COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Today was the first of many conversations leaders with Omega Psi Phi fraternity hope to share with fathers across town.
Dozens of men shared information and insight on the kind of help Georgia's Department of Human Services can provide through its Fatherhood Program, which has been part of DHS' outreach for 12 years.
Part of this effort, for Marvin Broadwater, Sr., the fraternity's Georgia representative, is to counter any rumors or fears the men may have against an agency that handles and monitors child support payments.
"It's in their minds," Broadwater said, "that it exists because 20 years ago, the Department of Human Services was different."
John Hurst, DHS's deputy director for child support services, said the agency has followed a federal lead to change the way they operate and bring non-custodial fathers into the conversation.
"Over the last several years, the [federal agencies have] been moving away from enforcement and more to services. Georgia again is out in front of that," Hurst said.
The services offered through the Fatherhood program include possible child support modifications, depending on the father's financial situation. That client will have a case manager to help them with financial issues, as well as help them find job training and placement.
"I'm actually gaining two things at one time," said Rico Morrison, who attended Saturday's "Fatherhood Conversation" at Canaan Baptist Church. "Independence, [and] getting to see my child again; that's the main focus I have."
In addition, the Fatherhood program can help men, like Morrison, with suspended driving licenses reinstate them, and ensure clients can get to the jobs they want.
This, Hurst said, is a partnership both the agency and the fraternity want to grow; to bring non-custodial fathers into the discussion of helping themselves and their children succeed.
"We really appreciate [Omega Psi Phi's] effort in bringing the audience to us and reaching out to them, and helping us get our message out there so we can help people."