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The Father Factor


How to Raise a Resilient Child

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

The discussion today around parenting often centers on "helicopter parents," those parents who hover over every aspect of their children's lives to such an extent that they organize and monitor every minute of their children's lives. As a result, their children have little or no space to explore the world on their own and learn how to effectively navigate life's challenges from one of life's great teachers -- learning from failure.


The fact is that no matter how closely parents try to manage their children's lives they can't possibly protect them from life's trials and tribulations. Indeed, parents shouldn't protect their children from those things. Parents should guide their children instead in how to effectively manage the challenges they'll face on their own. Even then children need the resilience to bounce back from those challenges because, inevitably, they will fail. They will make mistakes. They will get knocked down and, in some cases, knocked out. Although counterintuitive, the sooner parents live with and embrace that their children will fail, the more effective parents become.

One of the greatest gifts parents can bestow on their children is to build their children's resilience. The authors of Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed, one of them a former Navy SEAL, identify five factors that help people become more resilient. Although written as a self-help book for adults, parents can use this knowledge to focus the coaching of their children on building those factors. (After all, a good parent is a good coach.)

Here are five factors that resilient people possess and parents should build in their children:

  • Active Optimism: Resilient people are optimistic even in the face of challenges and setbacks. They're not overly optimistic, but realistic in their optimism that when they continue to move forward and avoid paralysis in making decisions, they will eventually succeed.
  • Decisive Action: Resilient people act on their optimism. They consider their options, decide how to face challenges and act decisively. They don't allow challenges to paralyze them or wait for others to tell them what to do. They don't wait for things to happen, they make things happen.

  • Moral Compass: Resilient people have a moral compass anchored in honor, integrity, fidelity and ethics. They use this anchor to decide which actions to take.
  • Relentless Tenacity and Determination: Resilient people stay true to the paths on which their decisions take them. They don't quit. Not quitting doesn't mean they are so naive or stubborn that they're unwilling to change a path when it becomes clear that a decision was not the best one. It means they won't quit until they find out whether their decisions are the right ones and, if not, to pursue other solutions. It also means that when it's clear they've failed, they won't allow failures to keep them down or negatively affect their self-worth.
  • Interpersonal Support: Resilient people realize and embrace the need for help. As they make decisions, they consider whether they can go it alone or need help. When they ask for help, they don't feel in the least that help is a sign they are somehow inadequate.

I would also add a sixth factor: resilient people lack a victim mentality. There are legitimate situations in which people are victims, a perfect example of which is the recent murders of more than 125 people in France from multiple, coordinated acts of terrorism. But a victim mentality is a state of mind, a trait that someone acquires and leads to blaming external factors (e.g. people) for failures even when no clear evidence exists that external factors played a role. The lack of a victim mentality doesn't mean that someone is never a victim. It means resilient people don't seek to blame someone or something else or for their failures -- even when someone or something else might have contributed to a failure. They accept responsibility for their part and the lack of control they have over external contributing factors. They get up and move on.

A great perspective to take in raising your child to become resilient is the second of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Begin with the End in Mind. (These habits apply to being an effective parent as well.) Who do you want your child to become when she or he is an adult? If you want your child to be a resilient adult -- and to raise your grandchildren to be resilient -- focus on building these six factors.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

4 New, Free, Easy-to-Use Assessment and Evaluation Tools

The Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) recently released four free, easy-to-use assessment and evaluation tools for use in assessing fathers' involvement in the lives of their children or with any intervention designed to increase father involvement. (I sit on the FRPN's advisory committee.) They include tools that measure:

  • Father-child contact
  • Fathers' decision-making responsibility
  • Fathers' engagement with children at different ages (four versions based on the age of a child)
  • Fathers' challenges to involvement

Members of the FRPN research team developed the tools based on interviews they conducted in several states with a large sample of 650 nonresidential fathers. 

frpn-logo.pngWhat makes these tools so useful is their potential application in any setting in which you want to assess the level of fathers' involvement (e.g. at program intake) and to any intervention (e.g. program or workshop) that might affect the outcomes measured by the instruments. But perhaps their primary benefit is their short length. Given the challenge practitioners can sometimes face in the amount of time available for completing assessments and evaluations, the short length of these tools means you can quickly administer them, or have fathers complete them on their own, in almost any setting without taking too much of your own or fathers' time. You can also combine them with other assessment or evaluation tools (e.g. those designed to measure improvements in specific attitudes, knowledge, or skills addressed in a program, such as NFI's 24/7 Dad® Fathering Survey) without substantially increasing the amount of time it takes to conduct an assessment or evaluation.

