The Christian Science Monitor

Fathers helping fathers, so kids can thrive

Fathers introduce themselves during a sharing session at the Fathers’ Support Center, which helps men get more involved in their children’s lives. Source: Ann Hermes/Staff

On alternating weekends, William Howard Lee Jr. gets to bask in the kind of unconditional love and glee that naturally spill out of 5-year-olds. His son Jreisen jumps into his arms, telling him all about his latest adventure or favorite toy. 

“He feels like his father can do no wrong, and I love that about seeing the innocence in his eyes,” Mr. Lee says, his own eyes hidden behind sunglasses as he smiles thinking about his “baby.”

When Lee enrolled at Fathers’ Support Center (FSC) here in January, he carried burdens that little Jreisen couldn’t see: He grew up without his father, and his stepfather beat his mom before leaving when Lee was 6. Lee was an ex-con struggling to find a better job. He was quick to argue with the mother of Jreisen and Jalon (one of his two 16-year-old sons), and he didn’t see them as often as he wished.

But he was determined to be a better father than anyone had been to him. “I want to break a generational curse and show my children how to be more productive as a father,” he says. “We all try to parent the best that we can, but, you know, we don’t always have the answers, and we don’t always have the right guidelines to start with.”

He found some of those parenting insights here, and so much more than he imagined when he first arrived at the no-frills classrooms in this big tan building, shared among social service agencies and nonprofits. It sits on a hill overlooking small brick homes and abandoned lots near a St. Louis highway that hugs a curve in the Mississippi River. 

Over the past 21 years, FSC has expanded to four more locations around the city and has given

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