisons. And, though only 24.6% of Milwaukee County residents are African American, they accounted for 76% of State prison admissions. What this means is that far too many of our children are being raised in single-parent, father-absent homes. Project 180 was developed to not only help fathers, but the impact that incarceration has on children and families.
As part of Project 180 men volunteer to walk alongside other men—many of them fathers—as they transition back into society, with the aim of helping them succeed in life, listening to them, encouraging them and showing them the value and benefits of being present in the lives of their children.
We’ve all heard that old adage that it takes a village. It still rings true. Project 180 is in place but needs other men—fathers—who not only want to see change in our community, but are willing to put some time and effort into facilitating that change. If each one would reach one, CFSS would have more than enough male mentors to help these men transitioning back into society.
While the accolades and recognition of Father’s Day are good and well-deserved, this Father’s Day on behalf of those children in our community whose fathers who are not present in their lives, we encourage you to mentor a young man, show him how to be a man and teach him that being a father is not just about having children, but being present in the lives of his children.
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