With the exception of the fathers' engagement tool for children of different ages, the FRPN team created short videos (3 1/2 to 6 minutes in length) that describe these tools and how to use them (e.g. as part of a pre-post evaluation and short-term and long-term follow up after an intervention ends). To view these videos and download the tools, click here

When do you assess fathers' involvement, and what tools do you use to assess that involvement? 

What tools do you use to evaluate your interventions to increase fathers' involvement?

The Father Factor Blog

Spotlight > Richmond Jail Gives Dads 3 Hours and Hope (Video)

Three hours. Imagine being locked up for a year or more and then getting to spend three hours with your daughter. You get to put on a suit and connect with her. What would you tell her? What happens when the three hours ends and you have to replace the suit with your prison clothes?

I dare you to watch the entire video from "This is Life" by Lisa Ling (CNN) and not cry. I dare you to watch and not see how connecting fathers to their families can inspire dads to stay out of prison once released. 

richmond city jail fatherhood program

Between the father absence crisis in America and Fathers Behind Bars, we have the statistics. Stats are important for helping us understand the problem. But, what we're often missing is the real-life stories behind the statistics.

Richmond City Jail is a great story of hope in an often hopeless world. They are innovative in connecting fathers and families. They have used our InsideOut Dad® program, the 12-week evidence-based course built to improve relationships between incarcerated fathers and their families.

Richmond City Jail inmates, who were recently featured on CNN, are receiving the real-life skills they need to become better husbands and fathers.

The dads in this jail are being taught the things their fathers never taught them. Those of us blessed to grow up with good dads still make our mistakes. But imagine not having a father to teach you life skills. Watch Terrence Williams tell his story. His dad left early on in his life. Terrence has been in and out of jail over a dozen times related to drug charges. Watch the video below. You will see Terrence, who has 5 kids, learn not only how important it is to be a good father—but how to be one a good father.

“When I didn’t have no money...I didn’t come around because I didn’t feel like I could be a father,” he says in the video. “And being in this program taught me that what I thought was being a father wasn’t being a father at all. Being a father is spending time with your children.”

This is a great lesson for every dad—whether you're behind bars or behind an office desk. 

“The main goal (of a fatherhood program) is to prepare them for re-entry so that they don’t come back,” says Sarah Scarbrough, the internal program director at the jail, the fatherhood program is a major part of that.

“Unfortunately, Richmond has such an extremely high rate of premarital births and fatherless homes,” Scarbrough explains on the video. “Boys who grow up without their dads are 87% more likely to be incarcerated than those with fathers in their homes.”

The CNN special focuses a lot on the father-daughter dance hosted by the jail. This event gives the incarcerated fathers and their daughters a chance to dress up and connect...if only for three hours.

Take time to watch the video below and you'll see several dads say things like:

“When I hugged my daughter and she embraced me and then she cried, that kind of let me know the pain and what she was going through out there, without her father.” —Terrence Williams

“They taught me how to express myself to my children, they taught me how to understand my children, how to deal with them.” —Aziz Scott, a former inmate

“That’s what motivates me and inspires me to get out and do the right thing.” —Williams says about the event and connecting with his kids.

We are inspired by the impact Richmond City Jail is having on connecting fathers to families. Thank you, CNN and Lisa Ling, for shining the spotlight on a worthy story. Thank you Angela Patton and your group, the Richmond City Justice Center, the Virginia Department of Health, the National Partnership for Community Leadership, and the Richmond Family and Fatherhood Initiative involved in working to connect fathers to families and give hope to Richmond. We look forward to hearing more stories like this.

Watch the full episode of Fatherless Towns here


We've written previously about Richmond City Jail. Here are a few posts:

iod_fhb_cvrWhether you work in corrections or are interested in volunteering to teach dads, download our free sample of InsideOut Dad®

InsideOut Dad® is the nation's only evidence-based fatherhood program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers. You can find folks who care about fathers and are using our resources in your area by visiting here.

The Father Factor Blog

How Can I Keep My Teen Safe with Their New Smartphone?

If you're a dad or serve dads of teens, they already have a smartphone of their own or have been asking for many months, hoping to join the digital, always connected generation with their own iPhone or Android phone. Kudos to them, but not so fast, because while children eagerly insist that they’re ready for adult responsibilities, they really aren’t, cognitively or emotionally, and that includes the serious responsibility of having a tiny computer in their pocket.

