SAVING OUR SONS

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Local agency seeks to pave road to a better way

   Alexander Roseborough, president and founder of Fathers, Families In Transition, says that having a father in a young man’s life is key for young African-Americans to stay out of prison and have a positive, non-violent role in their community. Roseborough knows what it's like to grow up without a father. Raised on the city's South Side, as a young African American male he fell victim to some of the same vices that have made so many like him a somber statistic tale of life in America's mean streets.   Roseborough says he was not very close with his own father.
        “We had some positive times together, don’t get me wrong, but the fact that he was an absentee father did not help me,” he said.
But today he is clean and sober and himself a married father. He is also founder of a local group whose aim is to save other young men and women just like him and to keep them from the same traps that ensnared him and countless others
            At Roseborough’s office, located in Loop, he said the most important thing he can do for the young men his organization seeks to serve is stress the importance of having a family.           
            “The family structure has to be saved,” Roseborough said. “The community in which these men live in has generally not had strong family bonds. Having a father present and also have a strong family bond can make sure these men stay on the right path.”
            Founded in June 2000, Fathers, Families in Transition is a not-for profit organization that helps families by providing “lifestyle coaching, spiritual encouragement, mentoring, fatherhood and parenting education, referrals and other life enhancing support seminars to custodial, non-custodial fathers, youth, women, family members, and others in matters relating to strengthening families and individuals.”
            One of Roseborough’s responsibilities with the organization is to counsel young men on ways they can get a job and help their families.
            Roseborough said they have helped more than 150 young men since 2009. Roseborough added that their goal is to cover a five-year period, where Fathers, Families in Transition hopes to serve over 2,000 fathers in that time period.
He added that the need for education and promotion of family values and ideals is particularly need for those in their targeted group because hip-hop culture promotes ideals that are detrimental to the community.
“The subculture of that community today that idolizes the hip-hop culture is different day by day,” Roseborough said. “They have seen a lifestyle of cars, women, jewelry and tend to strive for that. At Fathers, Families in Transition, we try to show them a wider scope of what they can accomplish.”
            Roseborough added that “most of the families and communities I deal with tend not to see the big picture. Most of these men do not have jobs, and in the short term it’s okay for a little bit, but it hurts the community overall.”
            Facing the problem, Roseborough’s agency offers one-on-one counseling sessions, adding that he believes that giving each young man specific attention just may help make all the difference..
            Roseborough and his group are not alone in providing help for these young men.
            Another organization trying to help the community is the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative, or IFI. Lois Rakov, a member of the group’s board of advisors, says the number-one thing most of the young men they serve want is to meet their fathers.
            “No matter what the situation is, the key thing these kids want is to meet their fathers,” Rakov said. “There are facts to show that not having a father figure in someone’s life greatly affects them.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorder come from fatherless homes.
Rakov added that the likelihood of a person to be involved with substance abuse or to serve time in prison is also connected to fatherless homes.
“At IFI, we have started to see a trend where more problems occur to people who do not have fathers,” Rakov said. A study by Rainbows for all God’s Children, a grief support group for children, found that 75 percent of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes.
“We at IFI are trying to help combat this problem,” Rakov said. “There is evidence out there showing a father can directly affect the direction of these kids.”
            In addition to helping young males, Roseborough has also been a correctional officer, juvenile court liaison, substance abuse counselor and employment specialist.
            Roseborough said that if young men can be exposed to the bigger picture and the world of possibilities beyond their own worlds often filled with crime, poverty and too often hopelessness, the consequences of prison time and drug addiction among African-American males would not be as prevalent.
            “With our organization we want to show them what life can be,” Roseborough said. “Show them the importance of parenting and being successful in their community.”
By Chris Zois
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