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Sister Carol Schumer, DC, spoke while teaching the parenting section of the Fathers & Families Support Center’s Family Formation program on Nov. 28 at the support center in St. Louis. Sister Carol, whose final class was Dec. 5, is retiring after 24 years as a parenting skills specialist at the center.
Sister Carol Schumer, DC, spoke while teaching the parenting section of the Fathers & Families Support Center’s Family Formation program on Nov. 28 at the support center in St. Louis. Sister Carol, whose final class was Dec. 5, is retiring after 24 years as a parenting skills specialist at the center.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

“I am on their side:” Sister Carol Schumer, DC, retires from her role as a parenting specialist, teaching men how to become stronger fathers

After more than two decades as a parenting skills specialist with the Fathers & Families Support Center, Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Schumer is retiring

Sister Carol Schumer began her last class just as she has every week for the past two-and-a-half decades — with prayer.

“Okay, everybody ready? Somebody start us, please,” she said as the men surrounding her recited together:

“Thank you, God, for sharing your love and life with me, especially through the children whom you have entrusted to my care. Help me model healthy attitudes and behavior as I strive to be the best I can be for myself and for my children. Amen.”

As she retires in December from her role as a parenting skills specialist with the Fathers & Families Support Center, the Daughter of Charity said it’s been a privilege to walk alongside thousands of men in helping them to realize the important role they have in their children’s lives.

Sister Carol Schumer, DC, hugged Glenn Chancellor of St. Louis while teaching a parenting course on Nov. 28 at the support center in St. Louis. Sister Carol has worked with the Fathers & Families Support Center for 24 years.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
Sister Carol’s weekly lessons have been part of the center’s core program, Family Formation, a six-week course that helps fathers develop their personal and parenting skills and grow spiritually and emotionally as parents. (A separate program also exists for mothers.)

“Give yourselves a hand,” Sister Carol said to her class of fathers as they broke into applause. “Congratulations for making it through six weeks. We have graduation on Friday, so this is an exciting week. Well done.”

Sister Carol started with the center in 1999, not long after it opened. She had just completed training with a parenting program focused on multi-ethnic families and communities. Vincentian Father Ed Murphy, then-director of Guardian Angel Settlement Association, told her she needed to meet Halbert Sullivan, who had recently launched a program to help transform fathers disengaged from their children. (The Fathers & Families Support Center founder and CEO died in 2021.)

“I had always wanted to do something with parenting because I realized parents were the missing link,” Sister Carol said. “Witnessing their transformation into responsible and loving fathers has been the most rewarding experience of my career.”

The Family Formation program teaches parents the skills needed for effective parenting; personal, spiritual and emotional development; substance abuse prevention; and child abuse and neglect prevention. It also includes lessons on financial literacy, mentoring, employment opportunities, career certification resources and family bonding experiences. Social services and employment case managers and a family therapist support parents.

Over the six weeks, Sister Carol teaches how to effectively discipline children and manage emotions. They also learn about temperament and the thinking stages of children. At a recent class, she shared a scenario, a cartoon of a mother walking in on her young son who had gotten into the cookie jar and caused a crash.

“What does he say, Sean?” Sister Carol asked her student.

Sister Carol Schumer, DC, spoke while teaching the parenting section of the Fathers & Families Support Center’s Family Formation program on Nov. 28 at the support center in St. Louis.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
“I didn’t do it,” he responded, eliciting laughter from the group.

“And yet the cookie jar is on his head,” she said. “Remember this stage. They’re going to say what’s going to keep them out of trouble. Even though she knows and he knows — it’s almost better to laugh. In this situation, it’s obvious that he did it. In this situation, hopefully she doesn’t ask him, she tells him what he did.”

Because of their short time together, Sister Carol quickly works to break down any potential barriers with the fathers.

“My whole goal is to build rapport and let them know I am on their side from the get-go,” she said. “I start by saying I am white, I am a woman and I have no children. And so here we are — I am supposed to help you be a better father. That breaks the ice. They’re all thinking it anyway: Here’s this white woman, a Catholic sister.”

She underscores with them the importance of being there emotionally for their children. “I tell them it’s not about their money,” she said. “They’ve been told for so long that their child support is all that matters. I always say, don’t ever not go to see your children because you don’t have anything to give them. You have yourself to give them, and that’s what they really want. We like to say that we give children their daddies back.”

Sister Carol said the fruits she’s seen over the years have been plentiful. Ninety-two percent of graduates have reported increased interaction with their children; 90 percent said that they’ve learned how to develop healthy relationships; and 91 percent have demonstrated positive parenting skills.

Facilitator Roy Butler described the program’s well-rounded approach and Sister Carol’s role. “We don’t just want the guys to come here because they want visitation” with their children, he said. “We want to make sure we give them the tools to prepare them for life.” Some participants are skeptical of Sister Carol at first, “but when they start coming here on a weekly basis, the information she gives them is life-changing for them. We’re going to hate to see her go, because what she does here is very valuable.”

Recent program graduate Greg Burrows said he’s learned the importance of building up children, being patient and leading by example. Sister Carol, he said, led him to an awakening of what it means to be an effective parent. “You know some things — it’s in you already, but she brings it out of you,” he said.

Paul Sita participated in the Family Formation program in 2019 and returned to the center to participate a second time after gaining custody of his son.

“She’s taught us that presence is everything,” he said. “Even if we don’t think they’re watching, they are. I wish I could pick her brain more. It’s communication with my child without speaking, which is big, because they feel the energy.”


>> Sister Carol Schumer, DC

Sister Carol is a 1965 graduate of St. Vincent’s High School in Perryville and entered the Daughters of Charity in 1966. She has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in school administration. She was a teacher, principal and administrator for many years at Catholic schools in Missouri, Louisiana, Iowa and Illinois. In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, she taught at Laboure High School from 1974-79 and was principal of Bishop Healy School from 1988-94.

In addition to her 24 years of service as a parenting skills specialist with the Fathers & Families Support Center, Sister Carol also has offered spiritual formation with the Ladies of Charity in St. Louis, shares reflections on The God Minute podcast and has served as an assistant spiritual advisor on many Cursillo weekends.


>> Fathers & Families Support Center

Since its founding in 1998, the Fathers & Families Support Center has impacted 20,000 men with programs that include employment assistance and mentoring, a legal clinic, a reentry program for those transitioning from incarceration, and Fathers’ Rap, an evening peer-to-peer support group.

The center’s core program is the Family Formation program, a six-week course that gives fathers the opportunity to develop their personal and parenting skills. (A separate program for mothers also is offered.)

The program offers parenting training, positive co-parenting education, family therapy, employment and job skills training, health and wellness instruction, legal assistance and substance abuse prevention.

The center has four locations: Downtown St. Louis, north St. Louis County, the Transition Center of St. Louis and East St. Louis, Illinois.


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