Job Training Helps Dads Help Families

Fort Wayne and the Allen County courts are partners in a project which provides job training and placement services to unemployed, non-custodial fathers who are behind in their child support payments. The courts refer the fathers to JobWorks, a nonprofit organization based in Fort Wayne, for assessment of barriers to employment, a job search workshop, vocational training, job placement and post-placement support.

Unemployed non-custodial fathers who are behind in their child support payments are now receiving specially designed job training and placement services through a program that represents a partnership of Fort Wayne’s JobWorks and the Allen County courts. JobWorks, a non-profit organization based in Fort Wayne which serves as the administrative entity for the nine-county Northeast Indiana Private Industry Council, worked with two Allen County judges to develop the program. It is funded by the Fort Wayne Community Foundation and JobWorks, and Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke is a member of its five-person governing board.

"Helping Dads Helping Families is an important program that’s successfully addressing a serious issue in Fort Wayne," says Mayor Helmke. "While the program assists a handful of fathers now, it sets the stage for future collaboration among local governments and can be expanded to serve even more fathers in the future. This is an excellent example of how governmental cooperation can have a positive impact on a community."

Program Services – The program focuses on assisting fathers to obtain a job at an hourly wage which allows him to meet both his child support obligations and his own personal living expenses. Case management and a menu of services are available to each father. These services include:

Initial Referral – Allen Superior Court Judge Steve Sims and Allen Circuit Court Magistrate Cynthia Penn-Amber refer fathers who are behind in child support payments by ordering them to come to JobWorks for help in locating work. The fathers’ alternative is jail time.

Assessment – Assessment begins with an orientation which informs the fathers of program services, opportunities and requirements and an assessment of their basic reading and math skills and occupational interests and aptitudes. Within the same week they come back for an individual appointment with a case manager to review individual circumstances such as transportation needs and plans, drug or alcohol abuse, work histories and work-related skills and personal needs – financial, emotional or other.

Through the assessment, the case manager identifies any barriers to employment which require some attention in the job search process. At the conclusion of the assessment each father makes a written commitment to a plan of action which details the steps to be followed to achieve the desired outcome of employment. He is then offered the appropriate mix of services for his situation and needs.

Job Search Workshop – This 20-hour small-group workshop takes place over a five-day period. Specific topics covered include essential life skills such as budgeting and development of a plan for making child support payments, personal hygiene and appearance, anger management and conflict resolution, and dressing for the job. In addition it covers essential job search skills such as employer expectations and demands, completing company applications, assembling a good resume, preparing for an employment interview, preparing for employment testing, and looking for a job.

Short-term Vocational Skills Training – The skills training programs last from three to 26 weeks and are designed to give the fathers the occupational skills they need to begin work. Specific training can include manufacturing skills, driver’s license certification, clerical skills, customer service and computers, and health profession certification as a nursing assistant, home health aide or qualified medical assistant.

Job Club Services – After completing the one-week job search workshop or the short-term vocational skills training, the fathers participate in a structured job club activity. This provides a weekly opportunity for 1) JobWorks to review the job search progress with each father and provide him with job openings which have been identified; 2) the fathers to use the job search lab to update or modify their resumes, write and mail cover and thank you letters, telephone prospective employers and have access to a fax machine; and 3) the fathers to provide support and assistance to one another.

Job Development – The Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce provides assistance to JobWorks and its job seekers by helping to open employers’ doors through breakfast and luncheon meetings in which employers are encouraged to participate in and hire trainees from the program, by marketing program goals and opportunities, and by following up with employers to assess and recommend ways to improve the program. JobWorks conducts a number of activities designed to promote individual clients to employers and to identify job openings which otherwise would not be known to the fathers.

Post-placement Case Management – JobWorks continues case management for three to six months following initial placement in a job. The organization works with each father to develop a budget which allows him to meet his child support obligations, and contacts him every two weeks for three months after he takes a job to see how things are going and to see if there are any problems which need attention. If necessary, JobWorks continues to contact the father for an additional three months. In addition, JobWorks keeps in regular contact with employers to ensure job retention.

Helping Dads Helping Families began operation in July 1997; to date, it has trained and placed 19 fathers in jobs. The average wage these fathers have received is $12.50 plus benefits.

Building on experience to date, JobWorks plans to continue and expand the program using U.S. Department of Labor Welfare-to-Work funds.

Contact: Steve Corona, President, JobWorks, (219) 745-2000.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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