PHOTO COURTESY OF grassroots consult

There’s a good chance that if you are a black child, you have no father in the home. In fact, the startling statistic is that over six million black children in the U.S. in 2013 lived in single parent homes – that’s according to data compiled by Kids Count Data Center. Many of these children don’t know their fathers, and others who know him, may know him only from afar. The sad fact is many black kids go to bed each night without a father to put them to bed.

But two Palm Beach County residents are seeking to change those horrid national statistics. Shandra Stringer, President and CEO of Grassroots Consulting Company, Inc., is offering training and empowerment courses starting this week to help with everything from resume writing to learning how to forgive.

But this enterprising entrepreneur is also offering a course through her GCI Training and Empowerment Center on fatherhood! That’s right. The course, called a Father’s Lifeline, will examine all the complexities surrounding the black father and his all-encompassing role.

The five week, free course, offered in West Palm Beach, will examine everything from trying to be a good father even when you’ve broken up with the mother, to understanding the meaning behind child support.

But don’t expect fathers to be beaten on in this fatherhood course. This is not the place. Here, fathers will be encouraged, inspired, given guidance and even the tools and a road map to becoming better fathers. Fathers will be celebrated.

“We’re not looking for perfect fathers,’ said J.R. Thicklin, the course facilitator and the brain behind the fatherhood course. “Father’s Lifeline will inspire, encourage, empower, motivate and celebrate the honor and privilege of fatherhood.

This group is not for the ‘perfect father’ but rather for those who desire and or realize that they could use some perfecting through proven tools, life experience, support and guidance,” said Thicklin. The men will engage in healthy discussion about the vital role of fatherhood, and the sessions will look at fatherhood from a societal, spiritual, personal and generational perspective.

One of the objectives of these sessions will be to equip and empower men and fathers to become connected and responsible in the lives of their child(ren). “We have to put value back into fatherhood. We have to reverse the statistic, therefore we will have five intense weeks designed to shift their mindset,” said Thicklin, who is also a minister.  The overall goal, he said, is to rebuild and repair black families one father at a time.

Five men showed up on the first night of the course. Thicklin says there was a powerful discussion and the men appeared to enjoy it very much. “Absolutely they enjoyed it,” he said after the class concluded Monday night. “They felt comfortable being transparent. We had a judge-free environment and the men enjoyed that. I thought this first class went well considering that most of the men had only a day or two advance notice about the course. A couple of them found out about the course on Monday morning, yet they showed up Monday evening. That spoke volumes to me. I look forward to having many more men next Monday,” he said. Thicklin said his phone has been ringing constantly with inquiries about the course.

Stringer, who is also a licensed minister, said she hopes the course will help the men find their purpose, and therefore lead them to action in their personal lives. The course has been in the works for some time, but Stringer said that now is the right time to offer it. “I see a need in the community, and I felt the beginning of the year was the perfect time to address it.” The course is offered every Monday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. through February 23. As Thicklin reiterated, there’s still time for men to join the course.

How did the black family end up in such a quandary when it comes to black fathers? Is it generational? Is it hereditary? Where and when did it become so prevalent for black fathers to be absentee fathers? Are fathers who are absent from their children’s lives also the products of absentee fathers? One of the components of the course will delve into the history of black families. They’ll take a historical look at fatherlessness, and seek to understand why this pattern persists in the black family.

Other components of the course include: Primary Roles of Fathering; Presence vs. Presents (Examing what Child Support Really Means); Fathering after Divorce; Responding to Responsibility; Legacy and Living (Paying it Forward).

In addition to the Father’s Lifeline course, other courses offered at GCI Training and Empowerment Center include: computer skills, resume writing, Proper Etiquette, Becoming a Contagious Christian, and the Power of Forgiveness. Select courses are free of charge and there’s a nominal fee for others. For more information call (561) 385-4657 or email Shandra Stringer at sstringer@grassrootsconsultingusa.com.