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Published: Monday, 6/14/2010

Forum can give dads opportunity to be part of kids' lives

BY SARAH MERVOSH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For fathers who have not been a part of their children's life recently, Lucas County Children Services can provide a fresh start Friday.

Marjorie Holt, minority affairs inclusion coordinator for the agency, said fathers need to know they are needed.

"It's necessary that you have a relationship with them," she said.

At a town hall meeting, the agency hopes to re-engage about 200 fathers who have been absent from their children's lives.

The "Bring Back the Dads" event is scheduled for 7 p.m. at New Covenant Baptist Church, 3862 Jackman Rd. in West Toledo.

Ms. Holt said there will be testimonies from fathers who previously were absent from their children's lives but got involved through the agency.

Each dad who attends will be asked to sign a pledge card to stay involved.

She said there are a variety of reasons that fathers are not involved, the most common being a poor relationship with the child's mother.

"Many of them would say, 'Their mother and I just didn't get along, and she wouldn't let me see my child.' It's never been that 'I didn't want to be a part of his or her life.' Circumstances just prevailed," Ms. Holt said.

But she also said there is statistical support for why it is important for children to have a father figure.

"They do better academically, socially. They don't get connected to gangs and violence as much," she said.

"The reality of it is it's their child. So why not get involved?"

Tim, a single father who regained custody of his two boys a year ago, said the agency's support groups taught him to believe "it was going to be OK" and to use the resources at his disposal.

"I'll call someone in my support group and say I need a baby-sitter or I need some help with a doctor's appointment today," he said. "I think that's one of the biggest keys to the whole support group, so you're not stressed out about every little detail. There is help out there available."

The keynote speaker for the event is to be Ron Tijerina of the Ridge Project Inc., a nonprofit group that serves youth and families in Ohio. The evening also will include a discussion of resources available to fathers, as well as music and entertainment.

The agency LCCS worked with an average of 2,200 children daily in 2009. The children are referred to the agency after allegations of abuse or neglect.

"We have normal kids who have been facing abnormal circumstances," Ms. Holt said.

Tim said working with the courts and other agencies to get involved in his children's life was challenging but said fathers should not give up.

"Sometimes you just want to bang your head against the wall, but ultimately it's for your children," he said.

"I would make any sacrifice possible for your children."

Contact Sarah Mervosh at:

smervosh@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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