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The Father Factor

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You Can Make a Difference for Dads in Your Community > Here's How!

I have a great option for you to support NFI as we close out 2014: help your own community by providing an organization of your choice with resources to help them serve more fathers and families! Give the children in your own backyard the gift of an involved father this coming year.

You can support the fatherhood program efforts of an organization in your own backyard (think Salvation Army, Community Action, Head Start, a church, or Goodwill) by selecting them to receive a gift certificate from us. They can in turn, r the fatherhood resources and programs they need to serve fathers and families.

Are you a fatherhood leader with an organization? Consider promoting this giving option to your own network of donors and supporters to help you get the fatherhood resources you need for the coming year. Seriously - the people closest to you are the ones that are most likely to help! NFI is a 501C3 non-profit, so all donor gifts are tax deductible. Click here for a sample letter you can send to your supporters to encourage their donation to help you better serve dads.

Here's how it works:

1) Pick Your Organization

Select an organization you already know could use your help. If you don't have an organization in mind, use our brand spankin' new FatherSource™ Locator. Just type in your zip code and a map appears of organizations in your community that help dads and can also use your support.

2) Donate "In Honor Of" Your Favorite Organization

Visit our donate page and on the "in honor of" line, just add the requested information about the organization you would like to give in honor of. 

3) Stand Back and Look Awesome!

We'll send your selected organization a certificate showing your support...a real certificate (shown below)...and we'll help them select the NFI fatherhood resources that best meet their needs.

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Consider how the following donation amounts will help the community organization you pick: 

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$75 > Purchases a set of fatherhood skill-building brochures. 
Give Now >

 

 

 

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$150 > Purchases a workshop for dads like one of our Doctor Dad® Workshops for New Dads. 
Give Now >

 

 

 

 

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$600 > Purchases one of our fatherhood programs, such as 24/7 Dad®. 
Give Now >

 

 

 

 

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$1,000 > Purchases the Father-Readiness Training Kit™, for helping organizations build a foundation for serving dads and their children. 
Give Now >

 

 

 

Thank you for considering this giving option. Fathers and families in communities everywhere will benefit—including yours!

6 Steps to Solving Most Any Problem

When mom and dad have different ideas on what to do when it comes to the kids, from what their child should wear, to when their child should come home, and so on, communication usually stalls. This is a nice way of saying, you aren't talking to each other! When this happens, both parents can feel frustrated and often argue. Fussing and fighting isn't the way to live—for you or for your kids. Let's have a new goal—to reach a place where both people have power and are listened too. Sound crazy? We think not...

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Whether it's communicating with your spouse, former spouse, son or daughter, problem solving like the list that follows will leave both parties feeling satisfied. Use these steps to help solve problems between you, your wife, your ex-wife, or heck, try this with your kids too! 

1) Name the problem

Write it down. Seriously, have you ever been arguing for a extended period of time, and there doesn't seem to be an end to the bickering? It's probably because one or both of you lost sight of the real problem. Work on only one problem at a time. You can't fix everything overnight. Agree at the start on one problem to try and solve, then attack that one problem, not EVERY problem! 

2) Decide who owns the problem

Is someone doing something you or someone else doesn’t approve of, but does not see it as a problem? Is the problem yours or someone else’s? More than one person can own a problem. It's important to discern and accept responsibilities for said problem before moving to the next step.  

3) Discuss why the problem needs to be solved

This step can be the hardest one of all if the problem is someone’s behavior. For example, someone’s behavior is harming someone else and it needs to stop. This step also takes a lot of listening from both sides. The person creating the problem is generally the one who isn't as willing to listen. Try and be sure that person isn't you this time! 

4) List what's been done to try and solve the problem

Write them down if the person has tried a lot of things. This process can go a long way in showing how much both parties care about fixing the problem. This also provides a great road map to what hasn't or doesn't work such that you can try something new to solve the problem. Which leads us to this...

5) Brainstorm new ways to solve the problem

They must be realistic ideas. Write them down if there are a lot of them and use the ideas during the next step. Discuss pros and cons for each idea. 

6) Make a decision

It’s okay if there is more than one solution. If the problem is owned by one person, let that person pick. If it is owned by more than one person, like the entire family, have those people agree on what to do. Remember, this isn't a dictatorship no matter how badly you might try for it to be. 

If you brainstorm ideas and one or more of them don’t offer a clear way to solve the problem, go through the first three steps again to figure out the problem, see who owns it, and why it needs to be solved. 

You could get stuck on Step 6 if you and the person involved doesn't have your ideas about the right way to solve the problem. 

What is a problem you are having with your spouse, ex-spouse, or child? Which step seems most difficult? Why? 

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Find more communication tips in our new guide > How to Talk with Mom and Child.

Office of Child Support Wants Your Input

When it comes to father involvement, one of the most significant pieces of child support legislation ever could soon be implemented by the federal government. Does your organization work closely with dads and parents who owe child support? If so, you have a chance to positively affect those dads, parents, and their children. 

office-of-child-support-wants-your-helpThe latest issue of the Office of Child Support Enforcement's Child Support Report describes 6 areas of the legislation that are part of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (Public Law 113-183) and that will  affect the federal child support program. The most significant of the the areas in terms of father involvement is Section 303: Sense of the Congress Regarding Offering of Voluntary Parenting Time Arrangements. It reads:

Congress finds that:

  1. establishing parenting time arrangements when obtaining child support orders is an important goal that should be accompanied by strong family violence safeguards; and
  2. states should use existing funding sources to support the establishment of parenting time arrangements, including child support incentives, Access and Visitation grants, and Healthy Marriage Promotion and Responsible Fatherhood grants.

As such, this legislation could pave the way for additional funding for healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood grants at the state level and for father involvement work within programs focused on access and visitation.  

The federal government wants to hear from you on this legislation that they'll consider in issuing a report on the legislation to Congress. I encourage you to support this legislation and to provide additional feedback, such as more funding to expand states' efforts to not only establish parenting time arrangements but also to help parents be better parents through parenting education. You can review the process for providing feedback here.

What, exactly, is a parenting time arrangement? It's an agreement (sometimes called a parenting time order) that clearly defines how and when a child will spend time with his or her never married, separated, or divorced parents. These agreements are often included in a broader parenting or access and visitation plan that describes custody arrangements and other agreements between parents. These agreements have been around for some time. Many state governments and court systems have procedures, guidelines, and laws in place for establishing and enforcing such arrangements. (For examples, see the guidelines and laws in Michigan, New Jersey, and Texas.) Most guidelines and laws include consider the impact of domestic violence on such arrangements. In cases where parents can't agree on an arrangement, some state courts have enforceable minimum standards that ensure both parents spend some time with their children. (For an example, see the minimum parenting time standards in Utah.)

This federal legislation could give state governments and court systems that are behind the curve on this issue the push they need to be more progressive. But when it comes to states that already have strong procedures, guidelines, or laws in place--and that are already using funds to support such arrangements through, for example, access and visitation programs--the impact of this legislation could be more symbolic than practical. Before you provide feedback, I encourage you to become familiar with parenting time guidelines in laws in your state or county--and the impact of domestic violence on them--so that you will understand the potential impact this legislation could have on the dads and families you serve. You should also think about what would help your organization reach and help more fathers to be invovled in their children's lives. 

Regardless of whether this legislation is more symbolic or practical when it comes to your work and that of your organization, I hope you'll agree that even a symbolic gesture on the part of the federal government is better than nothing at all.

We Don’t Mind Hiding Behind Your Fatherhood Program Success

As an organization whose main business is to create and sell fatherhood programs to organizations across the country, you can image how many community agencies are using our fatherhood programs such as 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad®. (When I say business, I really mean that is how we accomplish our mission as a non-profit organization.) More often than not, when an organization purchases one of our fatherhood programs, they incorporate the curriculum into a larger initiative or approach to serving fathers (we call this “wrap around services”.)

Video-Cam-Share-500Thus, the NFI brand, and even our program names, go overlooked/unmentioned. But we’re okay with that - we don’t mind hiding behind your success. Because that’s what we’re here to do: Create a world in which every child has a 24/7 Dad®. And we do it through you.


We don't run fatherhood classes and talk to dads everyday. We help organizations doing that very work across the country to be successful. We provide father absence and father involvement research that help justify an organization or state’s investment in father-focused programs. We write articles on father engagement and how to be a better dad. And we love to hear about how our various fatherhood curricula are a foundational piece of family and societal “puzzles” being pieced together across the country. You are the stars that bring our curricula to life! Thank you for that.

Occasionally we browse YouTube for stories of impact – organizations sharing their fatherhood initiative successes. And often, we find within those stories, nuggets of gold – along with the use of one of our fatherhood programs. Sometimes the actual curriculum name is mentioned, other times it is not (but we have a staff person who helped that very organization build their fatherhood initiative) – and it makes us feel like proud parents! 

So as proud parents, I want to share a couple such videos with you today. You’re in for a treat. Children’s lives are being changed across the nation, one father at a time. And it’s never too late to start.

