In May 1991, the hospital, through the leadership of Sarah Meadows, then Director of the Social Work Department, conducted a feasibility study resulting in the consensus that there was strong evidence that a resource program for fathers was needed due to a high single parent birth rate and the invisibility of young fathers.
The team that developed the program included, Wallace McLaughlin, Ph.D., who became the first Program Director and is currently serving as the Center’s President/CEO. In April 1994, the first class began. The Center’s slogan was and remains “Building a Noble Legacy of Fatherhood,” a statement that communicates the program’s determination to reconnect a generation of young men with the tradition of responsible fatherhood.
In 1999, the Fathers and Families Resource/Research Center, Inc., was established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization after six years operating as Wishard Health Services’ Father Resource Program. From the start of the program in November 1993, the Center has delivered services to nearly 4,000 young fathers residing in Marion County’s inner city and other community neighborhoods. Except for a few cases, program participants come to the Center voluntarily with many of these fathers learning of the Center’s services by word-of-mouth from past participants. They represent the growing number of low-skilled, unemployed or underemployed, and under-educated young fathers.
The Center became a United Way of Central Indiana member agency in 2003, a few months after re-locating from Wishard Hospital to a more visible and accessible location on North Illinois Street. Since 2006, the agency has been doing business as “Fathers and Families Center,” serving fathers and expectant fathers up to age 28. The Center has secured federal, state, and local funding to support initiatives promoting responsible fatherhood and increased child support, healthy marriage, increased non-custodial father involvement, ex-offender re-integration, and crime prevention.
The Center has received numerous awards for national, state, and local recognition including the 2008 Champion of Compassion Award from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Center for Faith- Based and Community Initiatives.