An experimental program headed to Illinois aims to foster better relationships between African-American fathers and their young sons. Specifically, the Fathers and Sons Project is focused on 8- to 12-year-old boys who are not living in the same home as their dads.
Project manager Cassandra Brooks said the program has had good results after a trial run with about 150 families in Flint, Mich.
"The goal of the program is to reduce negative health behaviors, bring fathers and sons even closer together, help young boys to become young men through the mentoring of their father," she said.
The federally funded $3 million project could be up and running with 400 Chicago families by early April. Brooks said the project then hopes to expand the program nationally.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of the country's African-American children are living without their biological father in the home. Additionally, the University of Illinois has reported that almost half of Chicago's young black men don't have a job and are not enrolled in college. Brooks said the family program could help change those trends by helping fathers stay connected with their sons.
"So, it's important that they know that their presence is needed and necessary on a regular, continual basis," she said, "and maybe introduce them to some ways to make that happen, even though they do not live in the same home."
The program will include at least 15 sessions to teach fathers parenting skills and sons how to avoid falling in with drugs and gangs.