You Are The Father!

You are the Father!

No, this is not an episode of the Maury Povich or Jerry Springer. It’s F.A.R.M. Overalls, trackers, barns or crops not required. F.A.R.M. Family Assistance for Renaissance Men is making huge strides in the city of Detroit with Willie Bell at the helm as founder and CEO, F.A.R.M, is a non-profit organization focused on the rehabilitation and reuniting of fathers with their children.

Statistically, 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes. Of runaway and homeless children, 90% and 71% of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes. Michigan currently has $9.2 BILLION owed in child support arrearages. That’s money that could go towards better schools, roads and programs like F.A.R.M.

Recently, police gunned down a man in South Carolina after a traffic stop. It was caught on video the man running way and being shot in the back. It was later revealed that he was afraid that he would be taken to jail because he owed back child support. This is a sad and very unnecessary death. But many men are afraid because they don’t know where to turn for support and help.

FARM business card

So how did it start? A product of a single-parent home, Willie Bell grew up, as far too many African American children do, without a father present. In debt, unemployed and three separate child support payments Bell contemplated running away and leaving his responsibilities behind and starting a new life elsewhere. Bell said,

“I had a few homeboys who lived in Chicago who suggested I come out there and start fresh.”

Accentually a fresh “run”; running away from his responsibilities. The offer was enticing but leaving behind his greatest responsibility, his sons, haunted him. He remained in Detroit, eventually finding a job and getting back on his feet. As his life began to change for the better, so did his spiritual life. As a result, he got the support and help he needed to be a better man and developed better relationships with the mothers of his sons. This ultimately afforded him the opportunity to give his sons the one thing he lacked growing up, a father.

“If it had not been for my experience, I wouldn’t understand what these guys are going through today… a man is in survival mode… the choice to either take care of himself, self-preservation or sacrifice to take care of his children.

Bell witnessed first hand the impact it made being in his sons’ lives at an early age. They were able to avoid some of the same mistakes he made because of his parental

involvement. So, why couldn’t every man have this opportunity to be present, if he wanted it? Why were there no programs available to help “deadbeat” dads become undead and not so beat? Bell explained how the court system only enforced the law but didn’t provide resources for men needing help and/or support. So F.A.R.M was born.

FARM collage

With 2015 being its inaugural year of operations, F.A.R.M program has already proven to help men forgive child support arrearages and reunite them with their children. Armed with social workers, lawyers and a team of community support from judges and child support officers F.A.R.M is equipped to provide the support and resources a man needs who wants to be a father to his child(ren).

Each participant must commit to the 18-month program. Each mother must sign off on the man’s participation before starting the program so that he can begin to devolve a relationship with the child without hindrances. Upon entering the program the man goes through a rigorous screening process were all of his records are scrutinized. He meets with a social worker throughout the program to help with effective communication with his child and mother and then introduced to supervised visits. The legal team with help with all legally pending affairs and the man is also required to take education and skill trade training if he is out of a job. From there, F.A.R.M will help with employment placement. And just added housing options, where fathers will be able to provide safe living arraignments for himself and for his children.

Bell believes that the epidemic of the fatherless household can be solved. A man just needs the right resources and an opportunity.

“My dream is that this program is a state-funded program available in every city in Michigan… then across the country”