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Connecting dads to their children, schools and community

Educating and engaging their son are Kenny and Tracy Braswell filling out the 2020 U.S. Census. (Left: KJ, Kenny and wife Tracy). Photo contributed.
Educating and engaging their son are Kenny and Tracy Braswell filling out the 2020 U.S. Census. (Left: KJ, Kenny and wife Tracy). Photo contributed.

Sitting in family court, fighting for custody of his young daughter, Kenneth Braswell could not help but wonder why his 1 1/2-year-old had to answer questions about adult issues.

“What struck me was her mother was sitting on one side of the room and I was on another. My daughter kept running back and forth between the two of us,” he said.

She had no idea what was happening.

Watching his daughter, he realized, “it is metaphoric to what happens with parents when they are going through divorce and separation. The kids are literally running back and forth between us, not understanding what is going on,” Braswell said.

He had heard about the biases toward dads and the tension in the courtroom, but had never personally encountered it.

That experience in 2004 pushed him to create Fathers Incorporated, with the goal of helping dads navigate the system of child support, custody and visitation.

Braswell quickly realized those three things were not the problems. They were symptoms of bigger issues, he said.

“The larger problems were understanding the nuances of being a co-parent, communicating, unemployment, health disparities, inadequate housing, poverty. All these things are the larger problems,” he said.

The Dunwoody-based nonprofit focuses on key issues ranging from co-parenting, employment to incarceration, domestic violence, child support, financial stability, fatherhood engagement and early childhood development.

Two current programs the group is deeply engaged in is Real Dads Read and Black Dads Count.

They have 100 literacy centers in barbershops and low-income schools in the form of little street libraries throughout metro Atlanta.

“The more fathers you get academically engaged in the lives of their children, the better they are going to be in a whole host of demographics but specifically in the educational space,” Braswell said. “You are going to see a better output from our children as a result of dads being in the lives of their children.”

The group is also partnering with the U.S. Census Bureau to make sure African American communities are counted.

“What we want to do is to connect the responsibility of a dad and the responsibility of civic engagement. To tie into each other so we can begin to talk to the fathers about the importance of completing the U.S. census because in doing so, it puts resources in the communities where you live for your children,” he said. “You can’t complain about your child’s school not having any resources if you haven’t done the one thing you can do personally.”

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