From a young age FFSC Founder Halbert Sullivan experienced a life of family and love, but with substantial financial difficulties and an absentee father. Lacking the influence of a father and despite his family’s good intentions, Halbert began making poor life choices and, by age 17, had committed three offenses and violated the terms of his probation by an equal number. For the next 20 years, he lived a life of crime, in and out of prison and a user and seller of illegal drugs.
In July of 1993, Halbert hit bottom. He woke up one morning on a bus stop bench. Defeated by life on the street, addicted to drugs and homeless, he had an epiphany. “You must be crazy, he told himself. “You’re waking up on the street addicted to drugs? This has to stop! You need to get yourself into drug rehab and get your life turned around!” He found a program, enrolled himself and remained sober for the rest of his life with the help of AA meetings.
After emerging from rehab, Halbert enrolled in classes at St. Louis Community College, graduating with an associate’s degree and determined to work with at-risk youth, helping them make better life decisions than he had. He moved on to Fontbonne University where he earned his BA before entering a master’s degree program at the prestigious Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. He graduated with honors in less than one year.
His first job after graduating was in the St. Louis Public School system, working with inner city students and doing all he could to keep them in school. While immersed in this work, Halbert clearly saw that a child’s home life had undeniable impact on how he or she performed as a student. Kids without positive home lives, and especially kids without a father involved in their lives, were almost certain to leave school without graduating. Halbert understood that the most effective way to impact the current and future success of children was to improve their home lives. And the most effective way to do that was to address the problem of uninvolved fathers. Fathers & Families Support Center, founded in 1997 was created and developed to help uninvolved fathers step up and take responsibility for their children. Halbert, its founder, was the first and, for a time, only employee. During the first months of Fathers & Families Support Center’s existence, Halbert combed St. Louis’ streets and neighborhoods in search of uninvolved fathers who might be convinced to change their lives and become responsible parents. FFSC’s first class was formed and graduated in 1998.
To say that parts of the curriculum were developed on the fly would be to speak the truth. But a start had been made and a dream had begun to come true. 25 years after that first class, nearly 20,000 men have graduated from FFSC’s renowned six-week Family Formation program and more than 49,000 children have been given a real chance at a fulfilling and successful future. Today FFSC is a highly regarded non-profit organization of 45 professionals and a $4.4 million annual budget, providing comprehensive services to fathers, mothers and youth. In other words, Help for fathers, hope for families.