Initiative aids fathers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

A recent accomplishment brought tears to Anthony Childs&8217; eyes.

Childs and Tommy Guthridge graduated from the Fatherhood Initiative program. The program, “Quenching the Father’s Thirst, Developing a Better Dad,&8221; gives men a new outlook on life and helps them to become better fathers.

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The Fatherhood Initiative collaborates with several local and outside organizations that provide assistance with services from AIDS testing to job opportunities.

The ceremony was unique. Both men are serving time in the Dallas County Jail. They have undergone 13 weeks of training and covered topics about fatherhood, employment opportunities, religion and other avenues available to them once they&8217;ve served their time.

Supporters at the ceremony encouraged the men not to let unproductive actions of their past block opportunities.

Gertrude Walls, who helped to structure the program, urged the men to become positive role models for their children and for children from their neighborhoods.

Childs, 41, vowed to take the knowledge he gained from the program

and do just that.

He is one of 10 children and has helped to raise five children with a former girlfriend.

The Montgomery native said his father provided well for his family, but worked seven days a week to do so. Childs said he missed out on quality time with his father. Growing up, he often needed someone to talk with.

The 6-foot-9-inch basketball player had a promising future when he went off to college in Ft. Pierce, Fla. A string of bad decisions led to run-ins with the law and he lost a chance to tryout for the Orlando Magic, an NBA basketball team.

Childs said youths today have no sense of direction and need someone to step in to give them some guidance. He said he&8217;s accepted Christ and is a changed man. He vows to take the tools he&8217;s learned in the initiative and take them back to his community.

The U.S. Census Bureau&8217;s latest figures on families in the nation shows 10.4 million single-mother families reported in 2006. About two-thirds of the nation&8217;s 73.7 million children younger than 19 lived with two married parents in 2006.

Guthridge knows conception is only part of the act. The 59-year-old has fathered three children and has one grandchild. Until he went to prison, Guthridge played a major role in the lives of his children.

One mistake separated him from them.

Louella Guthridge said the separation has been hardest on their 19-year-old son. She also has felt the pain, filling the role of mother and father.

The initiative helps men relate to real issues in the home, which impressed her. Men learned to talk to their children. They learned how to answer difficult questions. They learned about taking responsibility for their actions and to become involved with their children.

Tommy Guthridge has enjoyed learning and sharing ideas on rearing a child with other members of the group, but the mindset of today&8217;s younger fathers disturbs him.

He sees young men come in and out of the jail and hears them talk about how many children they have, but don&8217;t say that they are involved in their lives.

His message to those young men: &8220;Put in time with your children.&8221;