Do you use NFI curricula and have a video to share about your fatherhood initiative? Don’t be shy; be sure we know about it! Share your story and video here.

John R. Grubb YMCA Fatherhood Initiative
Des Moines, IA

Click here to learn more about their fatherhood offerings.


New Opportunities, Inc. Fatherhood Initiative
Part of the John S. Martinez Fatherhood Initiative of Connecticut

Click here to learn more about their fatherhood offerings.

Do you use NFI curricula and have a video to share about your fatherhood initiative? Don’t be shy; be sure we know about it! Share your story and video here.

6 Steps to Deal with Fears for Your Children

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

What frightens you the most as a parent when it comes to your children's health? Before you read any further, take a few minutes to write down your top three fears using a broad definition of health that includes physical, social and emotional health. Then, rate your level of fear for each one on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "not fearful at all" and 10 being "very fearful."

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What I fear most is that my children will get in a horrible accident that will change their life for the worse or even end it. When my younger daughter Jillian was 2 years old, we were playing on the living room floor with Daizy, a Labrador-Greyhound mix we had rescued from the pound only days before. This get-to-know-you play session suddenly turned into one of my scariest parenting moments. As Daizy laid down to rest in front of me, Jillian scurried around my back and, in coming around to the front of me, startled Daizy. Daizy lept up and accidentally swiped Jillian's face with her paw. For a moment, it seemed nothing was wrong because Jillian's only reaction was to close her eyes and look stunned. But then, the blood started flowing down her face -- appearing to originate from one of her eyes -- and she began to cry and scream.

After a moment of indecision, I quickly removed my shirt and placed it over her face. Fortunately, a couple of EMTs lived two houses down from us. I grabbed Jillian and ran over to their home and, as I ran, prayed they were home. I knocked on the door and, thank God, both of them were home. I explained what happened and partially removed my shirt from Jillian's face so they could assess the injury. The blood started to flow once more. I reapplied my shirt until one of the EMTs wrapped Jillian's head in so much gauze it looked as though she was wearing a turban that had slid down her face.

By this time, I feared the worst -- Daizy has slashed Jillian's eye and she'd have permanent damage. Being EMTs, my neighbors assured me that they had seen much worse and not to jump to conclusions. One of them rushed us to the nearest hospital for treatment. Fortunately, Daizy had only caused a gash above Jillian's eye and slightly scratched the inside of her eyelid. The eye itself was unharmed.

I'm generally not a fearful parent. Even though I fear accidents the most, I rarely think about whether they might happen. But every once in a while, the scar that Jillian still has from that awful day reminds me how much I love my children and don't want any harm to come to them.

Every year, the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan conducts a national poll on parents' top health concerns. The 2014 poll asked parents to rate how big of a problem 26 health concerns are for children and teens in their community and, separately, for children and teens across the country. They rated each concern as a "big problem," "somewhat of a problem," or "not a problem." The survey is a kind of proxy for what parents fear when it comes to children's health.

According to the 2014 poll, the following eight concerns appeared in the top 10 concerns on both lists:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Bullying
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug/substance abuse
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Internet safety
  • Teen pregnancy

Childhood obesity topped both lists, with the others in each list ranking differently in terms of level of concern.

Now, look at the list of your top three fears. Are they included in the list of eight above?

A much more important question is whether your level of fear for each fear is founded. (That's why I asked you to rate your level of fear.) Fears have a nasty way of working behind the scenes to cause stress and guide our behavior in unproductive and sometimes destructive ways. Parents' fears can cause a ton of stress and lead to behavior that damages their relationships with their children. As I wrote in my last post, parents these days are particularly vulnerable to over-protecting and controlling their children's lives. This behavior results from fears (and concerns) they have that, in many cases, are unfounded.

Follow these steps to determine whether any or all of your fears are founded.

  1. Prepare to be wrong. Recognize that you might not need to be as fearful and maybe don't need to be fearful at all. Most people are overconfident in their views. If you won't entertain the possibility that you might be wrong, there's no reason to take another step.
  2. Step back and separate from the fears. Get some distance from your emotions so that you can objectively assess your fears.
  3. Examine the evidence from a broad perspective. Conduct some research on the prevalence in the broader population of the issues underlying your fears. Use reputable, objective sources and not ones that will simply confirm your fears. (To get you started, I provide a list of relevant sources at the end of this post.) Based on what you learn, how do the issues underlying your fears stack up against the data on prevalence of those issues?
  4. Examine the evidence from a narrow perspective. How prevalent are the issues in your community? Your community might differ markedly from the general population. The sources you used in Step 3 might have data on your community, but you might have to find similar sources at the state or county level (e.g. your state or city health department). How do the issues stack up against the data in your community? Even if you've lived in your community for a long time -- maybe your entire life -- you might be surprised how little you know about the prevalence of issues in your own backyard.
  5. Examine recent exposure to events and information that could create biases that support your fears. Has anything happened in your family, friends' families, or community related to your fears? Have you heard a lot recently in the news about incidents related to the issues underlying your fears? Have you been watching movies or television focused on your fears? If you answered yes to any of those questions, consider whether that exposure reflects reality in terms of prevalence of the issues underlying your fears. Realize that you could suffer from the availability bias in which people rely on recent exposure to specific events and information to form their opinions even when those events and information are out of the norm.
  6. Step back once again and consider all the evidence. If you have a friend who is a particularly objective person, share what you learned and ask him or her for input.

As you read through those steps, you might have thought "Ugh! It's going to take a lot of time to complete them, and I just don't have the time." It will take some time, but not as much as you think. Regardless, when it comes to your children, taking time to examine whether your fears are founded is vital to understanding whether the stress they cause and the behavior that results from them is worth it to you and the relationships you have with your children.

Here are some websites on children's health for further reading:

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

Christmas in November

I've never had a bad Christmas. For the most part, they've all been pretty good. Here's the thing, the holidays that haven't been as great as others, have all been for one reason. That reason? Me.

December is the busiest month of the year, am I right? Listen up, this is experience talking. I know before December starts, busy is the only thing that is certain. As I screened Saving Christmas, one character made me think...the brother-in-law. This year, I'm doing something different...something I've never done before. 

kirk cameron's saving christmas

In the film, the brother-in-law is the melancholy, depressed guy who hates everything. He hates the consumerism of the holiday, he hates the "war on Christmas", he hates everything. Are you that guy? I have come to some conclusions after seeing the depressed brother-in-law in the film. I don't want to be that guy. Neither should you. We should want more, for ourselves, for our families, and for this season.

After watching this movie, I plan to do three things differently this year. I plan to proactively fight against the all-consuming stress of the season. Here's how I plan to make this Holiday what it's supposed to be about. Maybe you're like me, and you need this reminder. Feel free to consider this post your very own Christmas miracle:

1) Stop, Reflect & Remember: It's About Giving...Not Getting.
I'm not on my a-game when I'm my super-busy or constantly around humans for social events and whatnot. I know this about myself. This can make December suck for me. I know if I don't take a moment, be it for five minutes, to get alone and be still, I'm sabotaging myself and my family.

Find time to stop and reflect long enough to realize this season is about giving...not getting. Yes, I'm telling myself this too. The more you and I can understand this, the more we will enjoy the season. I just read a quote from Anne Frank, she supposedly said, "No one has ever become poor by giving." That's all...me, Anne Frank, and Kirk Cameron just saved your Christmas. You're welcome.

2) Make it About the Kids...Not Yourself.
My childhood Holidays were awesome. I didn't grow up rich or poor (that I know of), but my memories of the Holiday season are positive. One of my favorite memories is of opening a toy 18-wheeler log tuck. There's no way it cost my parents more that $10 in 1980's currency. I still remember stacking the little logs and pulling that truck around the house and imagining I was crossing over mountains and whatnot—the original Ice Road Truckers. My point is this, not only did I invent Ice Road Truckers, I look back at my kid-self and realize it didn't take much to make me happy. It's the same with your kids. Yes, make it about the children. But also, you don't have to stress about satisfying them. Odds are it takes much less than you're thinking to make them happy. What's the best memory you have as a kid during the holiday? You're probably thinking of a story similar to mine now. If you're not, you're an ungrateful brat and need to refer to the first point of this post! ; )

In the movie, Mr. Cameron says, "sometimes you have to be brought low...to see with new eyes”. This year, see the lights and decorations through the eyes of your child. See your family with fresh eyes. You will no doubt agree with Cameron when he says, "Our lives are so full — if only we had eyes to see them." Don't mess up Christmas for the kids.

3) Tis a New Season
I've went wrong in the past. From not taking time to reflect, to waiting until the last minute to go to the mall. Then, I've had the audacity to complain I can't find parking at the mall on December 23. Hello! There's parking spots open in November, right?! This is a new season, for you and me. A chance to start off different, and right. This said, my holiday season started last week. In the DC area, it's now dark at like 4pm. I drove home and was about to slip into my melancholy-fall-slumber of depression and boredom. Yes, I can be bored and busy, you can't? But something happened, a miracle. After fighting traffic, I walked in my front door to the smell of food cooking, the Etta James Holiday music station playing, and my daughters drawing at the kitchen table. Boom, instant cheer! My point is, you'll never save Christmas for you or your family if you never look at it with new eyes. This isn't last year or that one bad year you had, this is this year. 

