By Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
Last month, we were honored to support the Campaign for Black Male Achievement in developing bold goals and indicators to help strategically guide the organization’s ongoing efforts to improve the life outcomes of black men and boys. While men and youth of color face a myriad of challenges in health, education, wealth, housing, and other social and economic outcomes, it’s clear to us and many others across the country that economic opportunity must be a key area of change. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that men and youth of color have access to employment and economic opportunity and we must measure our progress against these goals.
By James A. Jones, Field Engagement Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
This Father’s Day, as we honor the contributions of dads across the country, we’d like to highlight the needs of an often overlooked population: young fathers. Between 1990 and 2010, the teen pregnancy rate declined by 51 percent. However, that decline may have been even greater if there were an increase in efforts to engage young fathers. Traditionally, young mothers have been at the center of research, prevention, and assistance efforts. As a result, little is known about best practices in engaging young fathers. What we do know is that teen fathers are less likely than their peers to graduate from high school and subsequently face significant barriers to employment and economic stability.
The Dovetail Project is a Chicago-based organization whose sole mission is increasing employment opportunities and parenting skills of young, at-risk fathers. Sheldon Smith, founder of the Dovetail Project, started the organization to address an issue that shaped his life as well as countless other young men in his community: absent fathers. As the son of a young father, Sheldon endured his father’s absence and lack of financial and emotional support, the result of unemployment, incarceration, and no parenting skills. This left Sheldon with a burning desire to end the cycle of fatherless children when he became a dad at age 20. The National Initiatives team recently spoke with Sheldon about the Dovetail Project and the strategies he attributes to its success.
“This is Way Bigger than Me”: Connections to Success’ Damion Alexander Reflects on His Visit to Capitol Hill
At the end of February, staff and program participants from Connections to Success joined the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) in Washington, D.C., to support our B.MORE Initiative in opening doors to employment and economic advancement for low-income black men. Together, we made the rounds on Capitol Hill, speaking to delegates from Missouri and Kansas about how Connections to Success helps individuals with barriers to employment, including many African American men returning home from incarceration, transform their lives and achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Damion Alexander, a Life Transformation Coach and Trainer at Connections to Success, played a central role in showing members of Congress how important it is for them to champion policies and programs that advance economic opportunity and strengthen families by helping low-income black men succeed in employment.
In this interview, Damion—who was on his first trip to D.C.—discusses the impact of his time on Capitol Hill; makes a policy pitch for reducing state-owed child support debts; and shares why he made a special stop at the Lincoln Memorial while exploring the city.