When I first met this father, he was standing in Child Support court wearing an orange and white Wake County jail uniform. He’d been arrested for not paying his child support a few days earlier and his case was now being heard by the judge.
He was unshaved and looked unkempt. As he stood before the judge, he held his head down, maybe in shame or embarrassment, or both. His countenance left him looking very sad and depressed. He was a soft spoken man, and he was articulate. He said he wanted to pay his child support but he couldn’t find a job to make the money to foot the obligation.
His story: he was a Desert Storm veteran who fell on hard times. He was laid off from his job, and was now working about 10 hours a week at a bowling alley. He was homeless and for the past two months, had been living in his car. He had one daughter; she lived in another state with her mother. He hadn’t seen his only child in over a year and he was eight months behind in making his child support payment.
The Judge asked him a series of questions. She also expressed her disappointment with his payment history. At the same time however, she also was concerned about him and his current situation. She told him about Fathers Forever and for the first time during this process, I could see his face brighten up.
That’s the “magic” of Fathers Forever. The father was released from jail and ordered to Fathers Forever. His next court date in 30 days would check his progress. I met with him and arranged for him to get a bed at a homeless shelter. They enrolled him in their program as well. He was really appreciative, especially because winter was fast approaching. He attended our weekly classes faithfully. Sometimes, he even walked. He completed our 24-week program, completed the homeless shelter’s requirements, found a job, got an apartment and purchased a car, with the help of other local agencies by the time he graduated. He also started paying his child support.
At his second appearance before the judge, we were there to proudly report his progress. The Judge praised him for his accomplishments and asked him if he wanted to say anything. With a very tender voice, he addressed the court. He thanked the staffs at both Fathers Forever and the homeless shelter. He also thanked the judge.
He also apologized to the Judge for not fulfilling his financial obligation and other responsibilities to his child. He also addressed his child’s mother. With tears running down his face, he said, “I promise, from this day forward, to help you raise our daughter.” Needless to say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the courtroom. Staff was crying, including me.
What a difference our 24-week program made in the father’s life. At graduation he shared this:
“I first heard about Fathers Forever standing in Child Support Court. I have been incarcerated for non-child support. I was broke, depressed, unemployed and homeless. They linked me to different programs in the community and today I am employed. I have an apartment, a car and equally important, I am making my child support payments. I thank the Judge and Fathers Forever for making a difference in my life! They helped me get my dignity back as a man and father. For that, I am forever grateful.”
© Copyright 2014 Glen Warren/Fathers Forever. All Rights Reserved