Hopefully, you and I will stop and reflect, make it about the kids, and create a new season of traditions this holiday. Let's realize as Mr. Cameron says, "You and I are in the middle of a story. The difference between our story and the one we heard as kids is that we get to write our own story." Whether you hate this time of year, are fighting with your spouse, or you just aren't that into Christmas, you get to pick whether you're Scrooge or not.

So, are you gonna watch everyone have fun or are you gonna actually have fun this season? I was inspired after watching this movie to rearrange my life, to tell my daughters new stories, to not be the husband and dad who frustrates his wife and kids, to make things right...that's Christmas. So, you wanna know my solution for getting past all of the stress of the season? It's something I've never done before. I'm starting Christmas in November. If you need me, I'll be sipping my Chesnut Praline Latte and listening to Christmas music today. I'm not waiting until December.

How will you save Christmas for you and your family this year?

Get the sneak peek of Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas!

Watch  Kirk Cameron's Interview on Access Hollywood Live:

 

Follow Saving Christmas:

  • Follow Saving Christmas on Facebook.

  • Find a theater near you here.

  • See images from the set of the film here

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

Connecting_with_your_child_cover

This free ebook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

In this free ebook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your school-aged child to get him or her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this ebook to help you and the dads you know connect with your kids in a meaningful way.

The ABC's of a Father-Friendly Program

When it comes to fatherhood programs, there are many things to consider. For example, if you're not sure whether you are doing enough to serve fathers, begin with our Free Father Friendly Check-Up™. If you want to start a new fatherhood program, checkout our free How to Start a Fatherhood Program ebook.

iStock_000018921253_SmallIn addition to these resources, The ABC's of a Father-Friendly Program by Neil Tift offers excellent reminders for the areas that need to be addressed in order to have a successful, father-friendly program.

Many of these areas fall into the fabric of an organization and correlate to several points on our Father Friendly Check-Up™.

So without further adieu: The ABC's of a Father-Friendly Program

A - Assets of fathers are emphasized, not their deficits
B - Budget reflects that fathers are a priority
C - Curricula/educational materials respect range of fathers being served
D - Diverse staff reflects the population using services
E - Environment clearly states that dads & men in families are welcome
F - Father-child bond is emphasized and program activities encourage this
G - Gender-neutral forms, policies & procedures employed through agency
H - Hands-on learning experiences are components of father activities
I - Importance of fathers is promoted, but not at the expense of mothers
J - Journals, magazines and reading materials reflect the interests of dads
K - Knowledgeable males recruited to discuss sensitive concerns with fathers
L - Language is respectful and affirming of all parents and children
M - Marketing plan invites many faces of fathers, promotes full involvement
N - Needs of fathers influence the program’s growth and development
O - Outreach staff recruits in locations that all types of fathers visit
P - Paternal & maternal parenting styles are recognized and equally respected
Q - Quality evaluation tools and procedures that respect fathers are used
R - Recognize and reduce barriers that limit father involvement
S - Staff receives periodic best practices training to adequately serve fathers
T - Targeted services are offered specifically for fathers
U - Understanding of fathers’ physical and mental health concerns is paramount
V - Values are emphasized that promote gender reconciliation
W - Women’s and men’s restrooms each have a diaper deck
X - Xcellent Advisory Council and active speakers’ bureau are in place
Y - Young fathers are offered targeted services
Z - Zealous attitude prevails that we are all in this together

Many thanks to The ABC's author, Neil Tift, Father Involvement Program Coordinator at the Child Crisis Center in Mesa, Arizona. Neil can be reached at neil.tift@childcrisis.org.

Download the ABC's list here

 

Republished with permission.

Faith-Based Film Spotlight: Saving Christmas (In Theaters Friday)

This Christmas, have your family dive headfirst into all the joy, dancing, celebration, feasting, imagination, and traditions that make Christmas, well, Christmas! This film will resonate with our faith-based fatherhood leaders. See the videos and see what I mean...

 

KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS is an interesting take on the story providing a basis for our timeless traditions and celebrations. 

This year, it's time to take in the splendor; take in the majesty; take in the story. Take it all in…and realize it's okay to enjoy it all.

The season isn't a time to be sad, depressed or annoyed from all the busy-ness. Okay, you probably will get annoyed if and when you have to find parking at the mall, but still, overall, it's supposed to be a time to truly enjoy family!

KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS is in theaters for a limited engagement beginning November 14 for two weeks only!

Stay tuned to The Father Factor Blog, as I will be writing a feature about this upcoming family film on the blog. But for now...

Get a Sneak Peek of Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas!


Watch the first trailer for Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas.

Watch  Kirk Cameron's Interview on Access Hollywood Live:

 

Follow Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas:

  • Follow Saving Christmas on Facebook.

  • Find a theater near you here.

  • See images from the set of the film here

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

This free ebook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or share it with other dads.

Connecting_with_your_child_cover

In this free ebook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your school-aged child to get him or her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this ebook to help you and the dads you know connect with your kids in a meaningful way.

Research to Application: Framing and the "No Choice Option"

As the nation’s #1 provider of fatherhood skill-building programs and resources, NFI provides guidance for practitioners and organizations on how they might be able to use to use the latest research on human behavior to enhance the effectiveness of their work with fathers. NFI provides this guidance in a series of blog posts called Research to Application: Guidance for Practitioners and Programs. The series is also available in the form of quick reference guides that you can download by clicking on the button at the end of the posts.

research_to_application_post_3The series offers a platform for generating dialogue among NFI, organizations, and practitioners on ways that research can be applied to addressing pain points in serving fathers. This post is the second one in the series. (To access the first post, click here. To access the second post, click here.) It provides ideas on how you might integrate research on no choice options (a form of framing) into your work with fathers. Integrating this research could help you help fathers to be more persistent in sticking with the behaviors of an involved, responsible, committed father.

If you implement any of the ideas in this post, or develop and implement your own ideas, please share them with us at info@fatherhood.org. We’ll use your experiences to update this guide so it is even more useful.

The Research
Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow [1] captures the research on the biases humans suffer from in making decisions, regardless of the decisions they make. He describes how we rely on two cognitive systems when making decisions. System 1 “operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.” We often call it our “gut instinct.” System 2 “allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations” and involves deliberate choice. We often call it our “rational side.”

We primarily rely on System 1 to make most of our decisions. The good news is that our gut reactions are right most of the time. But it is inadequate for making decisions that require a lot of thought and energy, which is where System 2 comes in. In addition to being inadequate for making complex decisions, the problem with System 1 is that it often leads us astray—and wildly so—which can get us into all sorts of trouble. 

The reason it leads us astray is that it relies on heuristics, what we often call “rules of thumb.” These rules of thumb give us a starting point from which to base our decisions. The problem is that these rules of thumb are often wholly inadequate for helping us make sound decisions because, while they help us arrive at good decisions much of the time, they can bias our thinking in ways that lead to poor decisions in many instances.

One of the heuristics System 1 employs that biases our decision-making is called the framing effect. Our decisions are influenced by the way in which decisions are presented. Here’s a great example from Kahneman’s book: 

  • Researchers presented doctors with statistics about outcomes for cancer treatment in two different ways—survival rates and mortality rates—and asked them whether they would recommend surgery or radiation as the course of treatment. Specifically: the 1-month survival rate of surgery is 90 percent vs. there is a 10 percent mortality rate in the first month after surgery. Despite the fact that the data are exactly the same, just presented or framed differently, a much higher percentage of doctors selected surgery when framed from a survival than mortality perspective. Why? Because even among people trained to treat cancer, mortality is viewed as bad and survival as good. Survival sounds encouraging while mortality is defeating.

Think about your own life for a moment. If you were given a diagnosis of cancer and presented with treatment options, would you rather the doctor talk about your chances of survival or death?

The point is we’re all subject to biases. The fact that I picked this research to write about is in part influenced by another heuristic called the availability bias. In the past year, I’ve read no less than 3 books on biases!

For the purposes of this paper, framing involves how practitioners present fathers with choices related to being an involved, responsible, committed father, regardless of context (e.g. one-on-one case management or in a group-based program) or topic (e.g. discipline, co-parenting, and child support). Before you read another sentence after this one, take a few minutes to reflect on how you present fathers with choices and write them down.

Chances are you present them with several or many choices to choose from. And each of the choices you present are ones that you’d be fine with them choosing. You might, for example, provide them with several choices for how they can do fun things with their children that they might not have thought about before and ask them to commit to doing one or more of them within a specific time frame. Fair enough. But did you also provide them with the choice to do none of them and maintain the status quo? I doubt it. After all, why in the heck would you want to give fathers an option to do nothing? Wouldn’t that make you a bad practitioner?

