Carlos’ childhood was anything but typical.
Surrounded by the chaos of drugs, prostitution and a father with 25 children, Carlos lacked an adequate role model.
Because of this, as Carlos became older, it was difficult for him to see what it meant to be a responsible adult and father figure. That was, until he became one himself. At 33 years old, Carlos’ life began to slowly crumble after being faced with a felony for unpaid child support, and as a result, losing his job. Unemployed and bills piling up, Carlos thought he had hit rock bottom.
“I had no job, a mortgage and two car payments,” Carlos said. “Even worse, I had my priorities all wrong. My relationship with my two children was nearly nonexistent and my relationships with their mothers were volatile.”
“Carlos was at a point where we had no more open doors left to go to,” Carlos’ fiancé, Jennifer, recalled. “When you can’t find a job, and you feel like there’s no hope left, it’s hard to even attempt to keep a family together.”
Carlos knew he needed help and sought guidance from Fathers’ Support Center, St. Louis and in turn, United Way. With the help of Fathers’ Support Center, fathers become responsible parents, giving their children and families a positive outcome. Carlos enrolled in The Family Formation program, a United Way supported rigorous six-week “boot camp” designed to teach the skills necessary for parenting, emotional development, and the prevention of child and substance abuse.
“When Carlos found Fathers’ Support Center, it changed our mindset,” Jennifer said. “We saw that there were options in the world, and not every door was going to be closed from then on. It gave us hope to look forward to the future, that we could actually make it as a family.”
By the end of the six-week program, Carlos possessed the foundation and start-up tools necessary to become both a responsible father and functioning member of his community.
“My life dramatically changed after I became involved in Fathers’ Support Center,” Carlos said. “They helped lay the foundation for the life I live today and helped me become a family guy instead of running the streets.”
Not only did Carlos walk away with a better understanding of the role of a father, he decided to take it a step further. With the help of Fathers’ Support Center staff, he earned his GED diploma and received the third highest score in the state of Missouri for that testing period.
Diploma in hand, Carlos boosted his résumé by volunteering for The Salvation Army before applying for an apprenticeship at a local machining manufacturer. Out of 1,500 applicants, Carlos was one of four hired.
Carlos, now 41, has advanced his career over the past eight years to become a service technician and enjoys traveling internationally and building and repairing precision rotary transfer machines. Although Carlos has progressed far in his career, it’s not what he considers his greatest success.
“My greatest success is helping raise my daughter, Carlie, with her mom and building a relationship with my son, Cartez,” Carlos said.
Carlos’ achievements are notable on multiple levels. In fact, Carlos was voted 2012 Father of the Year by Fathers’ Support Center.
“He used everything we taught him as it relates to connecting with his children,” Managing Director of Fathers’ Support Center Cheri Tillis said with pride. “He’s never wavered. Sometimes people have great momentum but they waver. However, his path has been so consistent, especially the relationship he has with his children. For us, that’s a standout type of guy.”
To say the relationship between Carlos and his children has significantly improved since his involvement in The Family Formation program is an understatement. What used to be nearly nonexistent is now closer than ever.
“I love my dad,” Carlos’ 22-year-old daughter, Carlie, said. “We’re really close and talk all the time. He’s amazing.”
Thanks to United Way and Fathers’ Support Center, Carlos is now a supportive father and role model for his children.
“Fathers’ Support Center taught me how to be a man and how to be a father,” Carlos said with a smile. “My family is the most important thing to me in my life right now. I wear many hats, but ‘dad’ is the most important.”
About Fathers’ Support Center, St. Louis
Fathers’ Support Center has a proven track record in St. Louis by delivering positive outcomes for fathers, their children and the community. Fathers’ Support Center has received United Way funding since 2003.