“It is our vision to address the fatherless crisis in America . . . by starting in Santa Clara County.”

By Terrance Dwayne Hunter

Terrance Dwayne Hunter

I established my nonprofit organization Empowering the Fatherless in 2019. The primary mission of ETF is to embrace, support and empower fatherless kids by equipping them with life skills, effective communication/speaking skills, and financial skills so they may reap the benefits of living a well-rounded and fulfilling life. ETF will also provide counseling and mentoring services for fatherless kids.

Studies from the National Fatherhood Initiative have shown that:

  • Children who live with their dads do better in school.
  • Individuals from father-absent homes are 279 percent more likely to carry guns and deal drugs than peers living with their fathers.
  • Children living without a dad in the home are 47 percent more likely to live in poverty.

It is our vision to address the fatherless crisis in America, in which an estimated 25 million children are now residing in fatherless homes, by starting in Santa Clara County. We want to break the cycle of fatherlessness, restore the father’s role in the home, and reverse the current situation in which women so often are single-handedly raising their children.

It is my belief that if we truly want to have an impact on the lives of at-risk youth, we must offer a comprehensive approach that improves every aspect of their lives. I am pleased to announce that ETF is in the process of expanding our youth programs right here in the South Valley. I truly understand the potential impact of being fatherless. I grew up as an angry, bitter and resentful kid, with low self-esteem, poor self-image and virtually no sense of self-worth. At 15, I moved away from my Baptist home, never to return. I stopped attending church, abandoned my faith in God, and hung out with street thugs.

In 1985 at the age of 25, I took the life of a friend. I was convicted of murder and received a 17-years-to-life.

After more than a decade of incarceration, I decided to participate in self-help groups and programs. I knew that I could not return to society with the mentality I had at the time of my arrest. I sincerely wanted to change my thinking, my attitude and, most importantly, my behavior. My journey of self-improvement began with my enrollment in anger management and faith-based workshops.

Self-help groups/programs enabled me to make the connection between my internal anger and never knowing the identity of the man who fathered me. Along the way, I gradually transformed from an angry, bitter, and resentful man to a more humane person. The anger, resentment, and darkness that once possessed me began to disappear. My viewpoint concerning my incarceration shifted to one of acceptance, and simultaneously, from a spiritual and mental perspective, I became totally free.

While at San Quentin State Prison, I became an active member of the San Quentin Utilization of Inmates Resources Experiences and Studies. I was a trained juvenile delinquent counselor and worked with troubled youth. I shared with youth who were committing crimes my own personal experiences that led to my incarceration.

I learned that more than 90 percent of these boys who were breaking the law were from broken and father-absent homes. Members of SQUIRES and I promoted honesty, trust, confidence, education, and respect for parents and for oneself.

Many organizations including law enforcement agencies, probation departments, special social agencies, group homes, and parents brought their kids to San Quentin in hope that we could discourage their criminal behavior. That is how I acquired the genuine interest and concern in preventing the youth of today from becoming the convicts of tomorrow. To this day, I am totally committed to doing everything I can to make a difference in the lives of youth.

At the age of 55, and after serving 30 years in prison I was released from the California Department of Corrections Dec. 4, 2014. Today, I feel so blessed to be given the unmerited, undeserved, and unearned gift of a second chance. For the rest of my life, I will strive to be the man that all men are intended to be. As a public speaker, I share the mistakes I have made and my life story with youth in hope they will make better decisions.

Furthermore, I encourage fathers to show up and be present in their children’s lives — and I am committed to convincing adults and youth that violence is never the solution.

Terrance Dwayne Hunter founded the nonprofit Empowering the Fatherless. To learn more about his journey read his book “My 30 Years with the California Department of Corrections,” available at Amazon.com.