To answer those questions, let’s turn to research conducted by Dr. Rom Schrift and Dr. Jeffrey Parker on whether presenting people with a no choice option along with other choices makes any difference in how committed or persistent people are in sticking with their choices (not the no choice option). The results are especially important in working with fathers because one of your primary objectives for fathers should be that they are persistent (committed) in sticking with being an involved, committed, responsible father, generally, and implementing certain behaviors, specifically. Persistence is vital to fathers, particularly those who face challenging barriers to involvement in the lives of their children.

Although these researchers don’t mention framing specifically, their research is all about framing. [2] Using a variety of experiments that addressed different behaviors, they found that offering a no choice option alongside other healthy or pro-social options increased the persistence of participants in sticking to the choices they made compared to participants who were given the same choices but without a no choice option. They found it critical that the no choice option was presented up front with all of the other choices, not before and not after the other choices.

Rules for Application
Use this simple and powerful framing effect to encourage persistence in fathers, particularly in those who face adversity. Here are two simple rules to follow when presenting dads with options on how to be an involved, responsible, committed father in any setting (e.g. one-on-one case management) and on any topic (e.g. discipline, co-parenting, and child support).

  • Rule #1: Ensure that the no choice option is viable, even though it’s not desirable. If a father happens to choose that option, it must not violate a legal agreement, for example, and not result in harm to the father or anyone else.
  • Rule #2: Always present the no choice option alongside other options, not before or after.

Regardless of how you apply the framing effect, approach your effort as an experiment. Keep track of what works with fathers in general and with specific kinds of fathers (e.g. custodial and non-custodial) so that you can apply what works in future work with fathers one-on-one or in groups, and avoid what doesn’t work. And last but not least, share your results with NFI at info@fatherhood.org so that we can improve future versions of this guide. 

Resources 
As you apply the framing effect to increase fathers’ persistence in following through on their choices, consider reading the article on Shrift’s and Parker’s research and the books Thinking, Fast and Slow and Nudge

Get the full PDF version of this study today!



Don’t forget to look for more posts and reference guides with post 1 and post 2 in this series!
 

[1] Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[2] Interestingly and ironically, they use the term “choice architecture” when referring to how they presented choices. That term was coined by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (2008). I used the research in their book as part of the basis for the first paper in this series.

Why Horseplay is Vital for Your Kids

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

When my daughters were toddlers and preschoolers, I played a game with them called "Attack Baby." I'd lie on the floor and let them run at and jump on me. They'd scream at the top of their lungs as they ran toward me. Right after or right before they landed on me, I'd pick them up and throw them to either side of me. (Don't be appalled. I gently laid them on the ground so they'd roll safely across the floor.) Every once in a while, I'd include a tickle or two before I discarded them to either side of me. As I did so, the attacking screams turned to joyful laughter.

why-horseplay-is-vital-for-your-kidsThe objectives of the game for them were to have fun and do as much damage to their dad as possible. My objectives were to help them learn the joy of physical play and how to play and not hurt someone in the process (i.e. learn emotional self-regulation). They sometimes lost control, particularly when they'd gang up on me. My youngest, in particular, would sometimes launch herself feet first and try to pound on my chest or head. Whenever they got out of control and became too physical, I stopped the game and explained that they needed to regain control or that session of Attack Baby was over. As time went by, they learned how to control themselves more consistently and still have a blast. To this day, some 15 years later, they remember Attack Baby with fondness and tell new friends, when describing their relationship with me, how much they enjoyed it.

In the Art of Roughhousing, Dr. Anthony T. DeBenedet and Dr. Lawrence J. Cohen reveal the benefits of horseplay (rough-and-tumble play), such as how it develops close connections between parents and children, helps solve children's behavior problems, and boosts children's confidence.

Roughhousing is interactive, so it builds close connections between children and parents, especially as we get down on the floor and join them in their world of exuberance and imagination. Most important, roughhousing is rowdy, but not dangerous. With safety in mind, roughhousing releases the creative life force within each person, pushing us out of our inhibitions and inflexibilities... Play -- especially active physical play, like roughhousing -- makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likeable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful... Roughhousing activates many different parts of the body and the brain, from the amygdalae, which process emotions, and the cerebellum, which handles complex motor skills, to the prefrontal cortex, which makes high-level judgments. The result is that every roughhousing playtime is beneficial for body and brain as well as for the loftiest levels of the human spirit: honor, integrity, morality, kindness, and cooperation.

Unfortunately, this art is becoming a lost one as video games and other technology-based activities play an ever-increasing role in children's lives. Moreover, other changes in children's environments that facilitate horseplay have faded or disappeared, such as schools reducing or eliminating recess and physical education.

But another truly unfortunate factor in this development is the hyper-focus of so many parents today on their children's safety, a focus that negatively impacts their daily interactions with their children.

Sadly, among many of today's families, roughhousing barely limps along on life support. What was once a motto of Safety First has evolved into a fretful new motto of Safety Only. Many parents are more frightened by skinned knees and bruised feelings than life's real dangers: stifled creativity and listless apathy.

This hyper-focus on children's safety is an outgrowth of how parents today over-protect and over-schedule their children's lives. So it's not surprising that children's playtime has, as the authors point out, become "adult-organized, adult-refereed, and adult-structured." Parenting as protection has taken on huge significance despite the fact that the world of today is no more dangerous than in the past. In fact, it's safer for children. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that the death rates for children caused by unintentional injuries (e.g. vehicle-related, drowning, and fires) and murder were lower in 2010 compared to 2002. The reduction in deaths of 32 percent from unintentional injuries is staggering! Also staggering is the reduction in murders over an even longer time period. Among teens 15-19, for example, the reduction was 63 percent between 1993 and 2012 and was, in 2012, at its lowest level since before 1970.

I'm not arguing that parents shouldn't be concerned for their children's safety. Situational safety has its place. Being chronically concerned about children's safety does not. Children will get hurt. Bruises, abrasions and broken bones are a natural part of childhood. Parents shouldn't be so concerned about safety that they don't allow their children to be, well, children. Children are wired for horseplay with their parents and other children. It's one of the ways they learn about their world, how to appropriately interact with others, and to have fun. So by all means, enjoy playing a little roughly with your children on a regular basis, and get off the hyper-safety bandwagon.

When is the last time you spent time on the floor playing with your kids?

This post originally appeared at The Huffington Post.

17 Critical Issues: A Guide for Fatherhood Practitioners & Staff

So you want to work with fathers? Whatever your situation or reasons for caring, we're glad you do! You might be asking the following questions: Where do I start in working with dads? What in the world do I focus on? How do I actually help meet the needs of fathers around me?

17-Critical-Issues-CoverThese are all great questions! And, you’re not alone in asking them. Everyone who works with fathers has asked them at one time or another. Which is why we developed a discussion guide to answer these questions. More specifically, we created this guide in response to requests for help in identifying the most critical issues to address with dads.

In talking with you and based on our years of experience, we identified 17 issues that are critical to address when assisting fathers of any race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background in becoming involved, responsible, and committed dads.

We offer a full guide called 17 Critical Issues to Discuss with Dads for purchase. In this post, we wanted to give you sample of the 17 critical topics that are covered in more detail with the full guide:

1. Family of Origin
What is the most important factor that influences a father’s knowledge, attitudes, values, and behavior about how to raise and care for his child? If you said, “The influence of the family he grew up in,” you are correct.

"A father’s own father is often the most powerful 
influence in shaping how he fathers his children."

If you want insight into how a father thinks and what he feels about fatherhood, and how involved he is in the life of his child, ask him what he learned about being a father from his parents and extended family. The family someone grows up in is often called a “family of origin,” because it is the family in which a person begins his or her life. 

2. Masculinity and Fatherhood
Have you ever put together a model airplane? The idea was that if you followed the instructions, your model should have looked like the picture on the box. Unfortunately, your model might not have looked like the picture, because pieces were missing or you didn’t thoroughly read or follow the instructions. 

The key to developing good fathers is to first develop good men. Learning what it means to be a man and father works the same way. Men learn from their parents and culture a model for how a man and father should look and act. This model comes with instructions that help men grow into the “right kind” of man or father.

3. Fathering Skills

Unfortunately, many fathers lack the self-efficacy they need to be good fathers. Self-efficacy is the belief in a father that he has the skills—or can acquire the skills—that he needs to be a good father. A lack of self-efficacy can be especially chronic in fathers whose own fathers were physically or psychologically absent. Self-efficacy is the belief in a father that he has the skills—or can acquire the skills—that he needs to be a good father.

4. Child Development

Picture this situation. A father prepares a meal for himself and his three-year-old son. As they dine, on the three-year-old starts to eat with his hands. The father tells his son that he must use a fork. The child uses the fork for a few minutes and then reverts to using his hands. The father becomes frustrated and yells at his son to stop using his hands and pick up the fork, or else dad will take the food away. 

What’s wrong here? If you said the father shouldn’t have yelled at his son and threatened to take away the food, you’re right. But why did the father yell at and threaten his son? The primary reason is that dad didn’t understand that it’s perfectly fine, developmentally speaking, for a three-year-old to use both utensils and hands to eat. One of the most helpful tools for fathers is information developmental milestones. Some of the biggest mistakes made by fathers stem from a lack of knowledge about child development. So it’s vital that dads learn about child development and the physical, emotional, and social milestones their children should reach by a certain age. 