How Can I Keep My Teen Safe with Their New Smartphone? tech and teen

Let's be candid: the Internet is a quite terrifying place in spots and there are quite legitimate risks that they'll face on a daily basis. For boys, it includes being exposed to — or actively seeking out — hardcore pornography that could truly scar him and affect his perception of healthy intimate relationships (there’s some harrowing research just coming out on this subject). There are also hate groups and even terrorist organizations who are learning to master the “grooming” process through online chat groups and social media.

For girls, there's the challenge of a healthy self-image which can be destroyed by the cruel candor of the online world. No girl is skinny enough for the masses and other children (and adults) aren't shy about sharing their opinions in a blunt, vocal fashion. When she posts her first selfie and is told she's ugly, fat and stupid looking, it can permanently scar, a particular form of cyberbullying that's way too common with girls as each tries to find their own identity and come to terms with their physical appearance, both what they can change and what they cannot. 

Cyberbullying really is at epidemic level in the modern digital world of the adolescent. This can manifest as your child being the victim of a non-stop stream of hostile, belittling, taunting and vitriol, of course, but it can also come out as your child seeking to be accepted by the “cool kids” and joining in on the harassment and bullying of another child. And this isn't just the hostile teens who act out in this fashion either, because I can hear you saying "not my little angel".

Okay, so that’s some of the down side of them going online with a smartphone. The upside is that mobile phones offer access and safety, whether it’s your child being able to check in with you after school so you know where they are at any point of the day or them being able to call you to say they want to come home from a party that’s starting to get out of hand. I've had my teens do just that more than once, one time with my daughter not even knowing exactly where she was in town and us having to use a mapping program to figure it out. We were both thankful she could reach out and I could come get her.

Smartphones are also really fun. There are a remarkable number of engaging, stimulating and entertaining games available on modern phones, whether your teen wants an iPhone or Android phone. Not enough diversion? There's email. Snapchat. Instagram. Tumblr. Texting. YouTube. Netflix. Social Media. The number of ways that people can connect through smart devices is quite astonishing nowadays, with more social networks and options appearing every week.

Which is, again, one of the dangers. Children really aren't the best at managing their time and moderating influences so that they have a healthy balance of tech and non-tech time in their lives. Homework suffers. Relationships suffer. They become withdrawn and sneaky. Happens again and again, even with the most enlightened and loving families. Girls and boys.

So if you really are going to travel down this path, I suggest that you come up with a behavioral contract before any purchase is made, one that emphasizes that the smartphone is a privilege granted by you parents and that it continues to be available based on your child's ability to use it responsibly and meet the terms of the contract. 

I would also suggest having a set amount of time the phone is available each day, that it is powered down each night at a rational time (perhaps 8pm or so, at least an hour before bedtime so its use doesn’t interrupt healthy sleep cycles), and that parents are always aware of any and all passwords set for the phone and individual applications. And occasionally, sit down and go through their phone book with them, text messages and friend lists on social media. Who are these people and why is your child letting them into his or her life? A healthy dose of skepticism is a smart lesson in this digital era.

It really is a tricky world out there. For adolescents and technology, there’s a lot of dangerous territory and it’s up to us parents to be smart and look out for their best interests, not just hand them the device and assume it’s all going to work out for the best. Let them slowly earn their digital freedom, but in measured steps and with you helping ensure their safety along the way...good luck and be careful!

What's one piece of advice you've found helpful when it comes to smartphones and teens? 

The Father Factor Blog  

Dave Taylor has two teen children, an 18yo daughter and 15yo son who both have smartphones. Oh, and an 11yo who is clamoring for a smartphone of her own. You can read about his adventures as a single father on his popular site or find him on Twitter as @DaveTaylor.

Father Facts 7 Gets an Insightful Review

You already know we think highly of our new resource, Father Facts 7. But, do you know how useful others in the research and family services industries, are finding this great resource? Here's what one group says about our new resource. Use their insightful review to inspire you with new ways to use the research.

Father Facts 7

Comfort Consults, LLC, which focuses on parenting assessment, staff training and program evaluation for family service programs in health, education and social services, has some great feedback on the usefulness of Father Facts 7 (FF7) for children and families.

Here are a few ideas of note from Comfort Consults' post, you can read their full post here

Comfort Consults points out that FF7 is especially helpful for those writing funding proposals to support fathers or co-parenting services and that the newly released collection of statistics and research summaries provides a goldmine for making your case to funders. We couldn't have said it better ourselves! 

Comfort Consults also points out two main categories of interest for their readers regarding FF7 that we think may be useful for you...

