This Year’s Candidates
Ask Josh Parker about the father he was before he came to Fathers’ Support Center, and he’ll tell you he thought he was as good a father as he could be to his five children. But it wasn’t good enough.
Parker came to Fathers’ Support Center unemployed, with no legal visitation rights or agreements with the mothers of his children, but yearning to become a more active and involved father. Like most men who walk into their classrooms on the first day of the six-week Family Formation Program, he was skeptical and apprehensive. But from that first day, Josh Parker’s eyes were opened to a realization: All the things he wasn’t doing for his children were playing a big role in their development. The way he spoke, the way he dressed, the way he ate, the way he managed his money — it all helped shape the path his children would follow. That’s when Josh Parker decided he needed to change his life.
Parker got a job as an electrician, that was step one. Step two was cleaning up his act. He began to speak more properly. He started annunciating and using better diction. He began to dress appropriately for a man his age — formal when called for, casual but nice the majority of the time. Now was time for step three, gaining official visitation rights for his children. Fathers’ Support Center’s legal services stepped in to battle on his behalf, arranging visitation agreements with three different women over five children, making it happen for Parker and his children.
Since graduating from Fathers’ Support Center, Parker has advanced his career from electrician to inside sales representative. Very much involved in the lives of his children; Ladera Finne, 12, Quentin Parker, 11, Zamorah Parker, 10, Jaelyn Parker, 9, and Chance Parker, 3 — he is the varsity girls basketball coach at McCluer South-Berkley High School and is being considered for the varsity boys basketball coach position as well. He also coaches his son’s 5th grade basketball team. He does all this while pursuing a degree in mass communications from the University of Phoenix.
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When Gary Turner walked into class on his first day at Fathers’ Support Center, he was unemployed, homeless, and separated from his children.
But this wasn’t the kind of separation most men in the program face. Some have an unstable relationship with the mothers of their children; some can’t see their children until they pay child support, others have been imprisoned and need to prove to the courts they’ve been through FSC’s training. Turner was battling the State of California. The mother of his children was ill and couldn’t care for them in San Francisco. Naturally, he wanted custody, but a tough legal obstacle stood between him and obtaining custody of his children, and without a job, without a home, the prospect seemed impossible.
Enter Fathers’ Support Center. Turner was placed in Facilitator Willie Streeter’s classroom. Streeter, who graduated from the program with Class 90, could relate well to his new client — a client with hope, but uncertain of what to do or where to go. Streeter took Turner under his wing and not only told him about the resources available, but made sure he took advantage of them.
Gary Turner, whose specialty is construction, was always able to find work by doing independent projects, was led by Streeter and found a full time job in his field that allowed him to pay rent, pay bills, and provide for his children. Those who had custody of his children in San Francisco just needed to know. That’s where Fathers’ Support Center’s legal services came in.
Lisl Williams, Director of Legal Services, went to bat for Turner. She informed the State of California about Fathers’ Support Center’s program, explaining just what that program does, and that the father had found full time employment, and had a suitable home for his children.
Gary Turner won his fight for full custody of his children and brought them home to St. Louis. Today, he is still 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.
Willie Graves wanted to be a better father. He wanted to get his child support payments, custody, and obligations in order, but he didn’t know how to begin. That’s when an FSC commercial sparked his interest and encouraged him to enroll.
The six-week Family Formation Program began with uncertainty for Graves. He saw the classes as something geared toward fathers who didn’t know their children at all. His thoughts centered on his desire for custody rights and his need to iron out reasonable child support payments. Graves, like many men who at the beginning of the program, felt FSC wasn’t really for him. But he toughed it out and kept drawing him back.
As the program continued, Graves, surprisingly, found himself growing. His independence increased. His understanding of the little things a father can do to impact his children’s lives gave him ideas. And the discussions about appearance, hygiene, nutrition, and finance were changing his life.
The matter of custody and child support remained to be addressed. He was becoming a better man, building the capacity he needed to become a better father, but unless the court could understand and recognize his efforts, all would be lost.
FSC Legal Services explained to the court Graves’ efforts and the programs and services Fathers’ Support Center provides, resulting in his child support being removed and his receiving custody rights of his son, Torean.
The parenting skills Graves learned through FSC have paid off. He is now a contracted in-home childcare worker for the State of Missouri. He not only devotes time and effort to the children he serves, but also he has a very strong relationship with his own children; Janay Evans, 17, Torean Graves, 15, Mya Graves, 13, Khylee Graves, 6, and Willie Graves III, 1.