5. Raising Boys, Raising Girls

Are boys or girls harder to raise? Is there any difference in the way a father should raise a son compared to a daughter? These are questions that can weigh heavily on the minds of fathers. Perhaps you have asked yourself these questions. The answer to the first question is that boys and girls pose different challenges at different stages in their lives; so, as a general rule, neither boys nor girls are harder to raise. The answer to the second question is that the basics of fathering sons and daughters are the same, but it’s the ways in which fathers engage their sons and daughters that must sometimes be different.

6. Discipline

“Just wait until your father gets home!” is a phrase that we might have often heard growing up. Dad as disciplinarian has defined most fathers throughout history. So it’s not difficult for fathers to grasp the idea that a basic role for them is to discipline their children. But what’s not so clear to a dad is how to use appropriate discipline (i.e., when to use it and proper techniques), and that he must model self-discipline if he hopes to raise a healthy child. 

7. Gender Communication

You might wonder what gender communication has to do with fathering. It has a lot to do with fathering because when moms and dads effectively communicate, it helps them raise healthy children. It also helps fathers raising daughters to know how their daughters are “wired” to communicate and vice versa. 

8. Building Healthy Marriages and Relationships

The most important relationship in the home is the relationship between the father and mother. How well the father gets along with the mother affects their children every day. This is true whether the father and mother are married to each other or not. Children look to their father’s relationship with their mother as the blueprint for developing their own relationships. If a father’s relationship with the mother is healthy, then the children will have a model for what a healthy relationship looks like. 

9. Dealing with Emotions

Years ago a report on CNN recounted the horrific story of a man who entered a home in Atlanta and killed all the members of a family except one—a ten-year-old boy. The boy locked himself in an upstairs closet to escape the carnage. The police found him as they searched the home after the killings. Outside the hospital where doctors had examined the boy, a reporter interviewed the minister of the church this boy’s family had attended. When asked how the boy had held up through this tragedy, the minister said with his face and voice full of pride, “If he wasn’t a man before, he sure is now.” It was amazing that this minister was proud that a tragedy of this magnitude had made a man out of a ten year-old boy. He had likened the tragedy to a right of passage into manhood. 

If fathers are to raise healthy children, they must first learn that it is manly to express their emotions and connect with and understand their emotions. They must then learn to express their emotions appropriately. You might encounter some fathers who uncover long-lost feelings and, perhaps, who have suppressed memories that will require the help of a professional counselor. You might also encounter fathers who need help getting their anger and rage under control. Be sure to have a list of resources to refer fathers for assistance. 

10. Grief and Loss

Perhaps the emotion that fathers have the most difficulty expressing is the grief that results from the losses they encounter. All fathers experience loss, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or divorce. If a father doesn’t live with his children, he faces the loss of his children every day. Losses like these can devastate a father emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Other losses are not as obvious or life changing, but they are losses nonetheless. Examples of loss include losing a ball game, losing a bid for a contract or job, and having to cancel a trip you were really looking forward to. 

11. Men's Health

The health of our nation’s men is in crisis. Although women suffer more often from some ailments, such as autoimmune disorders, on balance men are far and away worse off when it comes to health outcomes. Consider these startling facts on the state of men’s physical health: 

  1. men live an average of five years less than do women;

  2. more men than women die from each of the 11 leading causes of death, including suicide (81 percent of suicides are committed by men);

  3. 91 percent of work-related deaths strike men;

  4. men perish from drug-induced deaths at a rate of 16.2 (per 100,000) compared to 10.2 for women;

  5. alcohol-induced deaths are 3 times higher among men;

  6. more men than women use alcohol, binge drink, and drink heavily; and

  7. more men than women are obese. 

12. Sexuality
How many times have you heard the word “sexuality” uttered by men or been used to refer to men? Do men know the difference between “sex” and “sexuality” or understand the concept of “sexual self-worth?” The sad fact is that most men don’t know the difference between sex and sexuality, nor do they understand the concept of sexual self-worth. Most men, unfortunately, are raised to focus on the physical act of sex as the end all and be all of their sexual nature as human beings. 

13. Intimacy
Before reading the rest of the information on this topic, consider the first few words or phrases that pop into your mind when you hear the word “intimate.” Did you consider words or phrases like “a close friend,” “personal,” “confidential,” “emotional,” or “spiritual?” Or did you consider words or phrases like “sex,” “sexual,” or “making love?” In working with men on this topic, it’s critical that you help them understand what intimacy truly means. 

14. Power of Spirituality
Many fathers say they have been transformed by what their religious beliefs teach about the role of a father. As a result, some fatherhood programs are rooted in scriptural principles, teaching fathers to follow those principles as they raise their children. In working with fathers on this issue, it’s vital you communicate that spirituality is an important part of being a father and of a family.  

15. Power of a Fathers' Support Group and Network 
The quality of the relationships a man has is just as important to his health as is going to the doctor, eating right, and exercising. Men with strong social networks are healthier than men with weak ones. They live longer than do men with weak networks. It’s vital that fathers have people in their lives with whom they feel safe to share their feelings and to talk with about the challenges of fatherhood. No one understands better what it means to be a man and father than does another man and father. 

16. Balancing Work and Family
One of the primary challenges fathers confront in becoming involved, responsible, and committed dads is the challenge of balancing work and family. NFI’s Pop’s Culture survey revealed that work responsibilities are the most significant barriers to fathers being the best dads they can be. 

17. Financial Responsibility
“I want my two dollars!” is a familiar refrain of children when allowance time rolls around. Regardless of how much of an allowance parents give to their children, it’s often the first strategy parents use to teach their children financial responsibility. An allowance, when tied to chores, teaches kids that they must earn their money. Many parents take the idea of earning pay one step further by setting up savings accounts so that their children learn the value of saving money for the future—a lesson in delayed gratification.

Depending on how long and intensively you have worked with fathers, consider using additional NFI resources to more fully address some of the topics. Many of our curricula go into greater depth on most of these topics. We encourage you and the dads you work with to subscribe to our FatherSource™, a weekly email that includes tips and advice on a range of topics, and our Father Factor Blog, which also includes tips and advice from our staff and experienced dads, and will keep you updated on the latest research on, and opinions about, fatherhood and father involvement.

17-Critical-Issues-CoverDownload our free sample of 17 Critical IssuesA Guide for Fatherhood Practitioners & Staff to Use in Presentations, Home Visits, or Meeting with Dads

 

The How and Why Behind Never Giving Up Hope

Dads and moms aren't perfect. But, if mom understands the importance of involving dad, she will understand that she herself - is a vital factor in connecting father to child. The following story reveals exactly this...

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Jamal recently emailed me with his story of becoming a father overnight...

It’s been eight years since my daughter has come into my life. I say “come into,” because I was not present when she was born. In fact, I didn’t even know that I had a child. Let me explain. I dated my daughter’s mother the spring/summer of 2005 and the relationship ended in the fall of 2005. We did not speak or communicate for months after the break up. During this period of time, I decided to focus on improving my life, so I re-enrolled myself in college to complete my degree. I picked a temp-to hire position with a company with the hopes of working there full time after completing my education. I lived at home with my mother, made very little money, and the only responsibility I had was to myself

The summer of 2006 rolls around and I’m continuing to stay focused on my goals working during the day and going to school at night. One night, I saw a news report which mentioned my ex's name and connected her in some way to an abandoned baby. Feeling a sense of urgency to see if my ex was okay, I immediately called her and we spoke briefly. In my mind I started to count back the months that she and I had been intimate, and it had been almost exactly nine months. So I asked her if the abandoned baby was my child. I was told no, and to stay out of it.   

I just knew I had to know
the truth for me.


After hanging up the phone, you would think I would feel relief, but I did not. My heart was heavy and I could not shake the fact that this abandoned child could indeed be my child. Up to this day, I don’t know what compelled me to investigate further to find the truth. I just knew I had to know the truth for me. I contacted detectives working the case and was given instructions to contact a local children’s organization to take a DNA test. The test was taken on July 17th. I waited for about a week for the results, and the wait seemed like an eternity. Finally the day had come. It was July 21st. I was at work sitting at my desk. An email appeared from children’s of youth organization, with subject line titled paternity test. I opened the email and it turned out I was the father. 

My life had changed overnight. 
I was a father to a precious little girl.


In that moment I felt a whirlwind of feelings: anger, confusion, fear, happiness, excitement, anxiousness - probably ever emotion imaginable. My phone had been ringing off the hook but I could not speak to anyone. I cried at my desk and sat still. My life had changed overnight. I was a father to a precious little girl. Not too long after, I received a follow up call from the children's organization and they only had one question: ”Do you want custody of your daughter?” Without hesitation, I said "Yes." After going through the process and a series of legal events, I was granted custody of my daughter and was given the right to name her. On that day of August 1st, I held my daughter for the first time. I knew then, that everything that I was had to change, and it was step up time for sure. 

