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Children and fathers reunite with DADS' help
By ERICA HALL
Marvin Charles was in the middle of a crack binge when, against the wishes of his girlfriend, Jeanett, he took their 7-month-old daughter and left her on the steps of Child Protective Services.
Parenting was not a tool with which Marvin entered adulthood.
His adoptive mother died when he was 9, and he was placed in foster care, where he was abused and neglected. He circulated among different foster homes and juvenile detention and, eventually, began to use drugs.
He had seven children by five different women and wasnt a good father to any of them. By the time he met Jeanett, he had a firmly established crack cocaine habit. He and Jeanett used together and the couples drug habits spiraled out of control.
By the time Marvin made the decision to drop off their youngest daughter, state social workers had already removed their other children and placed them into foster care.
To be a good father, what is your measurement? he said. I was raised in foster care.
To even consider getting their children back, Marvin and Jeanett had to comply with state Department of Social and Health Services requirements: In- and out-patient drug treatment, followed by a clean and sober environment for their children.
We realized we needed to do something, Marvin said. The drug culture was wearing on me. I stopped getting high for the same reason I started getting high. I remember being in treatment, praying to God to help me put my family back together.
Marvin and Jeanett worked to meet the states requirements. During that time, their children were allowed to visit, but they couldnt stay. Finally, two years later, they had put all the pieces in place and their children came home. Marvin thought hed made it. He quickly discovered he had a lot to learn about fatherhood.
I didnt realize how hard it was on the children until they came home, Marvin said. I was satisfied. I got my children back, I thought I was a dad.
The family lived on a street lined with single-mother homes. There were fatherless children everywhere, each from a family torn apart by a variety of circumstances. After what theyd been through, Marvin and Jeanett thought they might be able to help their neighbors put their families back together.
In 1999, the year they were married, Marvin and Jeanett founded Divine Alternatives for Dads Services, a non-profit organization to teach estranged fathers how to navigate the legal system as well as how to build healthy, loving relationships with their sons and daughters.