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The Father Factor

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Christopher A. Brown

Chris is President of National Fatherhood Initiative. He is married to Kayla, has two teenage daughters and lives in Texas.
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Recent Posts

Netflix's New Parental Leave Policy Lacks Teeth

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

While we should applaud Netflix's recent announcement of paid parental leave of up to one year for moms and dads after the birth or adoption of a child, it lacks the teeth and innovation necessary to encourage dads to take full advantage of this progressive policy and for Netflix to reap its full potential.

Netflix-logo
Netflix's policy is good for dads, families and our country. It sends a strong message in a country that's far behind others in providing paid parental leave, especially to dads. It recognizes that dads:

  • Spend more time than ever in the daily care of their children.
  • Provide more care to their children after they return to work when they the take more time off from work after the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Are more conflicted than moms in their attempt to balance work and family.
  • Are more likely than moms to scale back at home when they experience family demands and work overload.

Perhaps most important, it recognizes that more involved dads increase the well-being of children, mothers, families and communities.

Netflix's policy is also good for Netflix. Many dads fear taking advantage of parental leave and other work-family benefits. Despite these fears, when dads balance work and family, they are more productive employees who advance farther and faster in their careers. Involved dads--especially Millennial dads--are less fearful of the impact of balancing work and family. They demand jobs that provide paid parental leave. This demand from the newest dads is why it's no surprise that tech companies like Netflix lead the way in providing paid parental leave.

The challenge for Netflix is how to encourage dads to take full advantage of this policy. Dads are not moms. They require efforts that speak specifically to them--that meet their needs and wants as dads broadly and within the context of work-family balance. Dads are much less likely than moms to take parental leave. While 90 percent of dads in the U.S. take some time off from work, most of them take a week or less off.

To help their dads and the company, Netflix must give the policy the teeth it needs. Netflix must proactively encourage dads to take time off. Nothing in Netflix's announcement--or other commentary on the potential challenges of successfully implementing this policy--suggests that it is anything but a passive one. It lacks innovative tactics--any tactics, for that matter--that will give it a better chance to hold value and succeed with dads. This failure to recognize the need for an innovative, proactive effort to encourage dads to take full advantage of the policy is somewhat surprising given that Netflix is synonymous with innovation and the testing of tactics and approaches that disrupted and transformed how Americans consume movies and television shows.

Netflix must develop a campaign for dads that it constantly tests and refines (e.g. using a Lean Startup approach). The campaign must include, at a minimum:

  • Messages for dads, delivered through multiple internal channels and with enough frequency to be effective, that address the fears some dads may have about taking full advantage of the policy, such as it might hurt their career prospects or their job duties will suffer in their absence. These messages must include a value proposition that resonates specifically with dads.
  • Resources that educate dads (before and after the birth or adoption) about how to be involved dads, such as referrals to websites, brochures and other print materials, and on-site workshops/seminars that provide fathering education.
  • Ways to measure the impact of the policy on dads. Netflix must track the impact of the policy, such as the rate at which dads use the policy at all and, if so, how much leave they take. Netflix must analyze the data in a way that identifies the kinds of dads who do and don't take advantage of it using demographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics. Netflix must also gather qualitative feedback from dads on the impact of the policy and on the effectiveness of the campaign.

Netflix must also involve dads in shaping the campaign and delivering elements of it. The company should, for example, consider forming an interdepartmental team of dads at different levels of the company to help develop and evaluate potential tactics. It should use dads who work at Netflix as spokespersons to deliver messages that contain the value proposition.

Netflix must approach this effort from the consumer-based mindset that has led to so much of its success. The dads who work at Netflix are, after all, the consumers of its policies. Dads have different needs than moms when it comes to being parents and balancing work and family. They deserve the same dedication to the effective use by dads of this policy that their company makes to create the algorithms that meet the entertainment tastes of its diverse external customers.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Research to Application: Cognitive Biases

In the third installment in this series (Framing and the “No Choice Option”), we introduced you to the work of Daniel Kahneman in which he captures the research on the cognitive biases humans suffer from in making decisions, regardless of the decisions they make.1 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. Unfortunately, it often leads us astray and gets us into trouble. The reason it leads us astray is that it relies on rules of thumb that give us a starting point from which to base our decisions. The problem is these rules of thumb can bias our thinking in ways that lead to poor decisions in many instances because we don’t spend adequate time and energy thinking through those decisions. 