Current Data and Research on Fathers

In addition to the helpful summaries in each section of FF7. Comfort Consults reminds readers there are several chapters which share data and research on targeted groups, such as

  • teen fathers,
  • incarcerated fathers,
  • military fathers,
  • millennials
  • grandfathers raising children 

The chapter titled Issues Related to Father Absence may be of special interest to those working with families to resolve issues of child custody, child support and supervised visitation. 

Father Research Shows Benefits for Children, Mothers and Fathers

Here are a few highlights from the abstracted studies of FF7 that Comfort Consults finds helpful:

  • Whether or not fathers are living in the household, if they are involved positively in their children’s lives, research shows the favorable associations with children’s social, emotional and behavioral well-being, school readiness and academic achievement (Father Facts 7, Pages 62-65). 
  • Research also indicates that fatherhood is related to men’s well-being in terms of more stable employment, stronger ties with extended family and community organizations, and in some studies, fewer mental health disorders (Father Facts 7, Pages 65-67). 
  • When fathers are involved with their children, research studies demonstrate associations with mothers’ healthier pregnancies, fewer symptoms of depression and stress, and more leisure time. In a study of divorced couples, remarriage was more likely when nonresident fathers had more frequent contact with their children (Father Facts 7, Pages 67-68).

Comfort Consults says

Father Facts 7 is a treasure trove for all who want to better understand the issues, attitudes and parenting of today’s fathers.  Actually, with solid background information on today’s fathers, all of us can better understand the array of contexts that families experience, which will help us meet each family – including father, mother and child -- where they are.  With this understanding, we can help them move forward, at their own pace, on a path toward a nurturing family life...

Father Facts 7 gives us a current and rich perspective on the wide range of circumstances, benefits and challenges experienced by fathers. Father Facts 7 also suggests the great value of working with fathers to benefit their children and both parents. 

Thank you, Comfort Consults, for caring about fathers...and connecting them to their families. To learn more about father absence and to access the research and data, purchase and download Father Facts 7 today

Father Facts 7

How to Raise a Charitable Child

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

What's the secret to raising a charitable child? It's simple. Talk to them about charitable giving.

In a recent study of more than 3,100 U.S. families, researchers found that children whose parents talk to them about charitable giving are more likely than others to donate to causes, particularly if the parents themselves engage in charitable giving. These conversations about giving really matter in shaping and nurturing children's altruistic behavior. In other words, parents, preach what you practice when it comes to charitable giving.

There's no better time than the next few weeks to start these conversations with your children. That's because #GivingTuesday is right around the corner. If you're unfamiliar with #GivingTuesday, it's the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two days of the year when most of the nation's families become mega-consumers clamoring for the best deals on gifts for family and friends during the holidays. #GivingTuesday, which falls on December 1st this year, focuses instead on giving to the thousands of charities that rely on donations to pursue their vital missions, many of which center on helping the less fortunate among us.

#GivingTuesday is now in its fourth year. Started in 2012 by a cultural center in New York City, it has rapidly spread to involve more than 30,000 partners in nearly 70 countries. It provides a fantastic opportunity to start the conversation with your children about the importance of giving to a cause that moves them. #GivingTuesday is not only about financial giving, it's also about giving time and talent, two assets that children can have in abundance. And it harnesses the power of social media, a tool that is oh so familiar to today's children. Connecting your children with #GivingTuesday helps them see charity from that broad perspective during a time of year when they might be focused more on the material aspect of the holidays and what they'll get rather than what they'll give.

Visit the #GivingTuesday website with your children to learn more about how they can get involved. Encourage your children to identify organizations that operate locally or globally that will participate in #GivingTuesday and whose missions align with your children's interests. Then challenge your children to discover how much joy they can experience when they give to others less fortunate than them.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

7 Facts from Father Facts 7 [Free Resources]

Father Facts 7 (FF7) has been and continues to be the go-to resource for anyone interested in promoting responsible fatherhood. Please review these vital statistics on father absence and consider sharing them. 

Sharing these eye-opening statistics can help others see the importance of an involved dad in the life of his children and family. Vist here for more shareable stats. 

There is a Father Factor in America's Worst Social Problems...

Just the Facts > The State-Level Data on Father Absence...

Do you know the rate of father absence in your state? State data on father absence is one of the new sections in National Fatherhood Initiative’s Father Facts 7

Just the Facts > Single-Father Households...

Just the Facts > Stay-at-Home Dads...

Just the Facts > Father Factor in Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Activity...

Just the Facts > Father Factor in Incarceration...

Just the Facts > Father Factor in Poverty...

