The founder of Fathers' Uplift, Charles Daniels, didn’t grow up with a father in his household. As a child, he wasn't given an explanation, and that experience fueled his life’s mission.
“I too was once that kid who blamed myself for my father’s absence. He wasn’t absent because he didn’t care about me. He was absent because he needed help,” Daniels told Yahoo Life. “We wanted to make sure that we have created an organization to give dads like my own father the help that they willingly deserve.”
In his twenties, Daniels discovered that his father made a mistake that resulted in having two families — Daniels and his mother were the outside family. His father was absent because he didn’t have the resources or tools to navigate the obstacles he was facing.
According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, 24 million children in the United States live without their dad in the home. With his organization, Fathers' Uplift, Daniels provides mental health counseling, coaching, and advocacy to assist fathers with overcoming the barriers that prevent them from remaining engaged in their children's lives.
“We have to be open to understanding why fathers are absent instead of judging them for being absent. Because the reason matters,” says Daniels. “A lot of our father’s have issues with child welfare cases where they’ve not been able to see their kids. A lot of our dads have child support issues. Homelessness, housing issues, incarceration. I mean, you know how hard it is to get a job after you’re released from incarceration? Our dads need help."
Battling the systemic issues that keep fathers from their children can feel daunting. Daniels warns that hitting roadblock after roadblock can impact mental health and create even more barriers to a father getting reunited with their child.
As Father’s day approaches, Daniels realizes that the day can be tough for men who are separated from their children, for whatever reason. He encourages those men to hold on, and focus on what matters.
CHARLES DANIELS: No one dreams of being absent from their kids. You're a man and you can make mistakes, but you also can be imperfect and be the best father you want to be. When I think about my daughter my son, I really want them to know that being Black is a gift. Because I have kids who've entered our practice, who thought that being Black was a curse.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Welcome to "Unmuted", everyone. Joining me today is Dr. Charles Daniels, the CEO and co-founder of Fathers Uplift, has made it his mission to provide mental health counseling and coaching so that fathers can be there for their children. You know you've centered your work around fatherhood. Why was that so important to you?
CHARLES DANIELS: What we've noticed about father absence, and it's a real issue in communities of color and communities nationally, when kids do not have an explanation about where their father is, they end up blaming themselves for their father's absence. I too was once that kid who blamed myself for my father's absence. He wasn't absent because he didn't care about me, he was absent because he needed help.
So we wanted to make sure that we have created an organization to give dads like my own father the help that they willingly deserve.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: We know that parenting and being a father can be overwhelming. What do you say to people about how important it is to sort of look at their past traumas and deal with them so that they can move forward.
CHARLES DANIELS: We have to be open to understanding why fathers are absent, as opposed to judging them for being absent. Because the reason matters. A lot of our fathers have issues with child welfare cases, when they're not been able to see their kids. A lot of our dads have child support issues. Homelessness, housing issues, incarceration, I mean, you know how hard it is to get a job after you were released from incarceration?
Our dads need help and we're dealing with a system where racism is embedded in the structures of their community and where they are. That leads to ongoing depression, it leads to sustained anxiety and to be honest with you, there's men who will give up because they just can't deal with it. Depression would take hold of them. We can't change these systems by ourselves but we can support you with how you respond to them. We ask them this question from Dr. Berné Brown. We said, who's the author of your story? When you say I am, that means that you write your own ending. And we encourage them to really look at how far they've come, as well.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You know I have a lot of brothers and cousins, and I find that many times they come to the women in their lives to talk about their issues. Their wives, their mothers, their sisters, and I'm always encouraging them. Why aren't you talking to each other? So many of these experiences are lived, and that community is just so crucial.
CHARLES DANIELS: Can you imagine a bunch of men of color sitting in a group with you, who most likely don't have their kids either. Telling you that, hey, you know we're going to get through this together. Our population is all about trust, and if you gain the trust of a Black man he will show you how vulnerable he can be. Community and having a village is so important to men of color.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You mentioned your father, as well. I just want to know your own-- your fatherhood philosophy.
CHARLES DANIELS: When I think about my daughter and my son, I really want them to know it's OK to fail. It's OK to fall. I don't want my kids to be perfect, I want them to embrace their imperfections. And I want them to know that their loved despite the color of their skin. By their family, and also by people in the world. Dads out there, if your kid is your goal, keep fighting.
There's millions of other dads out there who are fighting with you, to be the dads they've always wanted to be.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I want to thank you again for joining us today, and for the work that you're doing with fathers. I believe it is so important.
CHARLES DANIELS: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate this opportunity to speak with you.