This installment focuses on how you can use the knowledge of cognitive biases to improve your work with fathers. While the number of biases is large, this installment focuses on several of the most common ones you might encounter in your work with fathers.

research-to-application-cognitive-biasesConfirmation Bias

The confirmation bias refers to people’s tendency to seek evidence that supports their current views. People naturally want reassurance that their views are correct. They don’t typically challenge their own views by seeking evidence to disprove them. It’s threatening to people’s sense of whom they are to admit when they’re wrong. That threat makes the confirmation bias one of the most potent cognitive biases in work with fathers because most fathers don’t actively look for evidence that their views might be wrong. If they rely primarily on punishing their children rather than disciplining them, for example, they won’t look for evidence that they should use punishment as a last resort, not a first option.

When fathers suffer from the confirmation bias, it can be difficult to introduce new concepts about how to be a good father. Using the punishment versus discipline example once again, fathers can find it difficult to swallow the notion that guiding and teaching their children with effective discipline techniques is more effective, and better for their children’s overall well-being, than taking away cherished privileges or using corporal punishment. 

Availability Bias

The availability bias refers to people’s tendency to recall information that is most readily available. It causes people to overestimate the probability that events will occur. Child abductions and plane crashes, for example, tend to generate lots of coverage in the mass media. As a result, people commonly overestimate the frequency of child abductions and plane crashes.

When fathers suffer from the availability bias, it can be difficult to know the accuracy of the information they provide. That difficulty is not caused by a conscious decision on the part of fathers (e.g. they lie) but because they don’t know they might be misled by their most recent experiences. If you ask a father how happy he is in his relationship with the mother of his children, for example, his answer will most likely hinge on the nature of the most recent experiences with her—perhaps even the most recent one—not on the breadth of the experiences with her over the course of the relationship. If the most recent experience was a poor one, he will be more likely to say he is unhappy, and vice versa, than he is.

Hindsight Bias

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “hindsight is 20/20,” which refers to our ability to more clearly evaluate a choice after it happens, and know the outcome of that choice, than before we made the choice. The problem with that phrase is it’s misleading. It assumes that we should have known, or did know all along, what would happen even though we could not possibly or accurately predict the outcome.

This hindsight bias refers to people’s tendency to create narratives (stories) about past events so they can make sense of unpredictable outcomes. Regardless of how sound decisions made or processes put in place were at the time of the choice, this tendency causes people to more readily blame good decisions and processes related to poor outcomes than give credit to good decisions and processes related to good outcomes, a bias all its own called the outcome bias. In other words, people have difficulty understanding that good decisions and processes can result in unpredictable, poor outcomes just as easily as they can lead to unpredictable, good outcomes.

When fathers suffer from the hindsight bias, it can be difficult to help them understand that they are not necessarily to blame (or to blame as much) for specific outcomes. When a father assesses a failed relationship with the mother of his children, for example, he might disproportionately attribute the failure to himself or to her. Perhaps he made mostly good decisions as they tried to work through their issues, but factors beyond his control had a major contribution to the failed relationship. The father may think he knew all along that the relationship was headed to a poor conclusion when he didn’t know and couldn’t have known the outcome. 

On the other hand, when fathers suffer from this bias they take more credit than they deserve for good outcomes. A father might take more credit for raising a healthy, well-adjusted child, for example, than he gives to the mother.  He may say that his firm discipline was the key factor in how his child turned out when many other factors contributed just as much or more.

Ideas on Application

When it comes to working with fathers individually or in groups, you can use knowledge of cognitive biases to more effectively work with them. Here are a few general examples from which you can develop specific approaches or tactics that best fit the context in and fathers with whom you work:

  • Confirmation Bias: Knowing that many fathers will seek evidence to confirm their existing beliefs, attitudes, and behavior—and that they will resist changing the way they think and behave—better prepares you to work with fathers, especially on challenging topics such as masculinity, child discipline, and healthy relationships (e.g. communication with their spouse or partner). When you help fathers tackle these challenging topics, take extra care to prepare yourself for what can be a long process of change around certain issues.
  • Availability Bias: Knowing that many fathers will rely on recent events and experiences to shape the information they provide can help you broaden your thinking and approach to dig more deeply into what contributes to fathers’ thoughts and feelings. Ask probing questions to determine what fathers use as the foundation (evidence) for the information they provide. If a father says he is unhappy in his relationship with the mother of his children, for example, you can ask questions to determine whether he is narrowly framing his feeling based on a recent experience(s) with her or the breadth of the relationship. If the former, you can challenge him to re-evaluate his feeling based on the breadth of the relationship.
  • Hindsight Bias: Knowing that many fathers will create stories about past events to explain unpredictable outcomes, you could ask them, for example, to create timelines that include the decisions they made and processes they put in place and examine with them how much those decisions and processes contributed to good and bad outcomes. Help them evaluate the quality of the decisions and processes separate from the outcomes. In some cases, they might learn they should not abandon a good tactic to become a better father or partner, for example, just because it didn’t lead to the desired outcome. Help them understand that the good tactic becomes the means and the end—even though the father hopes it will lead to a good outcome—and that it might contribute to a good outcome the next time.

