This story originally aired on May 13, 2017.
Marvin Charles is the co-founder of a Seattle organization called DADS —Divine Alternative for Dads Services. Marvin and his wife, Jeanett, help men from all walks of life get back on their feet, find work and ultimately, reconnect with their kids.
Now, you might think that Marvin must be one of these parents who know all — a go-to person whose advice is golden and who comes from a loving home himself.
This is how Marvin’s life started. But then things got really complicated.
Marvin’s mother died suddenly when he was 9, and she was the backbone of the family. The reason it was so wonderful was because of her.
They find out they’re adopted and are then sent off to live with their uncle. This new home is fancier, there’s more money, but Marvin says he felt like he was in prison.
Marvin ran away, lived on the streets; he started using drugs; he got a gun. He had a few jobs, but he quit. He chased a dream of living a life of a hustler down to California. He tried selling drugs and became a pimp.
“There was a fascinating lifestyle. It was called ‘the game’, and I wanted it. [It involved] prostitution, drugs, a limelight, new cars, and money,” he says.
He eventually gave up that part of his life, but when he returned to Seattle, he was hooked on the drugs he had once attempted to sell: crack cocaine.
He met Jeanett, and they had a daughter, but that didn’t stop the drug use.
Finally one day, Marvin had enough.
With the diapers and formula, Marvin took his 7 month old daughter, Marvett, on a bus. He wanted her to have a better life, a home where people didn’t knock on the door offering drugs. To make this possible Marvin had to give up his daughter. He took her to Child Protective Services.
A lot happened after this.
Marvin and Jeanett got a place together, they got jobs, and they stayed clean. They got their kids out of foster care and back into their lives. They did this with the help of a community they created — their church, the people who taught their parenting classes.
Marvin and Jeanett didn’t fight the system; they worked with it and learned how to navigate its more complicated corners.
Other parents started to ask them for advice, and this is how their non-profit, called DADS, came to be.