Report: Black fathers heavily involved with children

— Nearly half of black fathers living apart from their young children say they played with them at least several times a week; 42 percent say they fed or ate with them that frequently; and 41 percent say they bathed, diapered or helped dress them as often. These rates are on par with, or higher than those of other men who live apart from their kids, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

“People think they [black fathers] don’t care, but we know they do,” said Joseph Jones, president of the Center for Urban Families, a Baltimore nonprofit that works to assist and encourage African American fathers. “We see how dads are fighting against the odds to be engaged in the lives of their children.”

According to the study, among fathers who lived with their children, 70 percent of black fathers said they bathed, diapered or dressed their young ones daily. While 60 percent of white and 45 percent of Latino dads said they did the same.

“That stereotype is perpetuated regularly about our black men, but this information proves it’s simply not true,” said Reginald Bridgewater, a construction worker who lives in Essex with his four daughters. “I know I take care of my children and there are a lot of black men who feel the same.”

The new report also revealed that about 35 percent of black fathers who lived with their young children say they read to them daily, compared with 30 percent of white dads and 22 percent of Latino dads.

Further, the study revealed that among fathers living apart from older children, more than half of black fathers say that several times a week or more, they talked to their kids about their day.

“Some men think when they lose a marriage, they lose the relationship with the kids,” Marquette University sociology professor Roberta L. Coles, told the Los Angeles Times. “For black men that doesn’t seem to be as true,” Coles said.

Many studies have found that the more involved dads are, the better off the children are in terms of achievement and education, said lead study author Jo Jones, a statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics’ Reproductive Statistics Branch.

“Most dads think they’re doing a pretty good or great job at being a father, which is good. Men should feel good about their parental involvement,” Jones said.

The researchers surveyed 10,403 fathers, using data from the 2006 to 2010 National Survey of Family Growth, a sample of women and men 15 to 44 years old that looks at different aspects of family.

During the study, 23.5 million men, or 38 percent, were living with one or more children and about 7.5 million, or 12 percent, were living apart. Some of the men fell into both categories.

Researchers surveyed fathers on areas of involvement such as joining kids at mealtime, playing, dressing, bathing, checking homework and talking to children about things that happened during the day.

Among the 12 percent of fathers who live apart from their children, 53 percent gave themselves “good” or “very good” ratings, and 24 percent said they were doing a “bad” or “not a very good” job. About 31 percent of the dads living separately helped with the bathing, diapering or dressing.

For dads of children ages five to 18 years old, 66 percent of those who lived with their kids ate meals with them every day in the previous four weeks compared with 2.9 percent of fathers who didn’t live with their school-aged children.

White and black fathers ate meals more often with their younger children than Hispanic dads, the report found.

“We’re active, we’re a part of our children’s lives and that’s all you really need to know,” said Marvin Boyd, a social worker in Baltimore. “Hopefully, this study is one tool that will help put the myth to rest that we’re deadbeats.”

A resolution you can keep all year: The one-day identity checkup

— Exercise. Lose the weight. Answer every incoming email. Those are the hard kinds of New Year’s resolutions, because you have to think about them every day for the rest of the year. Many are forgotten long before Valentine’s Day.

But here’s one important resolution, one you can fulfill today and easily keep all year: protect your identity.

Identity theft is a fast-growing crime, but there are ways to reduce your chances of being a victim. The identity theft protection experts at LifeLock recommend doing these five quick things today to help keep your identity safer all year long:

Use safe passwords

Are you among the people who use simple passwords like “123456” or “qwerty” or “abc123” to protect your personal information? Or even the word “password” itself? Many people do, so identity thieves can often break in just by trying the most popular passwords.

To create a safer password, avoid using words that are in the dictionary. And stay away from your own personal information, like a nickname, pet’s name or birthdate. One option is to come up with a memorable phrase that includes numbers and symbols, and use the first letter of each word. “My Tigers are Number One in Football!” might become “MTaN1iF!” – a good example because it uses capital letters, lower-case letters, a number and a symbol.

Use multiple passwords

Stop using the same password for every account. Several big companies and websites have recently had their users’ personal information stolen by hackers. If your password for one site is compromised, and you use the same password for your bank and credit accounts, it’s much easier for a thief to get into all of them.

At least have a different password for each account that has personal or financial information. And consider using a password-management program, which lets you set more cryptic passwords for each site you visit and control them with one master password.

Stash that Social Security card

Do you carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet? Don’t.

You may, on a rare occasion, need to show a Social Security card to an employer or a government agency. Aside from those days, keep it locked up in a safe place. Your Social Security number is a thief’s ticket to everything from opening new accounts in your name to stealing your tax refund. Don’t run the risk of losing it.

Protect your mail

Do your bank statements, credit card bills and utility invoices arrive by mail? If your mailbox is outside your house, thieves can take those bills and collect personal information that helps them steal your identity. And once those documents are in your house and no longer needed, they can be stolen from a trash can or recycling bin.

