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Blog Home > Building a Better Future: Marcus Smith and Tearra Banks' Story
Building a Better Future: Marcus Smith and Tearra Banks' Story
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.”
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