Regardless of how you apply the knowledge of cognitive biases, 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. 

Resources

As you consider using the knowledge of cognitive biases to improve your work with fathers, consider the following resources: 

  • The book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
  • The book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • The book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
  • The book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions by Dan Ariely

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

1) Research to Application > Cues, Triggers, and Nudges

2) Research to Application > Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

3) Research to Application > Framing and the "No Choice Option"

4) Research to Application > The Power of The "Deviant Dad"

5) Research to Application > Keystone Habits

Click here for the full PDF of the this post. 

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

About the "Research to Application" Series

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.

The 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 sixth one in the series. It provides ideas on how you might integrate research on cognitive biases. Integrating this research could make you more effective in your work with fathers (e.g. facilitating a fatherhood program or working with fathers one-on-one).

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.

Why an Open Entry Program is a Bad Idea

If you run or plan to run a fatherhood program that allows fathers to enter the program after it starts, reconsider that approach. 

Why_an_Open_Entry_Program_is_a_Bad_Idea

Allowing fathers to enter and exit a program at the beginning, middle, or end -- known as "open entry" -- can seem like a practical and compassionate approach to structuring a program. The rationale for such a program is that it offers the flexibility many fathers need (e.g. helps them integrate participation with work and family commitments) and respects their innate knowledge of what they need and will best help them become better fathers. Unfortunately, the best intentions are not indicative of the best approach to working with fathers. Research shows this approach can backfire and actually harm fathers and fatherhood programs.

In a just released practitioner's brief from Mathematica Policy Research that is part of a national evaluation of federally-funded fatherhood programs known as PACT (Parents and Children Together), researchers compared two open-entry fatherhood programs to two "integrated cohort" programs, an approach that requires fathers enter a program at its start and proceed through the entire program together. One way to think of the difference between the two approaches is one is a four-course meal that everyone eats and the other is a buffet from which everyone chooses what they eat.

The similarity in the four programs is they provide the same kind of education on parenting, relationships, and employment in a workshop format. The two integrated cohort programs, however, offer the workshops in a prescribed sequence because the content is integrated. The two open-entry programs, on the other hand, encourage but don't require fathers to attend workshops in a specific sequence. They offer separate workshops that allow fathers flexibility in which ones they attend and when they attend them. This difference makes the latter approach "self-paced." Another difference is in the intensity of the programs. The integrated cohort programs are more intense. Fathers participate daily and, as a result, can receive more total hours of content and complete the program in a shorter amount of time than can the fathers in the open-entry programs. 

Given what I've shared so far about the two types of programs, take a minute to answer this question before you read further: What result(s) for the programs did the researchers compare? 

If you're unfamiliar with the objectives of the PACT evaluation, it might surprise you that they compared overall participation in the programs and retention in the two programs. Perhaps you thought they compared the effect of the programs on knowledge, attitudes, or skills related to father involvement. That's not an incorrect answer, but you're ahead of the game. Researchers will release those data in a future brief/report.

As you undoubtedly know, participation and retention are two of the greatest challenges faced by fatherhood programs. So the focus of this research speaks directly to the impact of these two approaches (program structures) on those pain points. 

If you were surprised by the focus of this research on participation and retention, you might also be surprised by these results:

  • Participation (defined as attending a workshop at least once) in integrated cohort programs was much higher than in open-entry programs.
  • Retention (defined as participation in at least half of a workshop's sessions within the first four months) was much higher in integrated cohort programs than in open-entry programs.

To review the detailed results, click here to download the brief.

To be fair, a number of factors likely affected the results other than the structures of the two approaches, such as the characteristics of the fathers (e.g. fathers in the integrated cohort programs had more challenges than fathers in the open-entry programs); the quality of the content of parenting, relationships, and employment components; and the characteristics and skills of the staff who delivered the workshops. Nevertheless, the differences in participation and retention were so large that it's clear the structure of the approaches affected participation and retention. The fathers in the integrated approach, for example, completed an average of 79 hours of education compared to an average of only 13 hours for the fathers in the open-entry programs. 

