Avis Files: Shaping Destinies Through Data-Driven Initiatives

By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter

In the fusion of Toledo’s community programs, Avis Files stands as a visionary architect, shaping destinies through data-driven initiatives. A connoisseur of change, she birthed the Brothers United Fatherhood Program (BUFP) in response to the pressing needs of young, low-income fathers ensnared in the city’s challenges.

“We’ve developed several programs out of Brothers United based on data,” Files explains, highlighting the empirical backbone of their efforts.

Avis Files is the director of Family and Supportive Services for Pathway, Inc and founder of the BUFP.

Started in 2015, the Brothers United program has burgeoned into a transformative force, giving rise to several interconnected initiatives. The expansion includes Sisters United, addressing parenting education for women, and Brothers & Sisters United, focused on co-parenting dynamics.

Avis Files, originally from Cleveland, has called Toledo home for over three decades. “I laid the groundwork for BUFP through an earlier initiative called, “Keeping It Together: A Healthy Marriage Program, we ran out of the First Church of God Social Outreach Ministries,” she shares.

What began with a focus on Black couples expanded to encompass singles and youth.

“In doing this work I realized Toledo needed fatherhood work. In 2015 we wrote a grant at Pathway and we won. Brothers United continues as a program under Pathway, Inc. which is the designated community action agency for Lucas County.”

Brothers United isn’t merely a program; it’s a lifeline, with long-term goals etched into a logic model aimed to positively impact the nuclear family. The BUFP and its sister initiatives integrate curricula born from the insights of community needs assessments. Avis envisioned a future where family functioning would improve, adult and child well-being would flourish, economic mobility would rise, and fatherlessness in Toledo would diminish.

Files goes on to explain the BUFP also has BYouth and SYouth programs that cater to 12-17 year-olds. “They learn essential lessons on healthy relationships and how to better cope with trauma.”

This multifaceted approach truly reflects the evolution of Brothers United into a comprehensive platform, shaping destinies and fostering positive change within our community. Grounded in evidence-based curriculum and rigorous evaluation, Files and her team meticulously craft programming that resonates with participants’ needs and aspirations.

Through pre-tests, post-tests, and surveys, they hone in on what people really want and ask for. “People always ask me, ‘What’s our secret sauce? How have we been successful as a nonprofit for nearly a decade?’” says Files. “My answer is always that we listen to our participants and tailor our programs accordingly.”

The data has proven this key ingredient to be the secret sauce to the dynamic synergy between program and participant.

A visionary force behind Pathway Inc., Avis is on a journey to uplift young, low-income fathers ensnared in the grips of high crime and poverty.

In addition, her commitment extends to Brothers United Healthy Start, a collaborative effort with the Lucas County Health Department. “We’ve impacted the lives of 100 dads annually for the past five years,” she explains. “Our program transcends boundaries, weaving threads of health, education, and support into the fabric of the Toledo community.”

“Pathway, Inc, Brothers United believes that children are important . Every day we support and advocate for fathers because when children are involved, fathers and the whole community thrive,” she adds.

The story of Avis Files is one of strategic brilliance, where the discord of challenges faced by young fathers becomes the notes of a symphony composed for change. Employing a randomized control trial, Brothers United set out to answer critical questions no other program was asking.

As the study unfolded, it revealed the transformative impact of disaggregating data for both men in general and Black men, specifically. For Brothers United, ultimately, the goal of having data by gender, race and ethnicity is to achieve health equity for all.

BUFP participants, compared to their counterparts, exhibited positive self-reported attitudes and behaviors at the 12-month follow-up. They embraced new opportunities for economic mobility, honed job readiness skills, navigated improved communication, and resolved conflicts better shielding themselves from situations, such as domestic violence, that used to plague many.

“We guide fathers, mothers and youth toward an understanding of healthy relationships, healthy co-parenting; anything they need to be better parents and have a better family dynamic,” says Files.

In Brothers & Sisters United, financial planning becomes not just a skill but a tool for breaking the shackles of poverty. The clinical precision of their studies, registered with vetted third-party agencies, attest not only to Files’ commitment to robust data but also to the scientific rigor underpinning her vision.

The BYouth and SYouth initiatives also stand as a testament to this commitment. Files has a real foresight for nurturing future leaders. Guiding 12-17 year-olds through lessons on healthy relationships and trauma skills, her programs cultivate resilience against adverse childhood experiences (ACES). The ACES Test, a cornerstone of their approach, unveils the traumas participants carry, empowering them to build resilience plans tailored to their needs.

This 3rd Party Test asks questions like: When you grew up did you see violence? Have you ever seen someone murdered? After taking the test participants are given a score that reflects their level of trauma.

As Files succinctly puts it, “Once we truly access someone’s trauma and what their challenges are we tailor our programs around this information. I always like to say that Brothers United is the father and he had babies. Our other programs have naturally reproduced from our foundational work with fathers.”

Since its inception in 2015, the programs have grown, evolving with the needs of the community it serves. The data, as of December 5, 2023, centered around Black families, paints a vivid picture of Files’ impact, with more than 2,654 fathers and their 7,350 children benefiting from the program in Lucas County. In addition, 255 mothers and 507 children have benefited.

In the story of Avis Files and the Brothers United Fatherhood Program, Toledo is witnessing a metamorphosis, much like a city emerging renewed from a cocoon of challenges.

Through a decade of dedicated service, Files has not only transformed individual lives but has provided Lucas County, Ohio, with a robust dataset that transcends mere statistics. This data, foreseeably influencing policy and legislation for the next decade, underscores Brothers United’s unwavering commitment to creating lasting change in the realms of healthy relationships and responsible fatherhood.

Through her commitment to uplifting and supporting local men and women through the Brothers & Sisters United programs are unmatched. Avis Files is an indomitable force, proving that with foresight, dedication and a touch of brilliance, one woman’s vision can reshape the destiny of communities and create a symphony of change resonating far beyond our city limits.

For more information, contact Avis Files at afiles@pathwaytoledo.org or 419-279-0798