First, if your mail is delivered outside your home, install a locked mailbox. And use a shredder, or the shredding services offered by local shipping stores and some credit unions, to destroy documents once they’re no longer needed.

But you can also take steps to keep that paperwork from ever arriving at your home in the first place. Have bills sent to you electronically; you’ll get them by email, save paper, reduce clutter and never have to worry about stolen mail or shredding. Opt out of credit card and insurance offers by visiting And dramatically reduce the amount of unsolicited mail you receive by opting out of junk mail at:

Be prepared for a loss

If your wallet or purse is stolen, you’ll want to cancel all of your credit and debit cards before they can be misused. Keep a copy of each of your cards, or use a digital wallet program like LifeLock Wallet, which is available for your smartphone from the iOS and Android app stores. It gives you instant access to copies of your cards and also helps you track your balances, monitor transactions and cancel cards that are lost or stolen.

Do these things today and you can proudly declare that you’ll keep at least one New Year’s resolution all year long: Protecting your identity.

You can learn more about identity theft, and ways to keep you and your family safe, from the Federal Trade Commission at and from LifeLock at

Updated financial aid shopping sheet released

Nearly 2,000 schools have voluntarily committed to using the Shopping Sheet, which provides students with additional transparency in college costs.

The U.S. Department of Education has released an updated version of the administration’s financial aid model award letter, known as the Shopping Sheet, and announced that nearly 2,000 institutions of higher education have voluntarily committed to using this important consumer tool.

Unveiled in July 2012, the Shopping Sheet is a resource developed jointly by the Education Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to make it easier for students to understand the type and amount of aid they qualify for, and easily compare aid packages offered by different higher education institutions. The Shopping Sheet gives students a standardized, yet personalized form that clearly spells out— before students enroll— how much grant money they will receive and how much they may need to take out in loans to cover out-of-pocket expenses. When the tool was released in 2012, Secretary Duncan sent an open letter to college and university presidents asking them to voluntarily adopt the Shopping Sheet, to replace or supplement their financial aid award letters for the 2013-14 school year.

“I am pleased to report that nearly 2,000 institutions— representing 8.1 million undergraduates— have now voluntarily committed to using the Shopping Sheet,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The Shopping Sheet helps prospective students navigate the often daunting process of selecting and paying for higher education. Providing students and families with clear, easy-to-compare information about college costs is an important part of the administration’s efforts to improve college access and affordability.”

Since the Shopping Sheet’s initial release, the Department has received feedback from students, guidance counselors, and financial aid administrators on ways to modify the Shopping Sheet, which are now reflected in the revised version, effective in the 2014-15 school year. In addition to minor language changes to improve clarity, the Shopping Sheet has added a glossary to better explain financial aid terms. A detailed breakdown of the updates is available in a new blog post by the Department.

While the primary goal of the Shopping Sheet is to enable students and families to better compare aid offers between institutions, it also provides a host of outcome information about each school, including graduation, loan default, and median borrowing rates— all aimed at providing as much information as possible to make informed decisions about where to attend college.

For more information about the Shopping Sheet, including a list of participating institutions, visit:

Volunteers sworn in as Baltimore CASAs

— Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Baltimore, Inc. welcomed 10 new volunteers in November who have completed 30 hours of training and approximately three hours of courtroom observation.

Ashley Aubas of Catonsville; Kandice Polk of Bel Air-Parkside; Paige Cantlin of Mt. Vernon; Lauren Richardson of Cockeysville; Dan Feller of Elkridge; Lauren Seldomridge of Canton; Selwyn Finch of Uplands; Clint Stanley of Nottingham; Gordon James of Bel Air; and Carlton Thomas of Penn-Fallsway were sworn in as “CASAs,” by Judge Robert Kershaw and are now officially able to advocate for abused or neglected children in foster care.

This group of CASAs includes a volunteer firefighter, a business manager, an AmeriCorps volunteer, an attorney and a Kennedy Krieger Institute employee.

“Aside from being able to give an articulate, adult voice to someone who doesn’t have one, I think hearing that a child no longer needs a CASA because he or she is has been returned to or placed in a permanent and stable home will be the most rewarding part of my volunteer work,” says Seldomridge, who is the Assistant City Solicitor for the Baltimore Police Department Legal Affairs Division.

Likewise, Aubas is also excited about the opportunity to work with foster youth. “I have a passionate dedication to helping children of all ages who are in need,” says the Umoja Academy teacher.

“We are pleased to welcome our new volunteers, and we look forward to recruiting and training more volunteers who will make a difference in a child’s life,” says Evangula Brown, CASA of Baltimore’s senior manager of volunteer recruitment and training.

Founded in 1988, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Baltimore, Inc. serves abused and neglected children by representing their voices in the Baltimore City court system and advocating for their best interests in the judicial; educational; medical; and social service communities.

For more information about CASA or becoming a CASA volunteer, visit:

Secrets of the world’s most fashionable women

— Walking the streets of the world’s leading fashion capitals — New York, Paris, Milan, Tokyo — one might expect to see women strutting sidewalks in the most avant-garde of outfits.

