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Formerly Incarcerated Fathers Reconnect With Kids They Left Behind

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Monday, October 4, 2021   

By Freda Freeman, reporting for the Charlotte Post
Broadcast version by Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service


RALEIGH, N.C. -- Marquee Yarborough, 30, of Zebulon, is working each day to be a better father for his three children: Ja'Zaivin, 7, Nevaeh, also 7, and Ja'Kye, 5. One way he's doing that is through fatherhood programs run by the Family Resource Center South Atlantic.

Yarborough was incarcerated when he found out about the Family Resource Center's Day 2 Day Dads program through other inmates who recommended he sign up for the classes. Released on bail in September, after serving 26 months, he continues to take classes.

Yarborough, who shares joint custody of his children with their mothers, said he wants to be a steady presence in their lives. "I said I'm going to take this class serious and really be there for my kids. Growing up, I didn't have a father figure in my life, so by me having three kids, I was away a lot because I was working so much and then the jail thing happened, so it was like I'm missing too much time with my kids," he said.

The Family Resource Center, which is based in Raleigh, has provided support services for families in 15 counties, primarily in eastern North Carolina, and the Triangle Area, for 25 years. In addition to the Day 2 Day Dads program, the organization holds annual fatherhood conferences with workshops and featured speakers.

"We provide fatherhood programs, we work with families who have children with special needs, we work with middle and high school students on bullying and provide sexual avoidance education, we help parents of preschoolers prepare for school readiness, we help families with juveniles involved in the juvenile justice system," said Derrick Byrd, a co-founder and executive director.

FRCSA received a five-year $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources in 2015 to establish Day 2 Day Dads, serving Wake, Durham, and Edgecombe counties. Although the grant ended in September, FRCSA, which receives state and federal funding, will continue to provide the program, with support from Wake County Human Services.

"There is such a void when it comes to programs that are specific to dads, so we were very excited because we were the only ones in North Carolina to receive a grant to be able to institutionalize some infrastructure that would be available to dads throughout the Triangle Area. Throughout the years, we've been able to provide a number of different services to dads. We've served close to a thousand fathers in five years," Byrd said.

Day 2 Day Dads, which is free, is based on a 12-session curriculum that includes Inside Out Dad for fathers who are or have been incarcerated; 24/7 Dad for fathers in the community; Love Notes for young fathers ages 16 to 24; and Strengthening Families Program for fathers and their families.

The program also provides information about domestic and family violence, teen dating violence, child abuse and neglect, child support, visitation, job readiness skills, and job placement assistance. There are group sessions, one-on-one training, and a fatherhood support group that meets monthly.

"We talk about many different topics in the curriculum. We talk about what it means to be a man, co-parenting, grief and loss and anger, child and adolescent development, men's health," Byrd said. "One of the things we've found is that usually by the fourth session the guys are really engaged and into it. What it does is help to create a very safe space for men and fathers to be able to share and understand that they are not alone in some of the challenges and barriers that they are experiencing.

"The program has three goals. One is to really strengthen their relationships with their children and with their family, to be economically stable and financially able to support their children and family, and we want them to really have a better sense of themselves, to see how they've grown or what are some of the things they're still struggling with."

Byrd said fathers appreciate that the program is specifically designed for them.

"It's just everyday dads who are trying to make it and are just looking for some support and understanding of what it is they're going through and not be pigeonholed into a packaged parenting program that doesn't necessarily speak to their needs. Many parenting programs are maternally centered, they speak to moms, not necessarily dads," he said.

Yarborough said the classes are helping him improve his parenting skills and learn how to relate to each child individually.

"I've learned we're all going to make mistakes in life. Your kids are going to always look up to you, they're going to always be there watching the things that you do, so it made me reevaluate myself. I kind of turned everything that was a negative into a positive," he said.

Yarborough hopes his children see he's trying to be a better father for them.

"They have a father who's going to be there and do whatever it takes to put a smile on their faces. Whatever they do in life, I'm going to be there to support them," he said.

Yarborough recommends the program to other fathers who may be struggling or facing challenges.

"I advise everybody that's a father, if you're having any problems, go to that class. The people there are really willing to help you no matter what issues you have," he said.

FRCSA will hold its annual NC Fatherhood Conference on June 19. The virtual conference is from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., with speakers, workshops, and Father of the Year recognition. Youth over 13 may attend.

For more information, go to ncfatherhood.com or frcsa.org.

This story was produced with original reporting from Freda Freeman for the Charlotte Post, with support from the Pulitzer Center.


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