It has been 8 years now.


It’s been 8 years now and we are still going strong. Being immersed in the joys and responsibility of fatherhood, I had not opened up publicly about my side of this experience. I now feel an obligation to come forward and talk about my experience with the hopes to inspire others, not just in the arena of parenting but in life to go for what you believe in, even when the odds are stacked against you. If my daughter ever gets a chance to read this, I want her to know that I never gave up on her and never will. I hope my belief in my daughter will inspire her to go forward and believe in her own self and dreams. Becoming a father has taught me so much about life and myself. My daughter has been a teacher to me as I am to her. While I am blessed and proud to be her father, I realize that the victory and glory is not mine, but God’s, as it was his divine plan in the beginning.

Becoming a father has taught me
so much about life and myself.

While this situation isn't easy; sadly, it's not unique. Marriage is difficult. Parenting is difficult. Having a baby is a uniquely difficult time in the life of mom and dad. But, we must remember that it is vital to the baby, that both mom AND dad be involved before and after pregnancy. We know from research that a dad's involvement is vital to a child's well-being.

We at NFI spend a lot of our time creating tip cards, brochures, and pocket guides to help dads and moms understand these very facts - and as I read Jamal's story, I saw the pieces falling into place. There are so many benefits for everyone involved when mom helps to ensure dad is involved from the start:

  1. Think Baby: 
    Your child benefits from Dad's involvement the moment he or she is born and the benefits continue through adulthood.
    • Healthy Development: A child with an involved dad has been shown to do better on tests of emotional, social, and mental development. Involved dads have been shown to increase weight gain in preterm infants (preemies) and increase the change that mom will breastfeed. 
    • Success in School: a child of an involved dad does better in school, on average, than a child who grows up without an involved dad. They're more likely to get A's, behave well, and less likely to drop out of school. 
    • Good Physical Health: Involved dads who are active and have a healthy weight are more likely to have a child who is active and have a healthy weight which is vital to avoiding many diseases such as diabetes.
    • Good Behavior: a child with an involved dad is less likely to smoke, use drugs, become or get someone pregnant as a teen, or engage in violent and other risky behavior. 
    • Well-Being and Success as an Adult: a child with an involved dad is more likely ot have higher self-esteem.
       
  2. Think Mom:
    Mom benefits from dad's involvement from the moment mom becomes pregnant. Really!
    • Good pregnancy: when dad is involved in moms' pregnancy, mom is more likely to attend pre-natal visits. Mom is less likely to have health problems while pregnant, such as anemia and high blood pressure.  
    • Less Stress for Her: an involved dad reduces moms' stress. It's easier to talk with an involved dad about ways to help reduce stress. 
    • Better Family Finances: an involved dad is more likely to work harder and earn more money. 
    • Better Marriage/Relationship: When both parents share the load of raising a child, it reduces the stress on both parents. Less stress leads to a better marriage and relationship.
       
  3. Think Dad:
    Dad benefits from his involvement from the moment mom becomes pregnant. These benefits include some of the sames ones that mom receives, includingbetter family finances and a better marriage relationship.
    • Early Bonding With Child: When dad prepares to be a dad while mom is pregnant, he is better able to bond with his child and more likely to be involved as his child ages. Studies show that when dad is involved leading up to and during the birth of his child, his oxytocin or "bonding hormone" rises while his testosterone or "wandering hormone" declines.
    • Better Health and Well-Being for Him: An involved dad is more healthy emotionally and physically. He is more likely to go to the doctor when sick and for regular check-ups. 
    • More Giving: Being a dad can help dad be  more giving to family and the community. The involved dad is more likely to be social, volunteer, and spend time doing things like attending church and helping the community.
    • Success at Work: The involved dad's child is more likely to succeed, to advance, and advance more quickly in his or her career. The skills dad develops while raising a child is the same skill that helps him succeed at work.

Let Jamal's story encourage and remind you that everyone wins when a child has an involved dad. Oh, and, it's never too late to start being involved.

How involved was your dad? How did his involvement or non-involvement affect you?  

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Like this blog post? Consider our Pocketbook for New Moms™: a Pocketbook Full of Reasons for New Moms to Involve Dads

 

 

Note: the story above was submitted solely by Jamal and does not reflect any opinions from NFI.

Evaluation: When Mom Involves Dad, Children Win

Over the years, NFI has been asked, "What do you have for Mothers?" In response, we surveyed our customers and partners regarding creating a resource for mothers. With overwhelming support, we proceeded to create a program designed specifically for mothers, to help them improve the relationships they have with fathers, for the benefit of their children. Now, thanks to a recent study, our ground-breaking program Understanding Dad: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms has been shown to be successful in a number of ways. 

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Temple University evaluated the effects of mothers’ participation in Understanding Dad as part of an eight-week intervention program on mothers’ relationship awareness, knowledge of healthy relationships, and relationship self-efficacy.

Key Results:

  • Thirty-four (34) mothers were recruited from four (4) sites to participate in a study that used a pretest/post-test one-group design. Over the course of this eight-week program, mothers demonstrated moderate to large gains in each of the outcome measures, after controlling for mothers’ educational level. 
  • Moreover, there was one significant within-subjects interaction effect for time × location. That is, mothers made significantly greater gains in pro-relationship knowledge in one of the intervention sites. 
  • The findings are also consistent with the idea that co-parenting interventions may be effective when only one parent, and not both parents, attend the program. However, future evaluations should use more rigorous methods to assess whether programs are equally effective when only mothers are involved versus when mothers and fathers attend a program.

View the full Temple University evaluation here.

The great news is that many other organizations have run Understanding Dad™ and have had similar success. Mothers who were previously uninterested in involving dad in their child(ren)'s lives better understand his importance for the benefit of the child, and become open to the idea of involving him.

As you are probably aware, research shows that one in three children in the U.S. grow up in a home without his or her biological father, and the lack of father involvement increases the risk that children will suffer from a range of social, emotional, and physical ills. Unfortunately, many times it's the mothers' gatekeeping behavior that can prevent or reduce fathers' access to their children - when fathers' involvement in their children's lives would actually benefit their children. In addition, mothers can lack the self-awareness and communications skills they need to improve their relationships with the fathers of their children.

By engaging moms in father involvement, you can increase your success in supporting families and make a huge difference in the lives of children.

When mom involves dad, children win. 

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Do you serve mothers who struggle to understand and communicate with the father(s) of their child(ren)? 

The Understanding Dad™ program helps mothers improve the relationships they have with fathers, for the benefit of their children. View the full product information here.

Or Download a Sample of Understanding Dad:

 

The 7 Steps to Starting a Successful Fatherhood Program

You know there's a need and you want to help. But how? Many of you have told us you want to help create more involved, responsible and committed fathers. But, you've also expressed you don't know where to start. The task seems too big to handle. Creating a successful and sustainable fatherhood program right from the start is difficult yet vital. This task isn't for everybody. But, some of you can do it. For those with a passion to connect a dad to his child, I have this to tell you: you can do it...we can help. 

how-to-start-a-fatherhood-program
You may have noticed, I borrow the phrase "you can do it...we can help" from The Home Depot. Think of National Fatherhood Initiative as The Home Depot of fatherhood. Or don't, if you dislike that hardware store. My point is, we have the experience and tools for you to tackle the work of connecting fathers to their kids.

Here are seven (7) steps for how you can start a fatherhood program:

Step 1: Make the Case for a Fatherhood Program

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America – one out of three – live without their biological father in the home. This means there is a father factor in nearly all of the societal ills facing America today. Research shows when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is affected in many ways. Children are more likely to have behavioral problems, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, two times more likely to suffer obesity, and two times more likely to drop out of high school… and more. 

There is a father factor in nearly all
societal ills facing America today. 
How you address this issue matters. 


You and/or your organization may already be in agreement on the need for fatherhood programs. However, it's important to remember there is still debate about the necessity of fathers. Our point of view, based on research, is that good biological or adoptive fathers perform functions that cannot be performed by anyone else, even though others such as male teachers and family friends can be partial substitutes for good fathers. 
Let’s look at some research.

In a study examining father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning.

  • The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement. This study showed the significance of the role of fathers in the lives of at-risk children, even in case of nonresident fathers. Source: Howard, K.S., Burke Lefever, J.E., Borkowski, J.G., & Whitman, T.L. (2006). Fathers’ influence in the lives of children with adolescent mothers. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 468-476.
  • Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. Source: U.S. Census, Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2011, Table C8. Washington D.C.: 2011
  • Even after controlling for income, youths in father-absent households all had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds. Source: Harper, Cynthia C. and Sara S. McLanahan: Father Absence and Youth incarceration. “Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.

Father absence data will help you educate others on the importance of father involvement, and how father involvement is at the base of numerous societal issues that community organizations and social service agencies are seeking to combat or solve. It stands to reason that building the skills of fathers – giving them the specific, targeted tools and skills they need to be involved – will lead to their increased involvement in the lives of their children, and reduce the chance of the ill-effects of father absence for that child.

