Fatherhood Summit Seeks to Connect Fathers with Resources and Information

By Artisha S. Lawson

Sojourner’s Truth reporter

Ohio Practitioners’ Network for Fathers and Families (OPNFF) held an event titled Advance Fatherhood Ohio Summit on Monday, November 17 at Owens Community College to connect fathers in various stages of life with resources to aid them.

The summit was sponsored by St. Vincent Mercy Children’s Hospital, Ohio Commission on Fatherhood, Northcoast Fatherhood Initiative, Owens Community College, Reentry Coalition of Northwest Ohio, WSOS Community Action Commission and Toledo business leaders.

The one-day event included three panel discussions and open question and answer sessions in the topics of visitation and custody policies, Ohio child support rules and complications for incarcerated fathers and child support. One discussion in particular sparked an on-going discussion on fathers who strive to provide for their children.

“The common denominator between parents is the child, no matter what took place in the past, regardless of where the money is going. You do what you have to do to make the support, even think to expand and go to those organizations and agencies here,” said Joshua Fowler, CEO/founder of Task.

Delma Jackson of Greater Toledo Urban League felt that more has to be done before laws are passed in the form of research to find the root problem. “I think one of the biggest things we need to deal with is legislation and how it is enforced,” said Jackson. “One of the biggest issues to this institution is the people cutting the checks and making the laws who have no experience on the ground level. They have no idea on how the everyday situation is looked at. I would encourage the people on the hilltops to come down to the valley and intervene with folks who deal with this on the everyday basis before they start trying to pass laws and legislation.”

Newly appointed executive director of Ohio Commission on Fatherhood, J. Tracy Robinson, took the position provided by Governor Ted Strickland because of personal and community reasons.

“One of my primary reasons for serving in this role is two-fold,” said Robinson. “The first being to overcome my own father issues. There are many things about my own father during the times when he was less than his best, and rather than sit back and be critical I decided on a personal level to be a good father and be able to help other men that may be confused, hurt, or have a desire to do better. I also wanted to help and train others, and overcome some of my own frustrations.”

Pastor Raymond Lloyd, Urban Light Ministries and Ohio Child Welfare Training Program

In addition to the panel discussion, information on different agencies was displayed throughout the forum room including information on video visitation in Cleveland, Boot Camp for new dads provided by St. Vincent Mercy Children’s Hospital and House Bill 130 which will reduce barriers in current law to enhance ex-offender’s opportunities to successfully reintegrate into society and prevent their future return to prison.

Also on display was information about support services provided by First Step, a family violence intervention center which includes case management and volunteer opportunities and services for disenfranchised fathers as well as life building skills. First-time home buyer programs information was provided by WSOS Community Action Commission.

OPNFF was started in May 2003 by the Center for Families and Children in Cleveland and has seen expanded to cover the entire state of Ohio. OPNFF seeks to advance fatherhood and family agenda in partnership with public agencies, grass roots faith and community based organizations. Today, the OPNFF provides networking, training, resources, research, public policy updates and other supports to fathers and family-serving practitioners across the state of Ohio.

Northcoast Fatherhood Initiative prides itself on connecting with the fathers on their level and Executive Director David Justus wants fathers to know that resources are available throughout the community.

David Justus of Northcoast Fatherhood Initiative, Twana Harbor of Ohio Department of Youth Services, Ricardo Elizondo of United Way, and Robert Franklin of Lucas County Children Service

“Our whole goal of our fatherhood imitative is to be able to bring the services to where the dads are. Instead of expecting them to go to where the services are in the resource centers which are located throughout the community, we provide the services closer to them.”