To get these stats and more, please visit our Father Facts 7 Shareable Stats Page

The Father Factor Blog

Spotlight > Maury County Jail Helps Incarcerated Fathers

650,000+ ex-offenders are released from prison every year. Most prisoners are fathers. Why not prepare these fathers for release while in prison?

Imagine sitting behind bars—learning nothing and bored—wishing time away. Now, imagine the opposite. Imagine attending a class that addresses the skills you need—preparing you for your eventual release. This post is about a program that's giving hope and purpose to fathers in jail. Maury County Jail gets it. This is their story...

Between the father absence crisis in America and Fathers Behind Bars, we must do better at educating fathers and connecting them to their families. If we can give these men the skills they need to connect with their family—we can change everything.

Writing for The Daily Herald, Mike Christen reveals how the Maury County Jail is helping incarcerated fathers deal with the struggles of fatherhood. 

Maury County Jail uses our InsideOut Dad® program, the 12-week evidence-based course designed to improve the relationships between incarcerated fathers and their families though an examination of family history, parenting skills and communication.

“There is a trust there,” says instructor Brian Loging, speaking of the program sessions from jail. He describes the sessions as "a safe place where inmates can share their true thoughts and emotions compared to the rough and sometimes dangerous environment of the Maury County Jail."

The inmates learn from their Fathering Handbooks how to show and handle their feelings, their children’s growth, how to handle stress, co-parenting tips,  and how to be a dad—even from behind bars.

Loging has led 100 inmates through the InsideOut Dad® program from Maury County Jail.

He teaches the course with his own motto:

“Good choices make good men and you have to be a good man to make a good father,” Loging says. He repeats this line to the the inmates during every session.

The program is well-received. It has a year-long wait list. Inmates recommend it to other inmates, Loging says. “The whole atmosphere has changed,” says Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland, regarding the jail.

“This is just one of the ways we are trying to counter crime and repeat offenders, to break that cycle,” Rowland says of the InsideOut Dad® program.

Centerstone, the organization that works with Maury County Jail, also works with inmates on reentry issues—getting inmates ready for life outside of jail. Centerstone works with the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance on finding employment for inmates before their release along with finding suitable housing, reports Christen.

“We are helping them think dutifully about when they get out, where they are going to go and what they are going to do to help them stay out,” Loging says.

Christen reports, the first inmate to have completed the course will be released on parole this coming November. 

“If we can get them stable and get them back into a rhythm of good choices and a good life, being part of a good family, then we are able to pull them in and say ‘now you see what good choices can do and how easy it is to become a better father,’” Loging said.

Centerstone plans to expand the program by bringing in community leaders and successful graduates of the course to lead classes, Scott says.

We couldn't be more excited about the impact Maury County Jail is having on connecting fathers to families. Thank you, Centerstone. We look forward to hearing the stories of InsideOut Dad® alumni coming back to teach sessions and change more lives.

Please read the full story here



Whether you work in corrections or are interested in volunteeting to teach dads, download the free sample > InsideOut Dad®

InsideOut Dad® is the nation's only evidence-based fatherhood program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers. Please consider volunteering to help connect father to family.

The Father Factor Blog

Please Help NFI Provide Free Education and Resources

As you consider the charities to support by the end of the year, please consider donating to National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). 

One of the primary ways NFI helps improve child well-being is to provide the free education and resources that fathers and the organizations that serve fathers need to increase father involvement. We need your financial support to provide free education and resources and, in particular, to continue to grow the number of free resources we provide that now number more than 100. Fathers and organizations that can’t afford to pay for resources turn to NFI for help. We want—indeed, we must—continue to help the fathers and organizations most in need.

The demand for free resources is great. Many fathers and organizations have accessed those resources through our website. More than 25,000 free resources have been downloaded, used, and shared since the start of 2013!

Your donation will help us continue to provide new free resources and improve current ones. We plan, for example, to make our free FatherSOURCE  Locator even better. This free resource helps fathers locate organizations in their communities that serve fathers. We regularly receive calls and emails from fathers and their loved ones desperate to find help in their communities. We need donations to upgrade the locator to include more organizations—and provide even more information about the kinds of resources organizations provide (e.g. fatherhood programs)—so that fathers can make more informed decisions about which organizations can best help them. No other organization provides this father-serving resource. Help us make it even better!

We also need your donation to continue as the nation’s leading voice on responsible fatherhood. Your donation will help us continue to educate fathers and the general public. It will help us disseminate research on the causes and consequences of father absence, conduct interviews with national media outlets, publish commentaries on NFI-owned and third party media properties (e.g. The Huffington Post), and partner with major entertainment media and consumer brands to portray a positive image of fathers. No other fatherhood organization has this broad educational, cultural focus.

