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Father program begins in LIC

Fortune Society graduates Francisco Gonzalez (l.) and Allen Judge (r.) show off their cooking skills during a visit by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to announce a new fatherhood initiative. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Nathan Duke

Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a citywide initiative from Long Island City last week that will enable city agencies to help fathers stay active in their children’s lives.

The program will incorporate 13 city agencies and provide a variety of services for young fathers such as teaching them how to cook, showing them how to get jobs and creating activities in which they could take part with their children.

“Most of us who grew up with a father know how valuable that support can be,” the mayor said during the program’s kickoff at the Fortune Society on Northern Boulevard in Long Island City. “We want to break the cycles that prevent young people in our city from fulfilling their dreams.”

Some 32 percent of city children grow up in single-parent households, Bloomberg said. An estimated 54 percent of black children and 43 percent of Latino children in the five boroughs are raised in fatherless households.

At the end of July, the city Housing Authority will open community centers at its housing development Wednesdays and Sundays for fathers and daughters to take part in cultural activities.

Francisco Gonzalez, 31, a Bronx resident who attends LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, said the Fortune Society, a group that helps the formerly incarcerated readjust to society, taught him to become a better father to his daughters.

“I was knee deep in street life when I got introduced to the Fortune Society,” Gonzalez said. “I have two daughters and they are now both proud that I’m their father.”

Gonzalez said he knew he had turned his life around when the mother of his children, who previously did not want him to be involved in his daughters’ lives, asked him to mediate during a familial discussion.

Actor Malik Yoba, who recently starred in Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married?” films, said he went through the family court system, which created “barriers” for him to be a father toward his children.

“It was a serious challenge,” said Yoba, a supporter of custodial rights for fathers. “The importance of a father in a child’s life cannot be overstated.”

Bloomberg announced the program just days before Father’s Day. He said the initiative would be operated at numerous city sites, such as public hospitals, homeless shelters and community centers.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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