20 Years of Building Better Families & Responsible Parents…
Growing up, Halbert Sullivan knew a life of family, love, and discipline, but that life lacked the financial stability and parental consistency kids need and crave. With no father at home, a beloved uncle stepped in to help parent Sullivan. Despite the family’s best efforts, Sullivan began making poor life choices, and at 17 had already committed three offenses and violated his probation multiple times. For the next 20 years, Sullivan lived in and out of prison until the early nineties when he became a full-fledged drug user.
In July, 1993, Sullivan awoke on a bus stop bench, defeated by street life, addicted to drugs and homeless. He remembers thinking to himself, “You must be crazy. Waking up in the middle of the ghetto, roughest spot you can be in and be asleep. You need to go to drug rehab.” And he did go, and he has remained sober ever since.
After 30 days in rehab, Sullivan signed up for classes at St. Louis Community College, determined to one-day work with at-risk youth and help them make better life decisions than he had. Graduating from the community college, he transferred into Fontbonne University finishing his bachelor’s degree, continued directly into Washington University. In one year, Sullivan graduated as a Master of Social Work from Brown School with a passion for research projects and challenging existing studies and expectations. One project would evolve into Fathers’ Support Center (FSC).
While working with inner city students, Sullivan witnessed the wreckage of their home lives after school. These children returned home to chaos and instability with uninvolved parents or an absent father, negative role models, drug and alcohol abuse and lack of discipline. Sullivan saw first-hand how child’s home life directly impacts whether that child will fully participate in school and graduate. “Our educational system is very expensive and intended for children to get a better outcome,” Sullivan says. “The families we work with have no dads in the home and no responsible males in their lives.” Sullivan knew the only way to help these kids and improve home lives was to go after the missing piece: uninvolved or absentee fathers.
On December 10, 1997, FSC opened its doors with Sullivan as its sole employee. Spreading the word about FSC to anyone who would listen, Sullivan combed the streets and neighborhoods on foot in search of fathers who missed their kids and needed help becoming a responsible, involved parent. After assembling a group of interested fathers, the first day of class arrived and no one showed. Undaunted, Sullivan persisted in his search and assembled another group of men, all of whom showed up for the first day of class. Pictured below is the first graduating class of FSC in 1998. Sullivan is pictured far right.
FSC grew from a staff of one to a mature agency offering comprehensive services for fathers with a staff of about 50 employees and a budget of $4.5 million today. In that time, FSC has helped reconnect 15,000 fathers with nearly 40,000 children.
FSC continues to change lives with impressive results — like a 69% employment placement rate with 319 clients obtaining employment, bringing $6.8 million in wages in our community. Most impressive, of fathers who graduate from FSC, 72% regularly interact with their children. That makes an immeasurable difference in everyone’s life and in the communitty.
One example of our impact is our 2017 FSC Father of the Year, Gary Turner, who began his first day at Fathers’ Support Center unemployed, homeless, and separated from his children. He was battling the State of California where the mother of his children was too ill to care for them. He wanted custody, but tough legal obstacles stood between him and that goal, and without a job, without a home, the prospect seemed impossible.
With assistance from FSC, Gary Turner won full custody of his children and brought them home to St. Louis. Today, he is gainfully employed and makes sure to put his children and their needs first. He is the proud father of a set of twins — a boy and girl — Cortland and Courtney, 15, Gary, Jr., 30, and a stepfather to Amber Horton, 32.
As we mark our 20th year of working to give St. Louis children the foundation they need to succeed, we invite you to help us build on successes of our graduates who have committed themselves to work toward healthy relationships, good parenting, and brighter futures for themselves and the next generation.