Please consider making a year-end donation to NFI of at least $100. We will make the best use of your donation. Indeed, I’ve committed to increasing the amount of every donation that goes toward education, programs, and services. We’ve steadily increased that amount during the past several years so that we use 80 cents of every $1 to educate and equip fathers and organizations. Moreover, NFI has received GuideStar’s Gold Participant designation—GuideStar’s highest designation—that highlights our commitment to transparency.

If you need more information as you consider making a donation, click here for an infographic that describes exactly how we will stretch your donation to improve child well-being. You can mail your donation or make it through our website at

Did you know that NFI provides more free education and resources on fatherhood than any organization in the country?

Did you know that NFI accepts no government funding and relies on donations to provide free education and resources?

The Father Factor Blog

This Dad Energizes Halloween for Kids in Wheelchairs

Some dads are, in a word, awesome! And then there are some dads who take awesome to another level. 

Ryan Weimer, an Oregon father of five, takes awesome to another level through his non-profit Magic Wheelchair. Magic Wheelchair makes Halloween costumes for children bound to wheelchairs. The mission of Magic Wheelchair is "to give kids in wheelchairs an unforgettable Halloween by creating custom costumes for them at no expense to their families." The non-profit's vision is "to put a smile on the face of every child in a wheelchair by transforming their wheelchairs into awesomeness created by our hands and their imaginations." Every year, Magic Wheelchair selects five children for whom it builds costumes. 

I saw a story on the news the other day about Magic Wheelchair and was blown away. The costumes--which are amazing to behold--incorporate the wheelchairs. A costume surrounds a wheelchair and the child as if the costume had been an integral part of the wheelchair all along. But what really blew me away is how Ryan, with help from his wife Lana, used his considerable design and engineering talent to turn a life-altering event into an opportunity to help children. The life-altering event was the birth of Ryan and Lana's son Keaton who was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy called spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA. (Their younger son, Bryce, also has SMA, and they lost a daughter with the condition shortly before she turned 3. Another son died at birth.)

You can read more about the genesis of Magic Wheelchair in this story, but the long and short of it is Ryan started to experiment with ways to make Halloween special for Keaton. Through trial and error, he learned how to create the costumes. Keaton loved them, and Ryan realized that other children like his son would love them, too. So he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to start Magic Wheelchair. And the rest, as they say, is history--a wonderful history, in this case.

To learn more about Magic Wheelchair, including how to submit a request for a costume or to support the organization, visit their website.

The Father Factor Blog

Two Supports Lacking for U.S.Children in Poverty

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

The effects of father absence and the poverty that results from it are exacerbated by two supports lacking in the U.S. -- the lack of extended family and the dismal spending by the federal government on family-benefit programs.

I wrote in this blog last week about the link between father absence and child poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau's recent report on income poverty for 2014 reveals that:

  • Children in father-absent homes experienced poverty at more than four times the rate of children in married-parent homes.
  • Nearly 1 in 2 children in father-absent homes (46.5 percent) were in poverty compared to only 1 in 10 children (10.6 percent) in married-parent homes.
  • The picture is worse for the youngest children. More than 1 in 2 children under age six in father-absent homes (55.1 percent) were in poverty.

I pointed out that increasing the number of children growing up with their two married parents is key to reducing child poverty in this country.

Data provided in the just-released 2015 World Family Map helps explain why U.S. children in particular need to grow up with their married parents. The World Family Map -- an annual report now in its third year -- monitors the global health of families by tracking 16 indicators in 49 countries, representing all regions of the world. Its global focus provides an important perspective on how well, or poorly, the U.S. fares on a range of indicators of family well-being.

When it comes to poverty, families can typically turn to any of three sources for financial and material support -- their social network including extended family, non-governmental organizations (e.g. non-profits) and government programs. The level of support available from each source varies dramatically from country to country and even within some countries. It's vital to consider these supports to gain a clearer understanding of the extent of poverty's negative effects on children.

The 2015 World Family Map includes data on two of those supports -- the proportion of children who live with extended family members (kin) and government funding of family-benefit programs (i.e. cash, services and tax measures) as a percentage of a country's gross domestic product (GDP). How does the U.S. fare on these two indicators?

