ESPN radio and TV personality Steven A. Smith said he and his father did not have a great relationship when he was growing up in Hollis and as a result he did not develop into the adult he should have been.
Speaking at the opening of a new center last Thursday in Jamaica designed to help non-custodial fathers, Smith urged fathers to get serious with their children even if it meant going out and seeking help on how to do it.
“As men, you impact lives in ways you can’t realize,” he said.
The Forestdale Initiative Center, at 159-17 Hillside Ave., provides free help to fathers with a 12-step program of parental counseling. There, men can get a variety of services from anger management courses, group sessions and job training.
Scott Leach, the center’s administrative director, said the 11-year-old program has worked well for hundreds of men who visited the other city centers because it gives them a chance to develop as adults.
“Most of the fathers in our program are fatherless men, so they don’t know how to raise their children,” he said.
Lamarr Wheeler, an employment counselor , said the programs are aimed at improving each man, which in turn trickles down to his children.
“It certainly helps them feel better about themselves being a provider,” he said of the job training and placement courses.
Nearly 25 million children live apart from their fathers in America, including two out of every three black American children, according to Anstiss Agnew, the executive director of Forestdale Inc., the Forest Hills-based nonprofit. Parents who grow up without their fathers are more likely to drop out of school or commit a crime, she said.
“The absence of a father has a real repercussion in the community,” she said.
Smith, who said he has patched things up with his father recently, agreed. The sportscaster said because he and his father did not talk while he was growing up, he rarely asked his father for advice.
Although topics like how to shave properly or how to treat women may seem like natural topics to men, Smith said learning those topics from a father makes a major difference in a boy’s development.
“I cannot tell you how much better I would have been if I had a better father,” he said.
Leach said he hopes interested men will use the center as a one-stop shop for parenting help.
Smith, a single father himself, encouraged anyone who is interested to come if they value the relationship with their sons and daughters.
“We have to be better and we have to enforce our responsibility,” he said.
For more information on the center, call 718-263-0740.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@c
©2009 Community News Group
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