Recall that I said you should reconsider an open-entry approach. Whether you use such an approach depends on the goals and objectives of your program, the needs and wants of the fathers you serve or want to serve, and the resources at your disposal. Regardless, if you use a program with integrated content--such as NFI's 24/7 Dad®, InsideOut Dad®, or Understanding Dad® programs--you should use an integrated cohort approach to ensure you will achieve the outcomes the programs can produce.

What goals and objectives do you have for your fatherhood program/effort?

Have you thought through whether your program/effort should use an integrated cohort or open-entry approach to meet its goals and objectives?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

What are the Global Challenges to Father Involvement?

The challenge to create a world in which every child has a 24/7 Dad is underscored by a new report entitled, "The State of the World's Fathers." Recently released by MenCare, a global fatherhood campaign, this unique report provides insight into the challenges we face across the globe to encouraging father involvement.

What are the Global Challenges to Father Involvement? state of the world's fathersAs the report points out, 80% of the world's men will become fathers. We must do everything we can to ensure as many of these fathers as possible are responsibly involved in the lives of their children. With that backdrop, this report:

"...brings together key international research findings along with program and policy examples related to men’s participation in caregiving; in sexual and reproductive health and rights; in maternal, newborn, and child health; in violence and violence prevention; and in child development."

Here are the major findings and six recommendations for increasing father involvement across the globe. I encourage you to download the executive summary and full report to better understand these findings and recommendations. If you work with fathers from countries outside the U.S., you will find this report especially helpful.

Findings

  • Involved fatherhood helps children thrive.
  • Involved fatherhood allows women and girls to achieve their full potential – now and in future generations.
  • Involved fatherhood makes men happier and healthier.
  • Men’s involvement in caregiving is increasing in some parts of the world, but nowhere does it equal that of women.
  • Fathers want to spend more time with their children.
  • Men’s participation and support are urgently needed to ensure that all children are wanted children. 
  • Engaging men – in ways that women want – early on in prenatal visits, in childbirth, and immediately after the birth of a child can bring lasting benefits.
  • Promoting fathers’ involvement must include efforts to interrupt the cycle of violence.
  • Children, women, and men benefit when fathers take parental leave.
  • Men’s greater involvement in care work also brings economic benefits.

Recommendations

  • Create national and international action plans to promote involved, non-violent fatherhood and men’s and boys’ equal sharing of unpaid care work.
  • Take these action plans and policies into public systems and institutions to enable and promote men’s equal participation in parenting and caregiving.
  • Institute and implement equal, paid, and non-transferrable parental leave policies in both public and private sectors, as well as other policies that allow women’s equal participation in the labor force and men’s equal participation in unpaid care work.
  • Gather and analyze data on men’s involvement as fathers and caregivers and generate new evidence from programs and policies that work to transform the distribution of unpaid care, prevent violence against women and against children, and improve health and development outcomes for women, children, and men.
  • Achieve a radical transformation in the distribution of care work through programs with men and boys, as well as with women and girls, that challenge social norms and promote their positive involvement in the lives of children.
  • Recognize the diversity of men’s caregiving and support it in all of its forms.

After you read the report, I'd love to hear from you about how it might have helped you better understand the global challenges we face in encouraging father involvement and how it might help you in your work.

How much do you know about the global challenges to father involvement?

Do you work with fathers from other countries? How do their cultural norms and values hinder or facilitate father involvement?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

 

Be One of the First Partners in NFI’s Brand New Partner Program

The value you deserve from an NFI partnership is finally here.

You might be thinking, “Wait a minute. Doesn’t NFI already have partners? Doesn’t NFI partner with thousands of programs, organizations, and initiatives across the nation?” In a way, yes, thousands of them use NFI’s fatherhood resources and programs to engage and give dads the knowledge and skills they need.

But here’s the rub. Partnering means different things to different people. Many programs, organizations, and initiatives have expressed a desire through the years for a deeper, more intimate, more valuable relationship with NFI. We heard them, but didn’t have the pieces in place to provide the kind of value they deserved.

Now we have the pieces in place to offer that value.

Read on to learn how you can get in on the ground floor.

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What’s it All About? 

The new NFI Partner Program is ideal for two types/groups:

a)    Fatherhood and family strengthening programs and organizations

b)   Fatherhood and family strengthening initiatives that operate at a city or county level

The NFI Partner Program is a program unlike anything we’ve offered, and works to deepen the connection between NFI and programs, organizations, and initiatives committed to increasing the involvement of fathers in the lives of their children. There will be two types of partners:

  • Premier Partners: New and existing fatherhood and family strengthening initiatives who operate at a city or county level. These initiatives are typically multi-sector in nature, and have organizations as participants in the initiative that provide programs and services to fathers. These initiatives can be managed/led by an individual organization (e.g. housed within an organization that acts as a “lead agency”), but they must be a distinct entity that involves other organizations and individuals in the city or county.
  • Partners: Individual organizations, or fatherhood and family strengthening programs within organizations, which are not necessarily part of larger fatherhood or family strengthening initiatives (although they can be) that provide programs and services to fathers. Organizations that do not have a distinct fatherhood or family-strengthening program may provide programs and services to fathers as part of another program that benefits fathers in some capacity (e.g. workforce development, child welfare, etc.).

