Pushing for Change in Rural MO takes Innovation, Persistence, and Guts

The Family Restoration Center is in Stockton, Missouri. We are in Cedar County with a population just over 14,000. It has a poverty rate of  18.5%. There are  significant issues with substance abuse and mental health issues in our county. The cities that Good Dads is endeavoring to serve are Stockton, El Dorado Springs, and Jericho Springs. These are all located within twenty miles of each other.  


Some folks assume that issues like homelessness, addictions and poverty are concentrated in big cities, but that’s not always the case. While you will not see the established entities to serve these populations in our rural areas, you will certainly see the need. The lack of established programs, such as The Salvation Army and Victory Mission, makes finding help more difficult for someone who is facing overwhelming problems. Our small communities have both the heart and a drive to take care of hurting people, but because there is nowhere to send them at the moment, they often must wait for assistance.  


A Good Dads program in a rural area often must spread its services across many miles or throughout a county. The Good Dads in Cedar County is based in Stockton, but there are more critical needs in El Dorado Springs, twenty miles from Stockton. By establishing critically important relationships with authoritative bodies who can invoke meaningful changes – like the Cedar County Court system, Good Dads can begin to assess the needs of dads in our area and execute a plan to serve those who need us. This is something we have been eager to accomplish and will expand our ability to help those most needed.  


In a small county such as ours, we must be persistent and innovative in establishing any program, including Good Dads. We face transportation issues and need a network to identify those in need. It is taking time to build the needed connections, and systems that will be committed and educated on the benefits of Good Dads. For one of the best-designed programs available for restoring fathers back to their role as a father to be effective, it takes teamwork with other organizations and individuals. Building a system when there is a lack of already organized in-house programs such a Victory Mission – as is the case in Springfield – takes time.


The Family Restoration Center is currently networking with the Ministerial Alliance and churches, the court system, substance abuse programs in our area, and other community organizations. Organizing on our end includes having an immediate contact available and relationships with faith leaders and other programs to help spread the word about the Good Dads program. It is a big undertaking to serve even a small county, but we believe we are called to the serve Cedar County.

Photos courtesy of Cheryl Thornton

About Author

Cheryl Thornton is the director of the Stockton Area Good Dads Program and vice president of The Family Restoration Center of Missouri, LLC in Stockton. She is also a psychologist, licensed in the state of Missouri and assists in developing community services for the underserved in Cedar County.