For many kids in the Commonwealth, being raised by a single mother is all they’ve known. For some, being raised in a single-parent household means a higher risk of academic and mental health challenges, which of course can effect the overall quality of life for the child.
The Relationship Foundation of Virginia (RFVA) is a nonprofit that seeks to create happy, strong families and strengthen the community through healthy relationships. The organization offers programs for new and expectant dads, providing skills to become active, committed fathers for life. RFVA generates awareness and teaches the practical tools fathers and couples need to sustain strong, fulfilling relationships.
As a native Virginian and father himself, school teacher Chris Beach became inspired by his students’ challenges and left the classroom for the nonprofit world. We caught up with Beach to learn more about how he leads RFVA as its executive director.
What is the Relationship Foundation of Virginia’s core mission?
RFVA is dedicated to building strong communities through healthy relationships, marriages and active fathers.
Can you characterize the extent of the problem locally?
In Richmond, over 60% of all children are born in a fatherless home. In the African American community, that number rises to over 80%. As for marriages, divorce rates are going down. However, that’s because people are not getting married at the rate they used to just a decade ago. Nationally, the out-of-wedlock birth rate is 40%. Who is this affecting? Our children.
As supported by the data, children from fatherless homes are more likely to be poor, become involved in drug and alcohol abuse, drop out of school and suffer from health and emotional problems. Boys are more likely to become involved in crime and girls are more likely to become pregnant as teens. As for children not living in married homes, research has found that youth have more physical health problems, emotional problems and social problems later in life. The bottom line is, children lead healthier lives both physically and socially if dads are active in their lives and are married.
Many people acknowledge that fatherlessness is one of the greatest epidemics facing our nation, including here in the Greater Richmond community. Coupled with the rising rate of out-of-wedlock births, one would think it would be obvious to address these issues, but very few organizations are. The Relationship Foundation of Virginia is!
We have the ONLY class in the area for dads, by dads, before the baby is born. We developed the very first boot camp for new adoptive/foster dads in the nation. We go into jails and rehabilitation centers with programs that give men skills so when the time is right, they can be better fathers to their children. We help all couples at every stage of their relationships with affordable coaching to keep their love strong and thriving.
We compare ourselves to a flower. Many of the issues facing today’s society (poverty, hunger, homelessness, etc.) can be seen like the petals of a flower. Many continue to throw money and resources at the petals and are shocked when they do not see change. We know at RFVA that for the flower to grow and bloom, you must get to the root of the problem. That is what we do. We take a proactive approach to issues in the community so our families, especially our children, will live healthy and successful lives. By nurturing the roots, we will start to see change.
What kind of work do volunteers do to help the Relationship Foundation of Virginia?
We have multiple opportunities for members of the community to help make stronger relationships. Our most popular is our coaches and veteran opportunities for Boot Camp for New Dads. Coaches (any dad at any stage) and veteran dads (dads with a baby between two and 12 months) give expecting fathers the tools necessary to get ready for the birth of their baby. We call it a ‘Vegas’ conversation for dads. What is asked there, stays there!
We also train couples to become marriage mentors, volunteering to work with other couples to keep their relationships on track. In addition, we have a community advisory board, which consists of volunteers that help with all aspects of our programs and volunteering for our numerous events. We rely on great volunteers as they help us fulfill our mission to build stronger relationships for our community.
If $100,000 fell from the sky tomorrow, how would you spend it?
This one is easy. We would hire another marriage coach to provide affordable coaching for pre-marital, long-term and married couples. We would also hire a full-time fatherhood coordinator that would allow us to teach more classes in hospitals, jails and rehabilitation centers around the community. We are more than 90% funded by individual donors. Our mission does not fit within many foundation/corporate giving requirements. We rely on people that are committed to healthy marriages and active fathers. We know that an investment in families will have an impact on the future of our community.