  • The proportion of U.S. children living with kin (29 percent) ranks 5th lowest among the 32 countries for which data are available. Only Canada, France, Italy and Ireland rank lower.
  • The U.S. government spends a paltry 0.7 percent of GDP on family-benefit programs. That percentage is dead last among the 21 countries for which data are available, and is 36% and 42 percent lower than Mexico and Canada (the other two countries in the North American region), respectively.

Extended family is perhaps the oldest form of support for humans struggling to survive. In addition to financial and material support, extended family can provide emotional and spiritual support in times of crisis and chronic hardship. It's easiest to access that support when kin live together -- the basis of this indicator -- or close by. The increasing mobility of U.S. families and the resulting distance between family members makes it harder to access this support.

When it comes to government support, the sad fact is the U.S. spends a lower percentage of GDP now than it did just a few years ago when it ranked above several other countries rather than at the bottom of the barrel. According to the 2013 edition of the World Family Map, the U.S. spent 1.2 percent of GDP on family-benefit programs. (The 2015 map relies on data from 2011 while the 2013 map relies on data from 2007.)

To be fair, there might be several of the other countries in the World Family Map for which data are not available on either indicator that fare worse than the U.S. So in reality, the picture might not look as bleak for the U.S. in comparison. The access to extended family indicator does not include access to family close by. But even when considering kin who live together, the U.S. has seen a dramatic rise since 1980 in the number of individuals living in multi-generational households, thus giving the poor more of this support. The U.S. is also a fairly charitable nation as it ranks 9th on the World Giving Index, a measure of the percentage of people in 135 countries who donate to charities. There are certainly non-profits to which poor families in the U.S. can turn for help.

Nevertheless, the World Family Map reveals the lack of financial and economic assets poor families in the U.S. can access to alleviate at least some of the negative effects of child poverty. A vast majority of individuals in the U.S., more than 8 in 10, are not in multi-generational households. And the government spending data on family-benefit programs, with its downward trend, sheds light on the lack of importance our country places on government help for those most in need.

The Father Factor Blog This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Father Facts 7 > State Rates of Father Absence

Do you know the rate of father absence in your state? If you live in one of the two or three most populous cities in your state, do you know the rate in your city?

Father Facts 7State data on father absence is one of the new sections in National Fatherhood Initiative’s Father Facts 7. Before you read on, see whether you can answer the following questions. The answers appear at the end of the post. Write down your answers and see whether any of the answers surprise you.

1) Which state has the highest rate of father absence?

2) Which state has the lowest rate of father absence?

3) Of the most populous cities in each state, which has the highest rate of father absence?

4) Does New York City or Los Angeles have a higher rate of father absence?

5) Does New York City or Rapid City, SD have a lower rate of father absence?

Father absence rates for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico highlight trends in the regions most impacted by father absence. Rates of father absence vary dramatically across the country and within specific regions and states. Data on father absence for major and most populated cities in each state reflect this variance. Nevertheless, it’s clear that more children in the south and in Puerto Rico live in father-absent homes compared to other areas of the country.

To learn more about overall state rates of father absence, rates in major cities within each state, and to access the research and data, purchase and download Father Facts 7 today.

Answers: 1) Mississippi (Puerto Rico, although not a state, has a higher rate); 2) Utah; 3) Wilmington, Delaware; 4) New York City (less than ½ the father absence rate of Wilmington, DE); 5) New York City

Father Facts 7

Becoming Better Fathers – And Father Figures

We’ve seen the staggering statistics regarding fatherless many times. John Sowers, in his book, Fatherless Generation, links fatherlessness to:

  • 63 percent of youth suicides;
  • 71 percent of pregnant teenagers;
  • 85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorders;
  • 71 percent of all high school dropouts;
  • 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers;
  • And 85 percent of all youths sitting in prison.

Lord knows we need more men to step up to be better fathers. Most of the posts on The Father Factor are about just that—fantastic resources for all of us men to become better fathers to our children. This post is slightly different. 

My former posts here about building strong children, and about healing our own father wound were focused on us as fathers. This post is a heartfelt plea to consider becoming a father-figure to a fatherless child (or younger man) who is not your own biologically.

I met Ricks only one week after he and his mother came from Liberia to the United States. They had spent the last nine years in Liberian refugee camps, and they arrived with only the clothes on their backs and one small backpack. Ricks was twelve years old then. He’s 21 today.

In the years between, I’ve been a close friend to his family, and an informal mentor to him. Ricks seems to feel I’ve filled a father-figure role in his life. I received this beautiful text message last year from him: “Keith, thank you for being such an important person in my life. Happy Father’s Day.”

