Success Stories
CFUF’s body of work dates back thirteen years, and has impacted more than twenty thousand lives. With each case, we’ve developed an intimate understanding of how policies – set at the local, state and national level – both help and hinder families in their quest for economic stability.

As a result, advocacy runs in our blood. Members of CFUF – from organizational leadership to families impacted by our programs – have risen to the podium time and time again to speak up for public policies that engage fathers, empower couples, train disconnected workers, and help families achieve economic success.

For example, take Marcus Smith and Tearra Banks. Marcus and Tearra joined CFUF’s Couples Advancing Together program in 2011, after hearing about it from a friend. Marcus was unemployed and Tearra pregnant with their first child. During the six weeks in the program, they began to learn the tools necessary to succeed as a family – everything from communication, to financial literacy, to family-focused career planning. Together as a growing family, and as a part of a group of couples, they began the lifelong journey of building and maintaining a healthy, committed relationship.

A year later, Marcus and Tearra – with nine-month old Iyona in tow – had a chance to publicly speak about the impact that Couples Advancing Together had on their relationship. They testified in favor of House Bill 958, which would allow for the start of similar programs in three Maryland counties. It was the day they chose to speak up on behalf of CFUF for a necessary and important change to Maryland’s laws: including fathers in decisions that affect their children.

The bill asked that local government assistance providers – following the model of Couples Advancing Together – actively involve fathers in planning and decision-making, rather than simply sending a bill for child support. As Marcus said during his testimony, including romantically-involved fathers “doesn’t create a barrier to receiving benefits… it leads to better outcomes for both adults and children.”

Marcus and Tearra, advocating at the state legislature, are just one example. CFUF continues to be at the forefront of the national policy debate about black male achievement and fatherhood, and has pursued child support reform in Maryland.

“We believe that as our work continues to inform us, it’s our responsibility to share those lessons with policymakers across the nation,” said Danielle Torain, Senior Director of Strategy and Development at CFUF. “CFUF’s work impacts larger policy decisions that ultimately affect thousands of low-income workers, families and communities. It gives us a chance to have an impact not just here in Maryland, but in communities across the nation.”
At 35, Andre Alston had nearly as many criminal charges as he did years on this earth. When he walked into the STRIVE program in October 2011, he wasted no time telling his CFUF case manager, LeChelle Jones, that such barriers were no match for his sheer will and passion toward achieving one goal: a new life for himself and his children.

Andre threw himself into the STRIVE curriculum, learning practical skills – like the fundamentals of computer literacy and job interviews – alongside the soft skills – like critical thinking and relationship building – necessary to remain successful on the job. Out of the more than sixty who enrolled in his STRIVE cohort, Andre was one of 34 graduates – a testament to his perseverance in this demanding program.

Andre had worked as a tow truck driver prior to his incarceration, and knew that it provided the income he needed to take care of his family. But who would hire an ex-offender to do such independent, self-directed work?

CFUF staff knew that Andre had what it takes. Through CFUF’s wide network of employer partners and long, positive track record of providing top quality candidates, John arranged for Andre to interview with NEC Towing. Eleven days after graduating STRIVE, Andre was employed – making $18.00 per hour.

To Andre, stable employment was just a means to a greater end: supporting his family. A non-custodial yet incredibly committed father 2 children, with another one on the way, LeChelle also suggested that Andre participate in CFUF’s Responsible Fatherhood program to grow his parenting and relationship skills. Andre not only completed the 6-month program, but chose to stay involved and mentor others.

Today, Andre is not only providing for his growing family, he’s taking the steps necessary to build an ever-increasing level of self-sufficiency. His stable employment has allowed him to become current on his child support payments, which he got behind on while incarcerated. He’s working with CFUF partner GO Northwest to repair his credit, and with WODA Development to become a first-time homeowner next year.

For Andre, LeChelle and CFUF were more than avenues toward employment. They were the building blocks of a better life for Andre and his family.
Rich Beattie, principal of Baltimore-based Mechanical Engineering and Construction Corporation (MEC2), learned about the Center for Urban Families when MEC2 was retained to install heating and cooling in CFUF’s new building in 2008.

Neither knew that by 2012, MEC2 would be turning to CFUF for referrals to fill all new entry-level job openings.

“The STRIVE program is our pre-employment screening service at MEC2,” Mr. Beattie noted with enthusiasm. “When CFUF tells me a graduate is ready for a second chance, I know he’s ready.”

MEC2 employs skilled craftsmen – HVAC technicians, plumbers, pipe fitters – teaching them technical skills in-house using an apprenticeship program. For an entry-level hire, soft skills like timeliness, a positive attitude, and a strong work ethic are much more important, and much more difficult to screen for. That’s where CFUF proved to be a valuable partner.

“African American males from Baltimore City face many hurdles in their search for a career. This is especially true for men with criminal backgrounds,” Mr. Beattie said. “STRIVE is our answer to addressing that hurdle.”

Today, STRIVE graduates employed by MEC2 have a 70% retention rate – compared with 30% for non-STRIVE graduates. Out of the nine currently employed there, four went on to trade school, increasing their wages from $13 to more than $24 per hour. They continue to be involved – acting as mentors to new STRIVE employees at MEC2, and to recent STRIVE graduates through CFUF’s Alumni program.

Mr. Beattie sees the partnership as a “win-win situation” for MEC2 and for STRIVE graduates. “STRIVE graduates get a second chance and a career path. I get good employees who appreciate the opportunity and as a result, are loyal and dedicated. That is good business practice.”


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