Absent No More, Fathers Get 2nd Chance

An organization in Baltimore is helping men like Marcus Dixon become better men and fathers.

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Joe Jones delivers a speech on behalf of his nonprofit, Center for Urban Families. (Center for Urban Families Facebook page)

The story of absentee fathers is all too familiar in the black community. More than 53 percent of black children only have a mother in the home. Everyone from local preachers to the man once known as America's favorite dad, Bill Cosby, has raised the issue.

But even as the crisis continues, there are people like Marcus Dixon who aim not to be a part of the story, or at least to contribute to turning it around. CNN puts a spotlight on Dixon, a former Baltimore drug dealer with two sons, ages 10 and 3. He spent years dejected as he tried to get back on his feet in an effort to be a better father, but he couldn't muster the willpower to do so, focusing on things like how much money he owed in child support. It wasn't until his mother told him about the Center for Urban Families that Dixon began to see a way out, according to CNN.

When Dixon first came to the Center for Urban Families, he owed $47,000 in child support. The size of this debt discouraged him from seeking employment, he said, because it usually only paid minimum wage and most of his wages would be garnished.

But a counselor at the center helped Dixon arrange a plan with Child Support Services, which forgave more than $30,000 of his debt as long as he stayed employed.

The center also helped Dixon land a full-time job -- loading trucks on the overnight shift at a clothing warehouse -- so he could earn money while taking classes at Baltimore City Community College. Dixon, who now covers his tattoos with makeup every day, is six credits away from earning his associate's degree in general studies. He plans to apply to more colleges soon to study pharmacology and molecule science.

The Center for Urban Families was founded in 1999 by Joe Jones, a former drug dealer. As he began to take the steps to get out from under a life of crime in the 1980s, he landed at the Baltimore City Health Department. He soon realized that there were no programs geared toward men, so he took it upon himself to create one, first with a Men's Services program within Baltimore's Department of Health, and then in 1999 by starting the nonprofit.

Jones was able to turn his life around by creating an organization that helps men like Dixon. And though the story of black absentee fatherhood has not ended, Jones and Dixon are proving that a happy ending is possible.

Read more at CNN.

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