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Young fathers who are unable to financially support their children have the opportunity to turn their lives around, thanks to TEEX and a new program called Texas Fragile Families.

The Texas Fragile Families Initiative is an innovative project funded by local Workforce Development Boards across the state.

Carlos Romo, coordinator of Texas Fragile Families, said the goal of TFF is to help young, low-income fathers between the ages 16 and 25 to become more emotionally and financially involved with their children, by offering several avenues of training and support.

“We do this through intensive case management, peer support groups, teaching a fatherhood development curriculum, and through local workforce development programs,” Romo said.

“Dads on Dozers” is one such program developed in partnership with TEEX. TFF recruits young fathers, most of whom are on public assistance or have been contacted by the Attorney General’s office for skipping child support payments.

TFF pays for the young fathers to attend the TEEX heavy equipment operator course and also supports the participants financially during the five-week class.

Texas has a severe shortage of qualified construction workers, especially heavy equipment operators. With the TEEX certification, these non-custodial dads can find higher paying jobs in the construction industry, ultimately giving them the capability to pay child support.

“TEEX’s heavy equipment operator course is a perfect match with the goals of TFF because they need short-term training programs that will help these dads get jobs,” said Jack Pettyjohn, business development coordinator for the Engineering, Utilities and Public Works Training Institute (EUPWTI). “Dads on Dozers is a good model, and it’s working well.”

The TFF has 12 demonstration sites in Texas that are supported by 27 local, state and national foundations. The TEEX Dads on Dozers program has been implemented in three pilot areas– San Angelo, Waco and Lufkin– with hopes of expanding the program to Laredo and El Paso.

James Holt of EUPWTI taught the Waco course and said the program was a huge hit: “It was a good class. There were nine graduates, and they did a bang-up job.”

Pettyjohn agrees that the program is going well, but says it is too early to determine the success rate of Dads on Dozers as the graduates of the course are still interviewing for jobs.

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