The FATHER Project, a service of Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota, received an early Christmas present this year and is gearing up for an expansion with the help of a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.
The administration awarded the FATHER Project $500,000 a year for the next five years. The $2.5 million is a warm welcome compared to the stiff operating budget of $225,000 a year the program had previously been operating on.
Funded by private and public grants, and from sales at the Goodwill store, the FATHER Project provides services to help dads gain custody of their children, as well as services for personal enrichment such as education, job training and parenting support groups.
“We have a proven track record of servicing low-income non-custodial fathers,” said Andrew Freeberg, director of education and youth services for Goodwill/Easter Seals.
This proven track record is what helped set the FATHER Project apart from a competitive group of nationwide programs that also applied for the grant. Goodwill reports the project began in 1999 as part of a previous national demonstration involving 10 projects. It is the only one of the original 10 federally funded projects that has sustained its service model beyond the demonstration period.
Freeberg, who oversees the FATHER Project, credits the program’s success to the service model it utilizes for every case. The service model involves intensive case management through case advocates and is individualized for each dad, avoiding the cookie cutter approach, according to Freeberg. He also gives credit to the great relationship the FATHER Project has with the Hennepin County Child Support Agency.
The grant money will be used to create additional staff at the FATHER Project’s East Lake Street office in Minneapolis. There will be one full-time job counselor added, one father advocate, a parenting services coordinator and an office manager.
Secondly, additional services will be added including mental health services, couples counseling, education and personal growth. The organization also plans to partner with other nonprofit organizations in the area to help promote positive parenting to low-income dads in Hennepin County and surrounding areas. The organizations include African American Family Services, Comunidadas Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES), the Division of Indian Work (DIW), Parents as Teachers/Meld and Way To Grow.
The FATHER Project predominantly serves African American dads, but it assists an average of 100 fathers each year regardless of background. Freeberg predicts that number will nearly double with the program’s expansion and outreach efforts to not only serve more dads, but also a more diverse group of dads who all share one common goal.
“This grant is a big deal to our staff,” emphasizes Freeberg. “Everyone is optimistic and excited to see the changes that will take place.”
For more information about the FATHER Project, visit www.goodwilleasterseals.org/fatherproject.
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