Click here for more information on eligibility.

Why is becoming an NFI Partner Valuable?

The NFI Partner Program helps address the following pain points (challenges) faced by programs/organizations and initiatives:

  • Securing initial and ongoing funding
  • Engaging the community
  • Proving return on investment (ROI)
  • Aligning with a national organization to take their program to the next level

For programs/organizations, it also provides training on addressing the 5 main pain points faced by organizations and programs in serving fathers. And for initiatives, it also helps ensure ongoing commitment of initiative partners.

Click here to learn more about the value of becoming an NFI Partner or Premier Partner.

How Does it Deliver Value?

The NFI Partner Program offers a benefits package that helps initiate and sustains father-focused efforts of programs, organizations, and initiatives, by leveraging a combination of unique partnerships NFI has developed with companies. Partners of NFI will also benefit from NFI’s overall and individual brands and other assets.

How Many Partners Does NFI Seek?

To begin, we’re seeking 10 Partners (organizations or programs within organizations) and 5 Premier Partners who will be designated Charter Partners and Charter Premier Partners.

Partners in this initial group will be the only partners ever to receive the “Charter” designation. We won’t open the program to other potential partners until some time next year.

Why Such a Small Group?

We’re committed to starting this program off on the right foot. We won’t bite off more than we can chew. We also want to begin by partnering with a select group who are completely committed to making a difference in the lives of children, fathers, and families.

Becoming an NFI Partner isn’t for any program, organization, or initiative. It’s for those that are truly committed to the cause of addressing father absence.

What’s the Next Step?

Apply to become a Charter Partner. Download the Request for Partnership (RFP) for the type of partner you’d like to become. (An entity can qualify for both types of partners if it meets the eligibility requirements of each type.)

Learn more about the Partner Program benefits here, or head over here to download the RFP's.

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 5th Competency

Funding. Funding. Funding. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about recruitment and retention as being the bane of practitioners’ existence. That’s only half the story. The other half of practitioners’ bane, if you will, is funding fatherhood programs.

fundraising 

This post is the fifth and final in a weekly series in which I highlight the five core competencies you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.

Click here to read the post on the 1st competency: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization

Click here to read the post on the 2nd competency: How to Design a Best Practice Fatherhood Program

Click here to read the post on the 3rd competency: How to Think Like a Marketer

Click here to read last week’s post on the 4th competency: How to Involve Moms 

Fundraising

The key to raising funds to start and maintain a fatherhood program is identifying diverse funding sources and securing funds from those sources that, when combined, provide multiple funding streams. All too often practitioners and organizations rely on one or two funding sources, which places the program at risk when those sources dry up as most eventually do. And all too often they’re involved in “crisis fundraising” that is reactive rather than proactive.

The fifth competency in effectively engaging fathers centers around the development of a well thought out, comprehensive Fund Development Plan for your fatherhood program that involves:

  • Identifying and securing of funds for the program.
  • How to position the fatherhood program within a larger context (i.e. related issue such as child abuse prevention).

Such a plan: 

  • Focuses on activities/tactics for raising funds.
  • Answers:
    • How you will identify funding sources?
    • How you will secure funds from sources?
    • Who will help identify and secure funds?
  • Limits crisis fundraising by:
    • Identifying opportunities to meet current program needs.
    • Identifying opportunities to meet future program needs.

To create an effective plan, you need to learn how to research, select, and engage (initially and ongoing) individual donors and other funding sources (e.g. family foundations). 

FEC Session 5: How to Develop a Funding Plan for a Fatherhood Program

This session helps you think through how you will fund your fatherhood program, and covers the importance of a Fund Development Plan. You will learn about the nuances of raising funds from individuals and foundations, as well as how to profile, research, select, and engage different types of funders/funding streams. Thinking through your funding options will help you prepare to launch a successful, sustainable fatherhood program.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

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Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

Do you have a funding plan for your fatherhood program?

Does your plan include current needs and anticipate future needs?

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 4th Competency

Mom and dad don’t get along. Maybe they hate each other. Perhaps there is, unfortunately, a history of abuse in the relationship. Mom might not even realize that she restricts dad’s access to his children. Do any of these descriptions ring true in your work with fathers, mothers, families?

stressed-mom

This post is the fourth in a weekly series in which I highlight the five core competencies you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.

