Memphis dads graduate new program that teaches how to be better fathers

Local non-profit hosts first graduation for ‘AFIRM’ fatherhood program
Published: Jul. 6, 2023 at 10:48 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Revolutionary. Historic. Groundbreaking.

That’s how organizers describe a new program in Memphis that teaches young men how to be better fathers. It’s called AFIRM, which stands for “A Father’s Involvement Really Matters.”       

A non-profit called Families Matter received a grant from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s administration to create the AFIRM program, and the six participants who enrolled in the spring session graduated on Thursday, July 6, surrounded by family and friends.

At the Families Matter headquarters in Midtown, Xavier McClain is one of the first graduates of AFIRM, an eight-week course that taught him how to be a better father to his four-year-old son Jayden.

“I know he needs me, so I’ve got to be there for him,” McClain told Action News 5. “I didn’t bring him into the world not to be there for him, so I’ve got to show that love and support.”

McClain and the other five dads studied parenting curriculum, health education and financial management under AFIRM.

Families Matter executive director Carol Jackson says a significant grant from the Tennessee Department of Human Services funded this first-of-its-kind program in Memphis and Shelby County.

“We want to make sure the success that they gain while being with us,” said Jackson, “is the success they carry forward. They will grow well enough that they can actually pay it forward so that others can be involved as well.”  

Jackson said the data shows when fathers are involved in their children’s lives, kids get better grades in school, have fewer unwanted teen pregnancies, and have a lower risk of living in poverty.

Data also shows children with involved fathers are less likely to get involved with crime.

Getting his diploma was no easy task for McClain because of transportation issues. He often walked to class, took the bus, or called an Uber. His mentor said despite his car problems, McClain was always on time, something met with thunderous applause from those at the graduation.

Xavier McClain
Xavier McClain(Action News 5)

But a diploma isn’t all that these fathers earn.

The AFIRM program offers “milestone payments,” like $200 to get a job and keep it for at least 30 days. It helped one graduate get a job at Blue Oval. Another graduate has already been promoted by his employer from clerk to assistant manager.

Graduates also get $500 for completing the fatherhood class, and $800 for signing a co-parenting agreement with their child’s mother, something another graduate accomplished, earning great praise from his instructors.

McClain and his fellow AFIRM graduates know their hard work is only just beginning.

”It’s a goal that I set for myself to achieve,” said McClain, “and a long time striving for it, you know, and I finished it. Made me feel good to know I’m doing something positive.”

The AFIRM classes are offered to men ages 18 to 40 who are residents of Shelby County and have pending or established child support orders.

If you’re interested in applying or know someone who might be a good fit for the program, you can call Families Matter at 901-260-8520 or click here to learn more.

Case managers will stay in touch after graduation for three years to track the dads’ progress in a study, and to provide continued support for their success.

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