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Dialogue on Youth Violence Opens in D.C.

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President Obama has called for a national conversation on responsible fatherhood and community involvement. One D.C. community group is taking up the call. The organization brought leaders together to examine the relationship between absent fathers and youth violence.

One participant is 19-year-old Ivan Cloyd. He knows about youth violence first hand.

"I was in the 7th and O crew, and I seen a lot of my friends get killed and die," he says.

He says he left it for his daughter. Of course, Cloyd says, there are many young fathers out there for whom children have not meant an end to gangs or violence. He says that perpetuates a cycle of absent fathers and troubled children.

Cloyd and hundreds of volunteers and non-profit leaders discussed their stories and approaches at a round-table hosted by the Alliance of Concerned Men. The group cites U.S. Census data showing two-thirds of African-American children live in father-absent homes, and that children in such homes are more likely to end up incarcerated.

Commander Sharnett Robinson, with D.C. Police, says the most promising programs involve community support and mentoring -- especially for younger children.

Dennis Rahim Watson, with the National Youth and Gang Violence Task Force, believes black churches should be better utilized.

"We've got to open up black churches, and every black church should have a youth minister every single one," he says.

Others, such Isaac King who runs Capitol Youth Empowerment program, are trying build coalitions to expand existing programs

"I look to find some more ideas and hopefully find some partners to work with to find solutions to the fatherless home," King says.

Organizers say now is the time to act because the recession is lifting up the curtain on social problems.

Sabri Ben-Achour reports...

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