This is a guest blog post by Ryan Cascardo. Ryan is a graduate student at the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations. His specializations are Latin America and the Caribbean and International Organizations. His interests include the functional roles of the multilateral community, human rights advocacy, and migration and refugee issues.

A UN NGO Briefing – 2/23/17

Speakers:

Anderson J. Franklin, PhD., Boston College

Robert Moore, Founder of Strong Fathers Stronger Families

Each of the two speakers gave presentations which were both informative and which highlighted the problems and potential solutions to the phenomenon of the absentee father. This unfortunate reality manifests itself particularly in the African American community, as well as the black community in South Africa (as evidenced by the work and research of Dr. Franklin). Dr. Franklin began his presentation with a brief remark on how his own personal struggles and story have led him to pursue the research he has undertaken. He then stated that the NGO meeting was one of great importance.

Following his introductory remarks, Dr. Franklin proceeded to inform those in attendance of the research he has done, why his research matters for public policy and social science, and to provide definitions and explanations for his terms and findings. He first went over some terms such as the attachment and detachment of fathers and the social implications of them being involved and conversely not involved in the family. Another term he used was “family disrupters” which he explained are causal factors of fathers not being involved in the family. Some examples of family disrupters are poverty, inequality, the judicial system, the legal system, unemployment, as well as racism and other forms of discrimination. One final disrupter Dr. Franklin mentioned, which was especially problematic in South Africa, was migration of fathers away from their families to work in large cities.

Dr. Franklin then went on to address how the disproportionality of absentee fathers in African American families, due to the above factors, contributes to African American students’ performance issues in school. He continued to explain that in actuality many circumstances were disproportionately worse for those children that had unstable households (less than two parents raising them), such as reduced access to healthcare, higher school suspensions, and increased lack of after-school or recreational activities. He also mentioned that because of the financial struggles of single parents, African American students are disproportionately enrolled in high poverty schools, which severely reduces their chances of success in life from an early age.

Dr. Franklin brought up a surprising statistic regarding the idea of parenting from the younger generation: 30 percent of millennials believe that only one parent is necessary to raise a child. He then went on to counter this belief, stressing the importance of having two parents to successfully raise a child. And while many of the statistics Dr. Franklin provided from his research were disheartening, he did point to “resilience factors” which many men possess. Some of those factors are seeing the importance of a strong family, and wanting to be in the workforce, even if they are unemployed, he also noted that if they live away from their families, men send remittances to them.

However, Dr. Franklin then pointed out that the willingness of men to send remittances home to their families has declined in recent years, on a global level. This phenomenon was especially true where he conducted research, South Africa, where many fathers live away from their families. Dr. Franklin briefly outlined the Promise Neighborhood program, started by the Department of Education. As a “comprehensive community program” it provides services for those impoverished communities which apply. He also mentioned that 23 similar programs exist which provide services to those neighborhoods containing families and children in need. The end goal of such programs is not just to give assistance to struggling families and their children, but to develop young people as citizens. Dr. Franklin argued that imparting a sense of leadership and civic duty in children will help them avoid problems later in life.

Being an international member of the Nelson Mandela University Roundtable, Dr. Franklin collaborated with South Africans in such areas related to building leadership capacity, promotion of promise neighborhoods, and working with the coalition for the role of men in families. Although he has conducted much research on the topic, Dr. Franklin stated that more research is needed on men’s role in the family.

Dr. Franklin’s Bio as well as his CV can be found at the following web address: www.bc.edu/schools/lsoe/facultystaff/franklin.html

The second and final speaker, Mr. Robert Moore, is the founder and leader of a non-profit organization called Strong Fathers Stronger Families, as well as the head of Seedco, an organization which offers “workforce development” training for fathers. The former of his organizations is focused on providing various services to fathers, including social and educational services. Seedco provides courses in which fathers develop skills necessary to be successful in the workplace, offers work and family supports, as well as technical assistance for NGOs. The goal of the organization the empowerment of fathers to build greater self-sufficiency and engagement in their children’s lives. The Seedco program has three stipulations, the participants must take part voluntarily, they must meet the condition of having a low income, and they must be 18 or older.

More specifically the aim of Mr. Moore’s organization is to accomplish its above mission statement by providing various services for fathers in need. These include general support services, job placements, and fatherhood workshops. Furthermore, the organization helps fathers develop ‘soft skills’ which may be very helpful in both the workplace and other areas of life. Mr. Moore listed conflict resolution, time management, accepting criticism, and taking on responsibilities as the soft skills Seedco seeks to impart on fathers. He also mentioned that struggling fathers are not the only ones who receive support. His company offers benefits to those companies that hire program participants, such as tax breaks and other related employer incentives.

Additionally, Seedco offers not only help with fathers getting jobs, but post-employment services. These services include job replacement (if a job is lost for some reason), education and training, career and financial planning, matching their first paycheck at job milestones (work anniversaries, etc.), enrollment in benefits programs, and child support awareness. The event was then followed by questions from the audience related to cost of the services provided by Seedco, the problems surrounding the African American community regarding access to education, and other global trends regarding absentee fathers.

-Ryan Cascardo

 

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