Click here to read the post on the 1st competency: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization

Click here to read the post on the 2nd competency: How to Design a Best Practice Fatherhood Program

Click here to read last week’s post on the 3rd competency: How to Think Like a Marketer 

Involving Moms in Promoting Father Involvement

Our country has a remarkable structure that addresses the health and well-being of women, mothers, and children. While there are certainly issues with that structure and areas for improvement, there’s no debate about the lack of a structure that addresses the well-being of men and fathers. 

Unfortunately, fathers are most often the parent left out of the parenting equation when organizations implement parenting and family-strengthening programs. To be fair, fathers are often reluctant to avail themselves of these programs; nevertheless, organizations typically don’t make a concerted effort to reach them. Consequently, “parent” is a code word for “mom” from many fathers’ perspective. Organizations fail to speak directly to the needs and wants of fathers.

Fatherhood programs can’t make the same mistake—that is, leave moms out of the equation when it comes to implementing a fatherhood program. But wait, you might say: What do moms have to do with implementing a fatherhood program? A lot. 

Mothers are often the gatekeepers when it comes to fathers’ access to their children. Mothers can facilitate or hinder fathers’ involvement, particularly when fathers are non-residential or non-custodial. Even when mothers and fathers are romantically involved and living in the same home, mothers can unconsciously and unnecessarily restrict fathers’ access to their children.

That’s why it’s vital that you learn how to go the extra mile and build the fourth competency in effectively engaging fathers in Session 4 of the Father Engagement Certificate training: How to Work with Moms to Encourage Father Involvement.

This session covers the “why” and “how” to involving moms in encouraging father involvement. Learn about the “Five Aspects of Family Life” associated with father involvement, and how to use “intensity levels” to assess how you should approach involving moms. Also learn why training female staff to more effectively engage fathers is so important, and about a free resource from NFI that will help you train female staff to more effectively engage fathers.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

FEC_training_logo

Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

How much do you know about the impact of mothers in ability of the fathers you serve to be as involved as possible in the lives of their children?

Do you know the typical behaviors associated with “restrictive gatekeeping?”

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 3rd Competency

Is marketing the same thing as outreach? Is marketing the same thing as promotion? Is marketing the same thing as sales? How should an organization market a program or service differently to fathers compared to mothers? Those are tough questions to answer, which is why understanding how to think like a marketer is so vital to effectively engaging fathers.

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This post is the third in a weekly series in which I highlight the five core competencies you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.

Click here to read the post on the 1st competency: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization, and here to read last week’s post on the 2nd competency: How to Design a Best Practice Fatherhood Program.

Thinking Like a Marketer 

Recruitment and retention are the bane of many practitioners’ existence. I can’t tell you how many folks have approached me over the years with tales of woe when it comes to recruiting fathers to enroll in a program and to maintain their participation after enrollment. 

Unfortunately, successful recruitment and retention are not simply a matter of cutting and pasting tactics that have worked for other programs. While you can certainly borrow some tactics that might work in your situation, every program must learn on its own what works to effectively recruit fathers and maintain their participation. What will work for your program will likely be a combination of what has worked elsewhere and what’s unique for your fathers in your setting. You also have to understand the difference between how to get fathers to enroll in a program and how to get them to stay after enrollment.

For those reasons and others, learning how to think like a marketer is the third competency to effectively engaging fathers. Marketing a fatherhood program involves:

  • Learning how to think logically and creatively.
  • Learning key behavior-change theories and their role in motivating fathers.
  • Learning how the “marketing mix” impacts the design of a marketing campaign.
  • Understanding the role today’s technology plays in reaching and keeping fathers engaged.
  • Understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • Understanding that marketing requires time and patience to do correctly.

That’s why Session 3 of the Father Engagement Certificate helps you learn How to Think Like a Marketer When Marketing a Fatherhood Program. It covers important behavior-change theories and how they contribute to marketing a fatherhood program, the role of the marketing mix in marketing a fatherhood program (the 7Ps of marketing a fatherhood program), and the role of technology in promoting a fatherhood program.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

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Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

Do you know how to think like a marketer?

How easy or difficult is it for your program to recruit fathers and maintain their participation?

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Study Lays Evidence Base for 24/7 Dad®

An ongoing study in Hawai‘i using an experimental design has found that NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program develops pro-fathering knowledge and attitudes and the five characteristics of the 24/7 Dad. It also improves behaviors expected of today’s contemporary fathers, the quality of father-child relationships, and fathers’ co-parenting, thus improving fathers’ relationships with the mothers of their children. This study lays the evidence base for the program.

