Fatherhood program may fall to state spending cuts

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Mar. 22, 2011
Chad Chastain picks up his son Jaden, 2, from child care after the '24/7 Dad' program at Madonna Place in Norwich. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Chad Chastain picks up his son Jaden, 2, from child care after the '24/7 Dad' program at Madonna Place in Norwich. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

The Norwich area may lose its prime resource for dads in need if Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget is passed.

The governor’s 2012-13 budget proposal eliminates $32,500 in funding for Fatherhood Initiative programs at Madonna Place, a Norwich organization dedicated to strengthening families. If the program loses its state matching funds, additional federal funds will be lost, as well.

Dads in the Fatherhood Initiative programs at the site say that would be a grave loss for the region – and for them.

“It’s a really good program, and it’s needed,” said Greg Butts, of Griswold. “What other program is out there for dads? A lot of single dads don’t feel they’re worth it. Think about the poor kid who looks up and says, ‘Where’s my dad?’ What alternative does he have?”

The Fatherhood Initiative is a key component of the many social services provided by Madonna Place, said Executive Director Nancy Gentes. “Our goal is to help dads be fully involved, fully responsible fathers,” she said.

That means different things for different men, she said. Some may need help finding employment; some may need to work on skills like patience and consistency; some may need to work towards establishing visitation or child support. Madonna Place partners with other community service agencies to make it more possible for men “to step up to the plate and be the fathers [they] want to be,” said Gentes.

Among the programs offered by Madonna Place is “24/7 Dad,” a 13-week seminar on parenting skills ranging from money management, balancing work and family, to child development, understanding emotions and masculinity.

Though the programs are for dads, the real beneficiaries are the kids, said Gentes. Study after study has tied involved fathers to children’s self-esteem, academic success, and positive social behavior, she said. “Fathers are very, very important to children, and fatherlessness is a curable condition,” she said.

Matthew Williams, of Baltic, said that even though he’s been a dad for 16 years, the program has helped him immensely. “The biggest thing [I learned] is that it’s okay not to know how to handle every situation,” he said. The program helped him realize that “discipline isn’t punishment, it’s teaching them something,” he aid.

“I found that actually some of the experiences I’ve been through have let me help other dads in the program,” he added. “I always felt good to be a dad. Being here [at Madonna Place], I feel that much better.”

The staff members at Madonna Place, he said, “bend over backwards for you.” They’ve helped clients job-search, write resumes or just vent about the trials of fatherhood, he said.

Butts, another “24/7 Dad” graduate, also had high praise for the program staff, who helped him to find work and to navigate the court system on child support issues, even writing letters to the court on his behalf. “They care. They always follow up,” he said.

Butts said he signed up for “24/7 Dad” “because I wanted to become a better father,” and the program taught him ways to be a more responsible, sensitive, committed dad to his 3-year-old son. Those ways can be as serious as paying child support or as lighthearted a going fishing together.

 “It’s all a new adventure. It’s all new to me,” said Butts. “I can’t wait to get him on weekends. [24/7 Dads] helps me keep my head on straight and do the right thing.”

The Fatherhood Initiative also presents “Dr. Dad” programs for new and expectant fathers in conjunction with Backus Hospital. The four-week classes focus on infant health, safety and development.

For a new dad confronted with a crying infant, that knowledge is invaluable, said “Dr. Dad” participant Matt Allingham, of Voluntown. “It gave me the tools and a little bit of knowledge that went a long way and gave me confidence,” he said.

He learned how to differentiate between different crying behaviors so he could better respond to and soothe his now four-month-old child. And, he said, the camaraderie with other dads “helped you feel you’re not alone.”

Gentes said that Madonna Place staff and many of its dads spoke to the governor when he spoke in Norwich on March 9, and traveled to Hartford to make the case for reinstating the $195,000 cut from the state budget, which funds the local program and five others across the state. Madonna Place would see $32,500 of that state money, plus additional funds from the federal government, Gentes said.

“President Obama’s plan right now is to extend the [federal] funding for four more years, and we’re hopeful that’s what will happen,” Gentes said. “It would really be a shame for the state to turn back $1 million in federal funding because of short-sightedness.”