Father involvement/father absence data can help you write stronger grant proposals and bolster support for your program in your community. Father involvement/father absence data can also inform your mission, and help establish goals you may want to reach to demonstrate marked improvement in your community as a
result of your work.

“With this tool in your “belt”, you will
be equipped to make the case
for fatherhood work in your organization.

ff6-father-facts-6_sample-cover
There is plenty of research and statistics available on the positive effects of father involvement and negative effects of father absence. NFI has a book called, Father Facts 6. Father Facts 6 is the reference manual for anyone interested in promoting responsible fatherhood.

Step 2: Assess the Father Friendliness of Your Organization

Just because you're passionate about father involvement and think it’s important, doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone around does or will. Each person carries with them their own understanding of what it means to have (or not have) a father in their lives, and their own opinion about whether or not having an involved father is even important to children today. These opinions and attitudes can play into their everyday work with families you serve. Assessing the father friendliness of your organization is a vital step to serving fathers and startinng a fatherhood program. In order to head in the right direction, you must know where to start.

How father-friendly are you? 
How about your organization?


fatherfriendlycheckupNFI’s Father Friendly Check-Up™ (FFCU) is a free tool to help you successfully engage dads and strengthen the families in your community. This assessment allows you to analyze your physical environment, location, organizational philosophies, staff attitudes, and more. Without the full “buy-in” from all of your staff members, your fatherhood program and father-involvement plans may come to a screeching halt.

The FFCU will help you examine the structure of your organization and whether it has the foundation on which to build a successful service or program. Without that foundation, your organization risks failure in its ability to effectively serve fathers.

“Wouldn’t it be terrible to put all this work into starting
something and find out later that it didn’t
have “legs to stand on” for success?


In the full ebook How to Start a Fatherhood Program, you can review an organizational case study highlighting use of the Father Friendly Check-Up™ to launch a strategic plan using NFI resources.

Step 3: Focus Your Efforts on the Type(s) of Fathers You Will Engage

There are a great number of fatherhood programs with dedicated staff, curriculum, a facility, and community support – but lack participants.

Your fatherhood program doesn’t
really exist 
without dads to serve.


Marketing a program or service is the greatest challenge. Unfortunately, some fatherhood program practioners are very skilled in the business of program operations but do not know the location of their target population or how to get them in the door. 

Marketing your fatherhood program not only involves recruitment, it involves retention and creating a positive image of your program or service in the community to generate referrals. The "Field of Dreams" quote, “if you build it, they will come” does not apply for this! Just because you are passionate, your staff is ready to work with fathers, and you have a plan in mind, doesn’t mean they will come. It is with careful planning that you must proceed.

You may have heard the old saying, “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” That’s why successful fatherhood practioners plan ahead by strategizing how they will draw fathers in, what other services they will offer as “hooks”, and lay out the demographics and location of their target population. It is ideal to do this prior to choosing the curriculum for your fatherhood program.

START with these questions: 

  • What kind of other “wrap-around” resources do we offer that have a “draw” for potential participants?
  • What could be the “hook”?
  • What kind of fathers are we targeting? (e.g.: New fathers, teen fathers, single fathers, non-custodial fathers, and so on.)
  • What is our target father’s age range? Children’s age(s)? Marital status?

NEXT, answer these questions:

  • Where can we find the specific types of fathers we want to reach (that we listed above)?
  • Where are the fathers that have the “need” we serve? Where would they hang out?
  • Where can we post a flyer? (e.g. bulletin board in community center or grocery store; flyer on pizza boxes or other food delivery service, etc.
  • Do we already serve mothers and can we get the message to fathers through them?
  • What are some other creative things we can offer to attract the fathers to our center? (food, prizes, credits, etc.)

“Successful fatherhood practitioners plan ahead
by strategizing how they will draw fathers in
by determining the other services they will offer as “hooks.”


Regarding effective hooks, NFI’s own research has found most fathers enroll in a fatherhood program because it helps them address their immediate needs (e.g. job training and placement, access and visitation with their children, getting a GED, etc.) Often, fathers only realize the benefits of learning fatherhood skills after they’ve been enrolled in a program for a while. 

So from a marketing and recruitment standpoint, it’s more important to stress how your program or organization can meet the fathers’ immediate needs and then introduce them to the fatherhood program. Ultimately, make the fatherhood program an integral part of a larger set of programs or services fathers receive.

24_7_Dad_handbookFor example, NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program is an ideal compliment to wrap around services such job training, support, and financial literacy because the program speaks to why men do what they do. Fatherhood can provide men with a greater context and purpose for life, and when you tap into that, you can make significant in-roads in the other service areas as well.

Depending on your location and types of fathers you will serve, you may find fathers in different places.

For example:

  • If your program is located in a rural setting, you may find program participants in locations such as hunting lodges, fire stations, fishing equipment stores, and sporting events.
  • If your setting is urban, you might recruit program participants at shopping malls, libraries, social service buildings, business venues, and sporting events.
  • If you’re looking to recruit teen and younger adult fathers, skate parks, shopping malls, computer gaming facilities, and coffee shops may serve as prime locations for recruitment.

Step 4: Select the Right NFI Resources and Programs for Serving Fathers

NFI resources offer you the ability to customize programs to engage fathers in a way that is unique to your organization and setting.

I’m ready to serve dads… 
but with what resources?


After you have determined which type of fathers you will target, it will become to select the fatherhood skill-building resources that best fit your needs. To start, NFI uses “intensity levels” to help you understand the amount of staff involvement and monetary investment needed to offer/facilitate categories of products and resources. You choose your implementation strategy – NFI provides you with an approach and tools to create a cohesive, effective fatherhood plan.

  • Low Intensity Resources: NFI fatherhood skill-building resources that require minimal staff time and monetary investment, and are easily incorporated into your other organizational offerings for fathers, such as Brochures, Tip Cards, Pocket Guides, and Posters. 
  • Medium Intensity Resources: Fatherhood skill-building workshops and resources that require moderate staff involvement and monetary investment, and are generally shorter in delivery length, such as The 7 Habits of a 24/7 Dad™, DoctorDad® Workshop, The InsideOut Dad® Guide to Family Ties, FatherTopics™ Workshops. 
  • High Intensity Resources: Group-based Fatherhood curricula programs that require the highest level of staff time and monetary investment, and run for 12 weeks, such as 24/7 Dad® A.M. and P.M., InsideOut Dad®, and Understanding Dad™

Step 5: Prepare for a Sustainable Fatherhood Program 

It’s time to start thinking about how you can create a program or initiative that you can sustain. Now that you have completed the Father Friendly Check-Up™ and have determined you are ready to tackle the next steps toward starting your fatherhood program, it’s time to start thinking about how you can create a program or initiative that you can sustain. Sustainability refers to the long-term ability to keep your fatherhood program alive and thriving. From the foundation of the program to ensuring long term funding, a good place to start is to create a logic model. 

Keeping your fatherhood program alive & thriving
for the long-term requires sustainability.


Developing a program requires a process for planning, implementing, and measuring the success of all the organization’s efforts. A logic model is simply a picture of how your program works. It keeps your goals in view and shows the processes and activities connected to achieving that goal. It is a valuable aid to show potential partners and funders that solid, systematic planning backs your program.

Remember how we spoke in Step 3 about using wrap around services as a hook for your fatherhood program? This is where you will plan how that will look.

 Components of a Logic Model

  • Inputs (what we invest)
  • Outputs:
    • Activities (the actual tasks we do)
    • Participation (who we serve; customers & stakeholders)
    • Engagement (how those we serve engage with the actvities)
  • Outcomes/Impacts:
    • Short Term (learning: awareness, knowledge, skills, motivations)
    • Medium Term (action: behavior, practice, decisions, policies)
    • Long Term (consequences: social, economic, environmental etc.)

“The goal of a Logic Model is to help you get started
on “the right foot” with your fatherhood program,
and help everyone involved understand
what’s needed, and where you’re headed.”


Learn the 6 ways to create a useful logic model in the full ebook How to Start a Fatherhood Program.

Step 6: Fund Your Fatherhood Program

So you have an awesome logic model for your fatherhood program. Great! Now what? We understand you want to do everything you can to promote the well-being of children through father involvement and fatherhood programs. But, organizational budgets are tight and funding can be difficult to secure. The good news is that there are a variety of ways you can fund - or find funding – to work with fathers and take advantage of NFI’s wide range of affordable skill-building resources and out-of-the box fatherhood programs.



How are you going to find funding
for all this much needed fatherhood work?


Funding from Your Own Budget


The first option to consider is how you can find funding within your own organizational budget - which can certainly be difficult. Consider pulling a small amount of money from a program or two that is not as successful as expected, or from a budget where, with some shrewd planning, costs could be reduced. Of course, when you have the opportunity to plan budgets for the next fiscal year, be sure to include fatherhood in your planning, and earmark funds for fatherhood skill-building resources, just as you would for other handouts/brochures for other types of clients you serve.

Whichever fatherhood programming level you choose, providing father-specific, skill-building materials at some level is a step in the right direction.

