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Grand Rapids man grooms incarcerated men to be better fathers

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A Kent County father who has fostered seven children, adopting one of them, is now trying to teach other men how to be better fathers.

He's focused his work on incarcerated and recently released fathers, aiming to end a vicious cycle.

Father's Day means something different to everyone, but for Cole Williams, it is a celebration of sharing the journey of fatherhood with some who need it most.

The journey has been a long and often tough one for Williams. He became a single father at just 17 years old.

"When I saw him that was it for me," says Williams.

While working with troubled youth he met others who also needed his help.

"I started seeing young men that look like me coming in and out of the foster care system and coming in and out of the shelter system and I said 'OK how can I impact this?'" says Williams.

So he fostered seven boys, eventually adopting one of them. He says he's learned from all of his children what it means to be a father and it has helped fill a much needed void.

"Cole's story is so inspiring and we need more people to do the work that he does," says Kristyn Peck, CEO of West Michigan Partnership for Children.

"I just didn't see myself evolving into this father in foster care and adoption I just ya know wanted to give back," says Williams.

Now he and his son are taking that experience to Michigan's prisons, teaching and grooming incarcerated fathers to be good dads.

"They didn't even know that they were valuable. They didn't know that they didn't have to sell drugs, they didn't have to do all of these things to be able to provide for their children and I try to tell them no dude you don't need, you need that right, but you are the best gift," says Williams.

And that is the best gift Williams can share with his sons, and now with others, to help create a future of better fathers.

"In all of my work, one of the biggest challenges for every adult is their experiences growing up as children and if we can do a better job at creating great memories for children we will have great adults who do the same thing," says Williams.

Williams is teaching in three prisons and now partnering with the city of Grand Rapids. He says all of his foster sons have been reunited with their families but that they still keep in contact with him and that he's expecting to hear from them this Father’s Day weekend.

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