The mission of Madonna Place

The mission of Madonna Place is to provide programs that strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. We have programs in the agency that serve mothers, fathers and children, including the fatherhood program.
Our Dad's program is one of 10 programs that are certified by the State of Connecticut - a process that assures we are a quality program and meeting 7 standards of excellence. We utilize domestic violence and child abuse protocols, curriculum, case managers, family plans, and have staff who receive training and regular supervision. Fatherhood programs are not about taking children from their mothers, but working on helping fathers to be responsible and to help their family and their children live better lives. Research and factual evidence shows that this is what is best for children in the majority of families. We have seen the positive results. We are proud of the work we have done on behalf of mothers, fathers and children in the community and that our sister programs have done throughout this State and thank those who have supported our efforts.

agree with TheMatrix

So many children are being abused and MURDERED on a REGULAR basis because of this fatherhood program. If a mother does not want the father to see the child or share custody, there is a very good reason for it, he is abusive. Children belong with their mothers. If the mother loves her child and the child needs to have the father in his/her life the mother will allow it on terms she deems safe. Mothers do not have the money to fight these men who have higher incomes then them PLUS get this fathers funding. The court fights are biased from the start because of this. We are MANY! and our VOICE is LOUD, a group representing us is in DC at the moment and We will descend on DC and perhaps a town near you on MOTHERS DAY. We are known as protective mothers, and we will not give up, shut up, or go away until our children are returned to us and this COURT SANCTIONED AND FUNDED abuse stops!

ALL of this Funding needs to be cut!

Re: Cut $500 Million from the Fatherhood Initiative and Hold Congressional Hearings

The federal government needs to cut five hundred million dollars ($500,000,000.00) in funds administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human services for Fatherhood Initiative programs. http://fatherhood.hhs.gov/

These programs are designed to improve the lives of children by promoting responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage, authorized under 45 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): Public Welfare.

45 CFR Section 260.20 The TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) program has the following four purposes:

(a) Provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives;
(b) End the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage;
(c) Prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies; and
(d) Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

45 CFR Section 263.2(a)(4)(ii) Pro-family healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood activities enumerated in part IV-A of the Act, sections 403(a)(2)(A)(iii) and 403(a)(2)(C)(ii) that are consistent with the goals at §§260.20(c) or (d) of this chapter, but do not constitute “assistance” as defined in §260.31(a) of this chapter….
(g) State funds used to meet the Healthy Marriage Promotion and Responsible Fatherhood Grant match requirement may count to meet the MOE requirement in §263.1, provided the expenditure also meets all the other MOE requirements in this subpart.

Despite the stated positive goals, these programs lead to frighteningly negative outcomes for children. Goals of these funds are for fathers (especially ex-prisoners) to get jobs and pay child support. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2010/06/obama-visits-se-washington-t...

Instead, gender-biased legal services are provided solely to fathers. Opportunistic male batterers, molesters, felons and drug addicts seize the opportunity to use free legal services to avoid paying child support by gaining custody. This is the precise opposite of program goals.

On February 14, 2011, a non-custodial mother testified to Senate aides that she was refused legal services from an HHS federally funded grant program simply because she was a mother. This is an illegal use of federal dollars. http://www.legalmomentum.org/assets/pdfs/regixcomplaint.pdf

Approximately 70% of batterers who ask for custody receive custody. http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/dv.html

Federal funds fuel this litigation. Because aggressive fathers are able to access free legal assistance through federal Fatherhood Initiative programs, fathers have a distinct advantage in family court. Custody is given to fathers who have legal representation, regardless of whether they pose a risk to their children.

A self-represented mother has no chance against a father who is advised and represented by an attorney. The result: Every year, 58,000 children (including nursing infants) are taken away from safe mothers and given to violent, abusive men. http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/med/PR3.html

This does not improve the lives of children. Rather, it causes immeasurable harm to them. Children live in situations that would break a seasoned soldier. They are beaten and raped. At least one per week is killed.These programs also lead to widespread fiscal waste, fraud and abuse.

Due to the lack of oversight and clearly defined and monitored outcome measures, these funds are commonly misused. An example is the defunded access to visitation program in Amador County CA. The program was designed to foster a relationship and ensure contact between children and non-custodial parents, and provide victim protection through supervised visits. Instead, the grant program manager (a family law facilitator who illegally represented a private client, an admittedly violent father) used federal funds to:

1) benefit her custodial father client, rather than the non-custodial victim mother and victim children;
2) block the mother’s access to her children;
3) suppress clear evidence of domestic violence and child sexual abuse;
4) pay other individuals who she used as witnesses against the mother;
5) collect money from the father for legal representation while billing the access to visitation program $16,000.00 for the father’s litigation costs; and
6) pay $6,000.00 for a wine drinking event disguised as training.

This is one of many programs throughout the country that are subverting the intent of the law. A federal investigation is needed to determine whether this subversion by fatherhood programs is unintentional or deliberate.

During a time of deep fiscal crisis, this pork barrel project, replete with waste, fraud and abuse that produce outcomes that harm children, is a travesty that needs to be defunded. We urgently request the feds to cut the Fatherhood Initiative funds immediately.

BTW....that kids in the picture doesn't look too happy being with "daddy'


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