After all, these women have access to the most creative fashion minds on the planet, said Eva Chen, editor of Lucky magazine. But what you actually see, she said, is a flood of impeccably dressed women wearing black.

“It’s an urban uniform to wear black and dark colors,” Chen said. “I look at the way I dress and how my editors dress, and there are days when people look super New Yorky.”

But why? Here are the secrets.

Secret No. 1: Build on black

Black, navy, brown and dark greens and purples are practical and typical winter wear colors. On a blustery winter day, these dark hues are thermodynamic armor. But it’s the artful eye of an urban fashionista that turns them from drab to fab.

Women in New York, for example, effectively color-code their closets, Chen said. The black skirt they just bought will pair easily with the black blazer they already own, the black boots, the black sweater, the black shirt that are already in their closet. “Black is always chic,” she said, so there’s an added aspect of wardrobe longevity.

“It’s easy for me, when I’m shopping, to rationalize a little black dress, a blazer or a motorcycle jacket,” said Janelle Lloyd of the street fashion and decor blog Girls Off Fifth.

“I have three of each of those things in my closet. Those are things you’re going to throw on every day and look chic and look classic and wear for a lot of different occasions.”

Twenty-four hour transitions are the key to Lloyd’s wardrobe. It’s not uncommon for one day’s outfit to need to function as casual, business, cocktail and gala wear. The safe bet, Lloyd said, is on black.

“We don’t go home after work and change,” she said of her fellow city-dwellers, who often follow a full day’s work with drinks, dinner and the periodic gala event.

“Instead, you’re switching from a flat to a heel or you’re throwing on a different jacket instead of your blazer from work,” she said. They just cart the makeup, shoes and extra jacket needed to go from day look to evening look inside a roomy bag.

Secret No. 2: Treat neutrals like dark colors

In the fashion world, black is the universal color of style, Chen said. The day-to-day wardrobes of busy urban women are built on black and other dark colors like navy. (A current trend is mixing black and navy in the same outfit, Chen noted.) From there, they add color.

“As an editor, two years ago — which kind of gives an insight into my fashion mind — my New Year’s resolution was to start wearing more color. And by color, I meant gray,” she said.

That’s part of the secret to big city style, she said. Fashionable urbanites think differently about color.

For example, layers of pale neutrals, including such business-appropriate colors as beige, khaki, camel, blush, white, pale blue and cream, are not only beautiful in their own right, Lloyd said, but go together as easily as the utilitarian, darker options.

“They are really a staple in a woman’s wardrobe. Urban women love to look fashion-forward, but we’re also really busy, and these colors are easy to put on,” the blogger said.

Sarah Owens, Street Style expert for trend predictor company WGSN, studies fashion from the runways and the streets. In the same way that catwalk trends tend to trickle down into mainstream fashion, street trends tend to “bubble up,” she said. Somewhere in the middle is how the majority of urban women dress.

The dark palette city women prefer is available to shoppers through both high and fast fashion. Although runway fashions and magazine spreads might be dominated by color and pattern, Chen said, designers know that their customers value practicality. They often create commercial collections of their runway lines that feature simpler silhouettes executed in black, navy and beige, she said.

Secret No. 3: Punctuate with strong color

Lest these ladies be thought of as one-note dressers, Chen points out that there are a few bright colors that regularly punctuate big city fashions.

“What we’re seeing a lot here in New York and also on the runway is a bright, electric blue,” she said. Shocking blue is a great color to break up a dark wardrobe with because it’s a strong statement color, but at the same time, it could be considered neutral, Chen said.

“It’s not girly; it’s not too muddy or earthy; it’s just a strong fashion color,” she said.

A strong red is also a New York favorite, especially on lips, Chen said.

For the upcoming spring and summer seasons, dark forest green has become another power color, as evidenced by the recent collections by Marni, Bottega Veneta and Gucci. “Everyone here at the (Lucky magazine) office is going crazy about forest green,” Chen said.

Lloyd, who calls New York home now, spent her formative years in Atlanta, where clothing tends to be more colorful, she said.

“Women in the South have been peacocks for many years,” she said. “Southern culture has always been very strong, so they’re not necessarily going to look to a city like New York for their fashion choices. They’ll make their own.”

It’s a fashion sense that makes perfect sense to Owens. U.S. cities with Latin American influence like Miami are more willing to experiment with vibrant color.

“Those places in warmer regions, like Brazil, Ibiza, when I go to Mexico and cover Fashion Week there as well, everyone is in head-to-toe color,” she said. “Cities like New York and Tokyo are a little more grounded in their seriousness and their sophisticated color combinations and palettes.”

Of course, the tonal differences between cities go beyond color. When Chen lived in Los Angeles in 2013, she looked forward to wearing all her “wildly impractical” shoes, since she would be driving to work instead of walking.

“That said, when I was in LA, I didn’t wear any of those shoes,” she lamented. Turns out, that city’s style was way more relaxed than she expected.


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