FSC CEO Halbert Sullivan founded Fathers’ Support Center in 1997 with a mission to provide noninvolved fathers the support they need to get back into the lives of their children as positive, productive parents.
Sullivan’s work is supported by research showing that children who grow up with involved fathers in the home are much more likely to avoid risky behaviors, finish school and go on to enjoy happier, healthier futures.
Sullivan got in trouble as a youth, spent time in prison and struggled with substance abuse before turning his own life around — so he is a credible mentor to the men in his program struggling with these same issues.
Prior to starting FSC, Sullivan was a St. Louis Public Schools social worker, where he saw the harmful effects absentee fathers could have on their children. He holds a M.S.W. from Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work, which honored him as a 2014 Distinguished Alumni. Sullivan is a frequent speaker at national fatherhood conferences, where FSC is increasingly called a national model for fatherhood programs.
In 1993, Halbert Sullivan went on a two-week-long cocaine binge, until he passed out and later came to on a bus stop bench in front of Beaumont High School. “I woke up and I said to myself, ‘You must be crazy.'” He was 41 years old.
That day was a turning point for Sullivan. Soon after, he checked into a drug rehab center and, a month later, he enrolled in St. Louis Community College, Forest Park.
By 1996, he had acquired his bachelor’s degree from Fontbonne University and went on to Washington University where he earned an MSW from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.
This was no small feat for a man who had developed a serious drug habit going back nearly 20 years and who had served three stints in prison, including two and a half years in the Attica Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in New York.
The oldest of eight children, Sullivan grew up “very poor,” in a housing project, in Memphis, Tenn. He was raised by his mother, who ran a tight ship, along with a stepfather who was in and out of the picture. When Sullivan was 14, he moved with his family to Rochester, N.Y., where he was first tempted by drugs. “The street had all the action that you wanted to see. These guys (on the street) had money, and I wanted some of that money. And I went the wrong way,” Sullivan said.
Today, Sullivan is CEO of the Fathers’ Support Center on the north side of town. Sullivan was working as a social worker for the St. Louis Public Schools when he was asked by Doris Stoehner and Sue Breslauer to help in their quest to address the issue of absentee fathers and children living in poverty. He was reluctant at first — he liked his job with the schools — but he ultimately accepted the challenge. In 1997, with Sullivan at the helm, the FSC began offering help for fathers financially and emotionally estranged from their children. The nonprofit has an annual budget of $3 million and is supported by private donors and government grants.
Sullivan is 61 and married, going on 20 years. He has four grown children from different stages of his life.
(Written By Julie Murphy for April 19-25 Edition of the St. Louis Business Journal.)
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