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Could parenting classes help curb Indy's teen violence? Fathers and Families Center hopes so

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Posted at 8:44 PM, Apr 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-02 20:44:16-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Many social media comments in the aftermath of a shooting which injured seven teens and children in downtown Indianapolis blamed parents for the violence. A local organization said it is helping parents at risk become better role models.

The Fathers and Families Center has provided guidance to Indianapolis fathers since 1991. It estimates more than 23,000 fathers have gone through the program.

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"We have 4 P's to be: a better person, a better parent, a better partner, and a better provider," said Fathers and Families CEO Larry Smith. "We have a mix of empathy and tough love to let them know, 'I know bad things happened to you. Bad things happened to me as well, but your children are counting on you.'"

The program is open to all, but many who enrolled are either formerly incarcerated or are low-income.

"These are men who have said, 'I tried my way, my way doesn't work, let me try this way,' and that is infinitely gratifying," Scott said.

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Smith himself became a father at 16 years old. He now has three children, including one in high school.

He hopes the lessons he's learned through fatherhood can help parents be there for their children.

"A kid can smell a phony from a mile away," Smith said. "If we are genuine about our desire to engage with them and wrap our arms around them, then they begin to open up a bit more."

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The Fathers and Families Center helps fathers with job training so they can find employment to financially support their children. However, Smith said the love matters far more than the money.

"It's trying to meet these kids not only financially, but emotionally and mentally," Smith continued. "That requires you to do a lot more listening than talking and building that rapport. It doesn't mean that you're your kids' best friend, but it simply means that you are a parent who understands."

The organization is hosting an open house for interested parents on Friday at 5620 E. 30th Street, which runs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.