Study Lays Evidence Base for 24/7 Dad® university of hawaii center on the familyA research team at the Center on the Family at the University of Hawai‘i led by Dr. Selva Lewin-Bizan evaluated the program by randomly assigning fathers to treatment and control groups. Fathers in the treatment group participated in 24/7 Dad® while fathers in the control group did not. Random assignment is considered the “gold standard” of research design because it reduces selection bias, thus the likelihood that outcomes are due to chance rather than the intervention.

In addition to this research design, what makes this study so important is the research team found the program improved not only fathers’ pro-fathering knowledge and attitudes, it improved father involvement, the quality of the father-child relationship, and the quality of the father-mother relationship, as measured by improvements in co-parenting. Affecting knowledge and attitudes is important, because they are antecedents of behavior, but positively affecting them doesn’t necessarily lead to behavior change. This study found behavior change within the two most important relationships of fathers that are the primary focus of the program. 

And that’s not all. The program also affected fathers’ happiness in being a parent. Fathers reported being happier as a parent after completing the program. Moreover, the improvements in father involvement and co-parenting were held over time. 

Dr. Lewin-Bizan employed several evaluation tools with fathers in both groups to compare the impact of the program. These tools included the pre- and post-survey that is part of the 24/7 Dad® program (measures pro-fathering knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy related to the five characteristics of the 24/7 Dad) and several previously validated instruments that measure fathers’ involvement with their children, fathers’ self perception of their parenting role, co-parenting, and fathers’ degree of happiness in being a parent. Her team administered all of the instruments before and immediately after the program ended, and administered the father involvement and co-parenting instruments at a six-week follow up. 

This study adds to a number of studies on the positive impact and effectiveness of 24/7 Dad® in a variety of settings and with racially and ethnically diverse fathers of all ages. To download this study and others, click here.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 2nd Competency

Quickly…name three best practices in designing effective fatherhood programs. Cat got your tongue? If so, you’re not alone. Answering that question is about as hard as scoring a 2400 on the SAT.

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This post is the second in a weekly series in which I highlight the five core competencies you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.

Click here to read last week’s post on the 1st competency: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization

Best Practices

The second competency in effectively engaging fathers is the ability to design a fatherhood program (or service) based on the practices that have the most impact on program success. These practices—commonly referred to as “best practices”—provide the foundation or structure for effectively engaging fathers regardless of your experience serving fathers, the kinds of fathers you serve, or the setting in which you serve them. 

What, exactly, are best practices? Simply put, they’re successful, community-invented efforts (culturally relevant) worth emulating. They tell you:

  • Exactly what needs to be done differently.
  • What’s working and how you can do more of it.

Furthermore:

  • They’re identified through observation.
  • They provide direction, hope, and motivation around change.
  • They address root causes and challenge conventional wisdom.
  • They avoid “analysis paralysis” by taking focus off “the problem” and putting it on “the solution.”
  • They create positive, short- and long-term change.

But it’s not just enough to learn these practices and how to apply them. It’s also vital that you know the “blind spots” that hinder organizations in effectively serving fathers. You need to know what they are and which ones are most relevant to your organization so you can avoid being blindsided by them. 

Thus, Session 2 of the Father Engagement Certificate covers Program Design Using 7 Best Practices. This session provides you with a simple, flexible approach based on seven best practices to design an exceptional, unique, community-based fatherhood program. Learn about blind spots that hinder organizations in creating effective fatherhood programs, resources NFI has designed to help organizations leverage and unlock the power of the best practices, as well as other best practices that might be right under your nose.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

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Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

What does your organization do really well in serving fathers that you should do more often?

What are the biggest hurdles your organization must leap to become as successful as possible in serving fathers?

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 1st Competency

Many practitioners and organizations “leap before they look” when engaging fathers, as they often don’t take the time to consider the competencies they need to effectively engage fathers. As a result, they step off a cliff and into an abyss, and soon wonder why working with fathers is such a challenge.

blindfold-businessman-loop-before-leapingDuring the next five weeks, I’ll highlight the five core competencies (one per week) you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement Certificate(FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.  

Creating a Father-Friendly Organization 

The first competency in effectively engaging fathers is often the most overlooked: the ability to create a father-friendly organization. The fact that it’s often overlooked is unfortunate because it lays the foundation for the other competencies and success in engaging fathers.

