Interview with Charles Daniels, Co-Founder and CEO and Samantha Fils-Daniels, Co-Founder and COO
Fathers’ UpLift (FUL) was founded in 2011 by Dr. Charles Daniels, Jr. and Samantha Fils-Daniels. After their own lived experiences in both their personal lives and their professional lives in the field of social work, Charles and Samantha were well aware that there was an incredible lack of resources, guidance, and mental health focus for fathers and men, especially in minority communities. As a product of fatherlessness himself, Charles frequently wondered, “If my father had had the right resources and support, would things have been different?” Samantha, whose father had been involved in her childhood, was able to bring a perspective to the table of what healthy fatherhood could look like and accomplish for children, families, and the fathers themselves.
Between their shared experiences, Charles and Samantha set out to create an organization that would support fathers like Charles’ and help them to overcome obstacles – emotional, physical, and mental – that might keep them from full involvement in their children’s lives. Since its founding, FUL has outgrown 3 facilities, served over 10,000 fathers and family members, and contributed to the training of more than 2,500 social workers, correctional facility staff, and other state and community organization employees (impacting services provided to an estimated 200,000+ individuals).
In 11 years of operation, according to Charles, more than half of fathers ever served by FUL were helped in just the last three years. “Our organization’s reach and impact is growing exponentially. Even still, we are behind the demand curve for our services, with dozens of fathers waitlisted until we can hire new clinicians. With our eyes on the future and intent on meeting this demand, we are currently engaged in hiring and capacity-building to enable us to continue serving our community and helping fathers to thrive and succeed.”
What are the goals of the organization?
FUL’s primary goal is to assist fathers and fatherless youth in overcoming barriers (financial, oppressive, emotional, traumatic, and addiction-based) that prevent them from being more successful. Recently, FUL instituted a platform to replicate its efforts through the licensing of its model to social work professionals, community service organizations, and state agencies. Charles notes, “We are excited to set new goals to expand our model and reach to impact more individuals.”
How is the TPC grant being used?
We are thankful for the financial support TPC has provided and are utilizing this support to add to the sustainability of our operations. The funding provided by TPC has allowed us to hire an additional billing coordinator, which allows us to decrease our proportion of bad debt in billing and increase successful insurance reimbursement, increasing the sustainability of our work.
What do you hope to gain from your relationship with TPC? Are there other ways TPC members could help you?
We are eager to continue to engage with the TPC community and share our story. We hope to help TPC members to emotionally connect with our work and those we serve and to see them become advocates and partners in our journey to end fatherlessness. Ways TPC members can support FUL include listening to our FUL podcast (AFAR, Absent For a Reason), purchasing items for our Bags for Dads (more info at https://www.fathersuplift.org/get-involved/bags-for-dads/), hosting a Bags for Dads Drive, following us on social media, or just sharing the word. And, of course, monetary donations keep the gears grinding and wheels turning behind our services and will always be appreciated.
What is most gratifying about your work? Is there an example that stands out for you?
Some of our greatest joys are found in the simple moments of service. Experiences such as seeing a father be reconnected to his children for the first time in months or years, hearing a child express how we’ve helped them to feel worthy and valuable, or being told by fathers that we’ve helped them to end generations of fatherlessness; these are powerful experiences.
Last week, a client of ours who had not seen his son since he was born 5 months ago was reunited with him. Our coaches have been having weekly sessions with this particular father to help with this ongoing reunification.
Working with dads to be more engaged with their children is what feeds many of our staff at FUL. Reunification with their children is often the end goal for many of our dads, and our team rejoiced upon hearing the news about this client being reunited with his 5-month-old.
Putting in the work to better yourself and your family is a path with twists and turns, but in the end, most of our clients find themselves in a much better position to be the parent they want to be. The magic sauce is the Village that surrounds each dad.
Recently, Dr. Charles Daniels was interviewed in the Feb. 14, 2022 issue of Forbes Magazine at https://www.fathersuplift.org/our-ceo-dr-charles-c-daniels-jr-made-it-to-forbes/
For more information about FUL, please contact TPC liaisons Carol V. Berman or Ruth Ferguson.