By James Jones, B.MORE Initiative Coordinator, NTJN
“Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.” – President Barack Obama (Father’s Day 2008)
This Father’s Day, we reflected on the selfless efforts of dads all across the country. Fathers play a unique and important role in the lives of their children, spouses, and co-parents. That role, however, can be undermined by stereotypes that relegate the breadth of a father’s contributions solely to provider or family breadwinner—stereotypes that have helped drive policies that marginalize low-income men who are unable to financially support their children and families.
In particular, low-income, noncustodial African American men are often depicted as dead beat dads—a negative narrative that is not supported by any empirical evidence. The reality is that low-income African American men are often penalized by a web of child support policies and enforcement practices that were designed to collect revenue from noncustodial parents who were financially able, yet sometimes unwilling, to help support their families. The impact of these “one-size-fits-all” policies is that families at the lowest end of the income spectrum tend to suffer severely.
In keeping with states like Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Wisconsin and others, we encourage state child support enforcement agencies and entities serving low-income noncustodial fathers to implement innovative policies that help fathers meet their obligations while meeting their own basic needs, and help lift families out of poverty by helping parents succeed in employment. This blog takes a longer look at states that are doing just that—and provides policy recommendations that we hope will help spur innovation in a greater number of states. Read More…
By Caitlin C. Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow, NTJN
With the weather in Chicago (finally!) warming up, the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) team traveled to East Garfield Park to visit FarmWorks, an urban farm developed by Heartland Human Care Services (HHCS) that provides transitional jobs (TJ) to low-income residents overcoming barriers to employment. Splitting their time between the farm and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, transitional workers develop employable skills in urban farming, landscaping, and warehousing and distribution.
While the workers gain experience that will help them obtain entry-level work, FarmWorks realizes that entry-level jobs are a first step, not an end goal, for TJ participants. “HHCS has run TJ programming for many years, and we’ve also been working on enhancements to the TJ model to ensure participant success in career pathways that lead to self-sufficiency,” says Jay Landau, HHCS’ Director of Education and Program Development. To this end, FarmWorks has integrated its TJ program with a contextualized adult learning curriculum so that workers can build literacy and numeracy skills along with knowledge of career pathways with family-sustaining wages.
With FarmWorks’ strategy already showing positive results, the NTJN sat down with Jay and Dave Snyder, FarmWorks’ Program Manager, to talk about how this promising program design can help workers succeed and advance on the job. Read More…
How America Can Do More to Help Black Men Returning Home from Prison Find Jobs: Reflections on RecycleForce’s Trip to Capitol Hill
By Caitlin C. Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow
“In the summer of 2012, I had just been released from federal prison. I was staying in a halfway house and job hunting, but I really couldn’t come up with any work…It’s so hard to come home from prison and it shouldn’t be…A couple of men at the halfway house stumbled across RecycleForce and told me about it…RecycleForce took a chance with me and I pretty much try to take advantage of every opportunity they’ve given me.” — Robert Perry, RecycleForce
As March came to a close, RecycleForce staff, including former program participant Robert Perry, met up with the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) team in Washington, D.C. We were there to support the B.MORE Initiative’s efforts to champion policies that open doors to employment and economic advancement for low-income black men. Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, RecycleForce provides people returning home from incarceration with transitional jobs (TJ) in its revenue-generating recycling business and provides comprehensive supportive services so that returning citizens can overcome barriers to employment and successfully reenter their communities.
Robert Perry, a former RecycleForce program participant and now the organization’s Shipping and Receiving Coordinator, was integral in showing Indiana’s Congressional delegates why it’s important that they put their support behind employment programs and policies like banning the box that help low-income black men succeed in work.
In meetings with legislators in D.C., Robert was courageous enough to share the struggles he faced finding a job when he returned home from incarceration and how RecycleForce helped him become employed and advance in the workplace. In this interview, Robert opens up again to share RecycleForce’s impact on his life, reflect on his time in D.C., and make the case for why “banning the box” can help ensure that everyone who wants to work can find a job.