The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families has expanded its services into Orangeburg and Bamberg counties.
While the program is based in Lexington and Columbia, Charles Brown, assistant executive director of the organization, saw a significant need for Orangeburg and Bamberg counties to also be served.
“I knew there was a similar program serving this area at one time. But, for whatever reason, that program is no longer here,” Brown said in a recent interview.
The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families "believes fathers make unique, irreplaceable contributions to their children," he said.
The organization, which is funded through the Sisters of Charity Foundation, is not connected with the previous group that was supporting fathers needing assistance, Brown said.
“The Midlands program focuses on a broad variety of topics including: spiritual development; effective communication; job readiness and employment; understanding child support and the legal system; financial management; parenting and co-parenting; healthy relationships; and men's health and education," he said.
While the center is called a “fatherhood” organization, Brown said the organization will serve women as well.
“We operate under federal guidelines and receive federal funds. So we cannot discriminate. We can keep our name, but we can’t exclude women," he noted.
Orangeburg and Bamberg counties have many uneducated or undereducated fathers who are seeking assistance, Brown said.
“We offer job boot camps to prepare them for work. During this period, we notice the main issue in Orangeburg is transportation," he said.
“Sometimes our participants volunteer to come to us and sometimes they come by way of court orders," Brown said. "Instead of a judge sending them to jail, we (offer them) another chance."
The center, which is independent of any other program, is seeking to help people like one 28-year-old man who said he has been incarcerated on and off for small crimes most of his life.
“I dropped out of school in 10th grade. I had trouble with math. I just couldn’t get it. I was embarrassed. Once I realized I wasn’t going to get it (math), I just dropped out of school," he said.
“All I did was hang out and smoke weed. I have never had a job. I just kept going to voc rehab (vocational rehabilitation)."
The participant said he feels like the staff at the Center for Fathers and Families “get him."
“I believe with some consistency I will be able to turn my life around," he said.
Another participant in the program, who has two children, said he is working to obtain his driver’s license.
“I have a GED. I have a good counselor. I am finding out that I have so much to learn,” he said.
After being in the Center for Fathers and Families program for four months, he said he now understands how not having his father in his life had a negative effect on him.
“Because of what I have learned, and my father not being interested in my life, I have learned to be different with my children," he said.
Larry Felder, the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families' Orangeburg onsite intervention specialist, said, “I wasn’t sure what to expect at first. But, I love this program. I call around just to check on them (the participants) to make sure everything is okay. Sometimes, some of them will call and check on me."
Felder said when it comes to the program's staff, he feels like he is surrounded by people “who I can learn from, get wisdom from and get different perspectives from … I enjoy watching the growth. Together, we lay out goals, assess the participants, give them a time frame and encourage persistence."
For additional information about the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, call 803-873-7977 or visit www.scfathersandfamilies.com.