Fathers Matter Center
Compassion Outreach of America – New Orleans, La.
- Emerging Leader: Bantu Gross
- Grant Program: Emerging Leader
- Amount of Grant: $15,000
- Dates of Grant Term: May 2019 – May 2021
Bantu D. Gross, Ph.D., currently serves as an alumni advisor at KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) New Orleans Schools, New Orleans, La. As an alumni advisor, he helps first generation students persist through college to graduation. He is currently collaborating with a Louisiana college to develop its African American male retention and graduation program. Additionally, Bantu is partnering with Compassion Outreach of America (COA) to develop a parenting education center specifically for African American fathers in New Orleans. He became interested in fatherhood education after seeing, hearing, and learning about the disparities African American fathers face, how they are viewed by society, and the negative commentary used when describing this population. Prior to joining the KIPP New Orleans staff, Bantu served as a mental health professional with 10+ years of experience working with adolescents and young adults from diverse populations and backgrounds.
The research is clear – fathers matter in the lives of their children. A father’s engagement and interaction with his children promotes healthy physical, emotional, social, academic, and spiritual development. However, there are challenges many dads must overcome to fully embrace fatherhood and the responsibilities that accompany this role. In New Orleans, nearly half of all African American children live in poverty due to their family’s household income; employment rates for African American men have fallen from 63% in 1980 to 56% at present. Men who suffer financial strain or unstable employment are less likely to be involved in their children’s lives. To better support African American fathers, the Fathers Matter Center, an initiative of Compassion Outreach of America, will provide fathers with a variety of support, skills, and resources including parenting education, leadership training, and mental health services.