Though a mentor is not a father, and can never replace a missing father, we can make a significant impact and fulfill a desperately needed role in a young man’s or young woman’s life who doesn’t have a dad to relate to, communicate with, or receive love and guidance from.

All children yearn for their missing father, and that hunger never goes away. A committed and loving mentor cannot fully remove that hurt, but we can lessen the negative impact, and we can point kids in the right direction, not only potentially changing the course of that child’s life but also positively impacting society.

A beautiful Jewish teaching says, “To save one life is to save the world.” A profound privilege of mentoring is that by reaching one child, we can change the world. The impact and the effects can be as satisfying for the mentor as they are for the young men and women whose lives may be forever transformed. 

As a youth pastor for ten years, I mentored hundreds of high school students, many of whom had poor or no relationships with their fathers. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but I fulfilled a father figure role for many of those students, showing them what a father could be and helping them experience what a father’s love and approval could feel like.

As a founding board member and fatherhood trainer for the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in Texas for six years, I coached over 600 incarcerated men. I taught them how to reconnect with their kids whom most had abandoned, and how to learn to be better dads, even while still behind bars. I loved being a father figure mentor to these men, teaching them the essential fathering skills that became the core content of my book, How to Be a Great Dad—No Matter What Kind of Father You Had.

The skills of becoming a great mentor are fundamentally the same as those for becoming a great dad. I teach the men I now coach and mentor this simple and yet highly effective skill set: Affirmation, Acceptance, and Affection.

If every father and mentor would commit to learning these three easy-to-master skills, the entire world would become a better place. And millions of fatherless children would finally feel the love and receive the guidance they desperately need not only to survive this life, but to find their way, to succeed, and to enjoy healthy and loving relationships—most of which may remain out of reach without the skilled mentoring you and I can provide. 

I applaud the wonderful work Esquire is doing through their Mentoring Project, seeking to raise the next generation of good men by training 100,000 new mentors by the year 2020. Perhaps you could become one of them.

A mentor is not a father, and doesn’t even have to be a (biological) father, but we can stand in the gap and provide the missing love and guidance children not only need but also crave. And believe me, I know first-hand that doing so is one of the most fulfilling experiences of life. I’ve trained hundreds of men how to affirm children, how to express acceptance, and even how to show affection in appropriate and meaningful ways.

You can become a great mentor by learning and applying the same fundamental skills that help me be a loving father figure to Ricks and a great dad to my own three teenage sons. I want you to feel the same joy in your heart I feel in mine, and to smile from ear to ear the way I do, when I read Father’s Day gratitude messages each year from all four of my sons. I’d love to help you. Please check out my completely free training videos today.

Have you ever mentored another dad or a child?

Free Resources for Mentoring:

The Father Factor Blog

Stats at top of this post are reported in John Sowers, Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 36-37.

Father Facts 7: Grandfathers Raising Grandchildren

Grandfathers raising grandchildren is one of the most recent trends related to father absence and involvement. I’m not talking about the traditional role many grandfathers play as another male role model in children’s lives. This trend speaks to grandfathers as the primary male role model when they step into the void left by absent fathers. 

Father Facts 7As described in one of the new sections in National Fatherhood Initiative’s Father Facts 7, the number of custodial grandparents in the United States has doubled since 1970 to almost three million.

Today approximately 10% of children live with a caretaker grandparent. Although most of the research on grandparents raising grandchildren has focused on grandmother-maintained households, we know more than ever about grandfather-maintained households.

The factors that lead to grandfathers raising their grandchildren include

  • their children’s (parents of their grandchildren) divorce,
  • substance abuse,
  • incarceration,
  • child abuse,
  • unemployment,
  • and death

Twenty-three (23) percent of grandchildren raised by grandparents (with no parent present) live with their grandfathers. A large majority of these grandparents are between the age of 50 and 69 and have had custody of their grandchildren for more than five years. The highest rate of custodial grandparenting is in the South and among African American and Asian populations.

To learn more about grandfathers raising grandchildren, and to access the research and data, purchase and download Father Facts 7 today.

Father Facts 7

Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) congratulates the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative (MFI) for 10 years of enriching fathers and families.

According to MFI, the initiative “has reduced over $10 million in child support interest debt to help fathers better meet the financial needs of their children. Through MFI’s driver’s license program, thousands of fathers have restored their driving privileges and improved their employability.” 

NFI is proud to have played a major role in helping to launch the initiative. MFI credits NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ (CMA) as the framework that helped get their initiative off the ground. You can download a free guide on the CMA and contact Erik Vecere, NFI’s Vice President, Program Support at or 240-912-1278 for additional questions.

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