Team member Orlando Brunt (l-r), guest speaker Deputy Mayor Enis Ragland,
team member Michael Gransberry and Leotha Stanley
Leotha Stanley and the Urban League’s
Fatherhood Program
Helping Fathers Be Fathers
It’s a homecoming, in a way, for Stanley. He worked at the Urban League from 1979-1982 — his first job out of college — before transitioning to
the Madison Fire Department as a fire fighter. And now in the latter stages of his career, Stanley could be closing out his employment career at
the Urban League. As the saying goes, ‘Once an Urban Leaguer, always an Urban Leaguer.’

As the director of the Fatherhood program spends his days recruiting team members — Stanley was a track star at UW-Madison — and then
case managing them through services that the Urban League provides internally or externally though partnerships.

“I am working with non-custodial fathers,” Stanley said. “They don’t necessarily have to have been incarcerated. They don’t necessarily have
to be on child support orders. But they have to be non-custodial. The fathers are 18-years-old and on up. If you have a child and need some
group support or some individual support, that’s what is important. Some of the participants are court ordered and they go to the Children First
Program down at Job Service. I go there every week and see who has been court ordered to go through Children First. I give them an elevator
speech about the Urban League and then I have them come over to the Urban League. As long as they are in the Urban League’s program as a
member, I report back to Children First so they know what they are doing at the Urban League. The loop is closed. I also report back to Human
Services about the goals that they have to attain.”

According to Stanley, the program has primary service areas that it offers the team members.

“One is to have a stronger connection with the child-support agency,” Stanley said. “Two is trying to strengthen strategies with the child’s
mother, co-parenting skills. Three is to try to get them work-ready if they don’t have work-readiness skills. We have training programs here at
the Urban League. We try to support the fathers in some group efforts so that they can develop as fathers. They can learn from other fathers in
terms of some circumstances that they might go through and they can voice those circumstances and others can learn so that they don’t have
to repeat what the other father has done. We have group sessions every Tuesday and Thursday at 1:30 p.m. We try to find jobs for them that will
help reduce the recidivism if they have been incarcerated before or send them on a positive path to employment.”

Stanley’s personality is a good fit with the program. While he is somewhat reserved, he is always paying attention to what is going on around
him and learning about people through his interactions with them. And he also has a heart.

“I know the men open up to me,” Stanley said. “I don’t know if some of them look at me as a father figure or not. I hope not. Perhaps they look
at me as a mentor, a friend, a guide or an advisor or a resource. I think many of them look at me as a resource or a contact. Some of them look
at me as a need for whatever they want. They take advantage of the situation. I know when I am being played or mislead or misused, but I won’
t be abused. I stand my ground. Some guys can get out of line when they come here and so, I have to check them. I’m real with them. I’ll put
them in the car and we’ll go for a ride.”

And sometimes he will go the extra mile with them.

“I took one father to shelter yesterday, as a matter-of-fact, Stanley said as he smiled remembering the incident. “It is so disheartening because
you get someone who walked to Job Service on Aberg Avenue and said he had to be back uptown in 45 minutes. I called him because when I
went to Job Service to find him, he had left. I got his number from Job Service. I got back to the Urban League and I called him. He told me he
was on 4th Street and E. Washington Avenue. He started yelling and I told him to wait a minute. I didn’t know him and I was just calling to see
who he was. He said, ‘I have to be at this place at 4:30 p.m. and I don’t know if I am going to make it. It’s just frustrating and then I have to get
to the shelter by a certain time.’ I decided to get a bus ticket for him and it started raining too. I felt I needed to go get him. So I got in the car and
thought that since he was at 4th Street when I called, maybe he is around this street now. I saw a gentleman walking. I pulled over and rolled
down the window and said, ‘Are you so and so?’ I mentioned the guy’s name. He said no. I thought he was just telling me no because he didn’t
know who I was or maybe there was a warrant out for him too and so, he would just tell me anything. I told him that I could take him uptown
because I knew he had to go uptown thinking this is the guy. He got in the car and then I got a call from the guy whom I was looking for. He
said, ‘Hi, I just want to let you know that I made it over to the shelter. I got a ride.’ I asked him if he hitch-hiked and he told me yes. So I didn’t
know who I had in the car with me. I gave him a ride and he got out. I learned so much in those 12-14 blocks. I didn’t sign him up for the
program. I didn’t think he was a good candidate.”

Stanley works with fathers whose backs are against the wall and works to help them get linear and out of the vicious cycles they find
themselves in.

Next issue: What the fathers are facing
By Jonathan Gramling

For the past 15-20 years, Leotha Stanley had been an
entrepreneur in a way. While pursuing his musical career
— stringing together musical gigs and directing the Mt.
Zion Baptist Church music program among other things
— Stanley has also taken on substitute teaching
positions and other tasks to make ends meet while
pursuing his passion.

Stanley even did some driving for Uber at the suggestion
of his daughter. Stanley took people on trips near and far
to get to their destinations. And on another level, Stanley
is still helping people reach their destinations — life-
sustaining employment and strong ties with children —
as the director of the Urban League of Greater Madison’s
Fatherhood Initiative, which is funded by Dane County
Human Services.