Funding from Outside Sources

Funding from outside sources is an option that your organization – in addition to starting fatherhood work on a smaller scale using funds from your own budget. With some planning, hard work, and dedication, you may be able to find an outside funding source that will provide for all aspects of your work with fathers.

From training your fatherhood program facilitators, to providing funding to sustain your program (staff stipends, ongoing fathering handbook costs, and other materials needed to run fatherhood program classes), outside funding could open up doors for your fatherhood program that you may have never imagined. And, you may be able to serve even more fathers than you ever thought possible

Your organization may want to seek outside funding from:

  • Individuals
  • Foundations
  • Corporations
  • Local, State & Federal Government
  • Special Events/Fundraisers

Here are a few websites where you can research funding opportunities:

Federal Grant Resources

  • Grants.gov - A federal site that aggregates all federal grant opportunities. You can search for grants currently being offered and access grant writing resources.
  • Office of Management & Budget (OMB) Circulars - Provides direction on federal budge0ng and expensing for nonprofits, education institutions and state, local and Indian Tribe governments.
  • Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Grants – This is an ongoing, $150 million per year funding stream provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families to provide grants to organizations seeking to run fatherhood and/or marriage programs. 


Foundation / Grant Funding

  • The Grant Station - An online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world. Providing access to a comprehensive online database of grant makers, as well as other valuable tools, Grant Station can help your organization make smarter, be`er-informed fund raising decisions.
  • The Grantsmanship Center - Offers a variety of training such as The Grantsmanship Training Program, Earned Income Strategies and Competing for Federal Grants.
  • Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) - Provides a range of training programs and webinars to help you raise money from your community. Additionally, they offer articles and subscription-based services to aid in your fund raising efforts. 

Step 7: Launch Your Fatherhood Program and Measure the Results

Ready to Launch? Once you’ve made the case to your director/board/boss about starting a fatherhood program, planned for a sustainable program, selected your fatherhood skill-building resources, and have even recruited the dads to come to class -- it's time to start leading! Now, you may be asking questions such as where to hold each session, what should be included, do you need training, and should you have more than one facilitator. 

Plan to evaluate your program’s success.


Fatherhood skill-building sessions can be held anywhere: community centers, churches, library meeting rooms, or even in the home for home visitation agencies. Little things, such as including food and drinks, are a great way to keep dads coming back. While receiving training on NFI’s core fatherhood programs is not required -- since they are considered “out of the box” curricula (a Program Guide, Logic Model, and marketing materials are provided with each Complete Program Kit) -- we do offer curriculum training for facilitators.

Once you have been running your fatherhood program for several weeks or months, your director might want to know how it’s going, and may ask questions such as:

  • Are you retaining the dads who are coming to class?
  • Is the program proving to have a positive impact?
  • Are the dads enjoying what is being taught?
  • Are the dads learning the key points and objectives laid out for each session?

Planning to evaluate your program will allow you to get the best results, and correct your course if something is not working. An evaluation is like a GPS – it tells you whether you’re headed in the right direction and helps you to correct your course if necessary.

Evaluations are critically important for program credibility, accountability, improvement, sharing of best practices, and to prove to funders that their dollars were well spent. You don’t need a complicated design to effectively evaluate your program. To help you with this step, NFI includes evaluation tools with many of our fatherhood programs such as 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad®.

“Evaluations are critically important
for program credibility, accountability,
improvement, sharing of best practices,
and to prove to funders that their dollars were well spent.”


Starting a fatherhood program will be incredibly rewarding for you, your staff/program facilitators and the dads you serve. Now that you’ve read this blog, download the full ebook and start with Step 1! NFI is here help you create a fatherhood program that works! 

 

Direct-Service-Fatherhood-Program-eBook-050114-1 

Download the full eBook How to Start a Direct Service Fatherhood Program for free!

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

There are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail. Ninety-five (95%) of all inmates will eventually be released. Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents in prison are fathers. Most—2 out of 3 inmates—will reoffend and be back in prison.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

When it comes to fatherhood and prison, we are locking too many dads in jail with little to no help. The fathers behind bars are not connecting with their families from behind prison walls or upon release. These dads need help. They need our help or they are likely to reoffend.  

The father absence crisis in America is real. When we talk about father absence, we mention the U.S. Census Bureau's statistic that 24 million children—one out of three—live without their dad in the home. Over 13,000 of you have viewed The Father Absence Crisis in America. We received lots of feedback on that post. Some readers said, "Great, now we know the problem; what's the solution?"

Well, the truth is, there's one answer: The solution to father absence is father presence. Our job here is done. You're welcome. Please visit our donate page....oh wait, that's not enough information, you say? You need more? We thought you might need a more helpful response to this problem. So, we decided to break down the problem into workable numbers and be sure you know what NFI is doing to fix the problem.

Here's what you need to know 

  1. There is a crisis in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological dad in the home.
  2. There is a “father factor” in nearly all of the societal issues facing America today. We must realize there is a father absence crisis in America and begin to raise more involved, responsible, and committed fathers.

Fathers Behind Bars:
The Problem for America's Children

Here is the problem related to father absence and prison in two stats:

    1. There are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail. Tweet: 2.7 million children have a parent in prison or jail. Here's The Problem & Solution for America's children: http://ctt.ec/P6HqW+
    2. Ninety-two (92%) of parents in prison are fathers.
Having a parent who is incarcerated is now recognized as an “adverse childhood experience” (ACE), which is different from other ACEs because of the trauma, stigma, and shame it inflicts on children.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

The number of children with a father in prison has grown by 79% since 1991.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

Incarceration often spans generations.

  • Fathers in prison are, overwhelmingly, fatherless themselves.
  • Youths in father-absent households have significantly higher odds of incarceration.
  • More than 650,000 ex-offenders are released from prison every year.
  • Fathers are returning to their families without the skills they need to be involved, responsible, and committed fathers.
  • Two-thirds of released prisoners, or 429,000, are likely to be rearrested within three years.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

Recidivism is a huge, national problem. 

Fathers Behind Bars:
The Solution for America's Children

NFI's InsideOut Dad® program for incarcerated fathers connects dads in prison with their children, heart to heart. InsideOut Dad® is the only evidence-based parenting program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers. An evaluation conducted by Rutger's University found that fathers who went through InsideOut Dad® while in prison showed statistically significant increases in fathering knowledge and confidence/self-esteem compared to a control group.

InsideOut Dad® addresses criminogenic needs, a key factor in:

1) Reducing Recidivism: Reentry initiatives that contain NFI's fatherhood programs have been found to reduce recidivism by 37%.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

We can all agree it is ideal for men to get out of prison or jail, become a successful, contributing member of society, and stay out. Giving incarcerated fathers a vision that they have a unique and irreplaceable role in the life of their child along with increased confidence and changes in attitude and skills is a powerful motivator for successful reentry. Fathers who are involved with, and connected with their children and families prior to release are less likely to return to jail or prison. In fact, some individual states have conducted evaluations that connect the use of IoD along with other interventions to reduced recidivism.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

Recidivism WITH fatherhood programs 24% 
VERSUS 
Recidivism WITHOUT fatherhood programs 38%

2) Maintaining Facility Safety and Order

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]


It has been said, “Idleness is a devil’s workshop”. Facility safety is of utmost importance in the corrections environment and benefits the Prison/Jail warden(s) as well as fellow inmates. Fatherhood Programs in particular can help to engage inmates and encourage good behavior. By connecting inmates to their role as a man, and specifically as a father, they are more engaged in that aspect of their life and in turn, can help to create a peaceful, contented environment as much as possible.

In addition, men who participate in fatherhood groups often create a bond among members, which generates good morale. Good morale is important for safety and there are less disciplinary infractions.

By connecting with their children, incarcerated fathers are motivated to maintain good behavior to keep visiting rights, which is beneficial for both the facility and correctional officers working with them. In addition, research shows that fathers who connect with their children (and families) prior to release have a higher likelihood of staying out of jail/prison.

InsideOut Dad® addresses the marital/family domain that is concerned with an offender's family relationships, including:

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

A study by the Vera Institute of Justice found the strongest predictor of success upon reentry was the perception by the person released that he/she had family support.

Why does all of this matter? Well, because you and I are paying for what doesn't work and we have been for years. 

It's time for a solution that's cost effective for taxpayers and facilities: InsideOut Dad® program costs just $600 for the first 10 fathers, then sustained at only $10 per father. Because the program can contribute to reduced recidivism among fathers, the potential cost savings are huge. It costs an average of $29,000 per year to incarcerate a parent.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

It costs an average of $29,000 per year to incarcerate a parent.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]

InsideOut Dad® program costs $600 for the first 10 fathers, then sustained at only $10 per father.

Be a Part of The Solution. Visit Fatherhood.org/iod to download a sample of InsideOut Dad®.

Click here to enlarge this infographic.

Fathers Behind Bars: The Problem & Solution for America's Children [Infographic]


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Download a sample of our popular InsideOut Dad® resource and learn how you can connect an incarcerated father to his child.

 

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