What does it mean to be father friendly? It means that serving fathers is integrated into the fabric of an organization’s culture. Specifically:

  • The leaders and other stakeholders have “bought into” and provide emotional and material (e.g. financial) support to serving fathers.
  • The policies and procedures of the organization—the nuts and bolts that guide staff behavior—are inclusive of fathers, encourage staff to engage fathers, and hold staff accountable when they don’t effectively engage them.
  • The programs and services include fathers as a distinct audience to serve and include content relevant to fathers’ needs and wants as men and parents.
  • The organization engages the community in promoting its service to fathers (e.g. via referrals from other organizations) and to generate support (e.g. financial and political) for its father engagement efforts.

The trap many practitioners fall into is thinking their organization is father friendly simply because they have a fatherhood program or serve fathers as part of a larger program (e.g. general parenting or family-strengthening program). They don’t understand that it’s not enough to simply add a program, service, or other effort aimed at fathers. It’s vital to adopt a holistic approach in creating an organization that, at its very core, understands the importance of serving fathers and acts on that understanding.

That’s why Session 1 in our Father Engagement Certificate training teaches you How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization from a holistic perspective, with a focus on four areas for improvement that create an organizational culture that supports exceptional fatherhood programs and services. Learn the 8 Pillars of Leadership and no-cost and low-cost tactics to help your organization become father friendly, and also about The Father Friendly Check-Up: the most widely used tool in the nation that helps organizations become father friendly. The session also includes case studies of how other organizations have successfully used this tool.

How father friendly is your organization?

Can you name the four areas of focus in creating a father-friendly organization?

Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Research to Application: Keystone Habits

In the first installment of this Research to Application series (Cues, Triggers, and Nudges), we introduced you to research from Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit1 and how organizations and practitioners can use this research to improve the effectiveness of a service, workshop, or program for fathers. In discussing the role of cues, we described the research Duhigg highlights on the power of habits and the role they play in our lives.

This installment focuses on another important aspect of the research Duhigg highlights: the concept of keystone habits.

keystone-habits

These are the habits that matter more than others in changing unhealthy behaviors or developing healthy ones. As you can imagine, keystone habits are very important as they relate to father absence and encouraging father involvement… more on that soon.

But let’s begin by sharing one of Duhigg’s diverse examples of keystone habits and their importance in triggering a cascade of change: integrating exercise.

As Duhigg points out, research shows that when people start habitually exercising, they usually:

  • Eat better
  • Smoke less
  • Become more productive at work
  • Show more patience
  • Feel less stressed
  • Use their credit cards less often

Yes. They even become more financially responsible, at least in a specific way.

That kind of change might seem odd until you realize that exercise has a spillover or cascade effect that triggers other healthy habits because it makes other habits easier. Think of the power of exercise as the first domino in a domino structure that, when pushed into the next domino, triggers all the other dominos to fall one by one. Similarly, the power of exercise is not only in its ability to help people lose weight and become more fit; its power is also in its ability to start widespread, positive change in people’s lives—even in areas that seem unrelated to physical fitness.

The power of keystone habits explains why being an involved father is so powerful. Father involvement is a keystone habit. (Actually, a set of habits that form a keystone habit.) That’s why father involvement affects so many areas of fathers’ lives and the lives of children, mothers, and families, and even the environment in communities. When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, it triggers positive behavior in other aspects of fathers’ lives (e.g. they engage in healthier behavior), children’s lives (e.g. they are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs), and mothers’ lives (e.g. they are healthier during their pregnancies). It’s also why it positively affects our society (e.g. lower levels of poverty and child abuse and more educational success for children). It’s why more resources must be focused on addressing the crisis of father absence. 

Ideas on Application

When it comes to working with fathers individually or in groups, you can use the power of keystone habits to help fathers identify the habits (behaviors) unique to them that: 1) trigger a lack of father involvement, and 2) will trigger greater father involvement. (You can also use keystone habits to look for clues that will improve father-mother relationships.) It’s likely that a single habit will contribute to a lack of father involvement or trigger more father involvement (moreover, it’s likely to be a group of habits.) Nevertheless, one or two of those habits might be more important than the others, thus revealing an area(s) of focus for immediate change.

To apply the power of keystone habits, use the following process, which you can customize to fit your setting (e.g. group, one-on-one case management, etc.):

Step 1: Develop a comprehensive list of frequent/regular activities/behaviors.

  • Identify the “universe” of frequent/regular activities/behaviors that fathers currently engage in.
  • Ask fathers to write or tell you (and you record) their activities/behaviors during a typical week. Consider using the structure of roles in which to group activities, such as father, husband/partner, worker/employee, friend, etc. You could start by asking fathers the roles they have, and then ask them to list the activities they engage in each week to perform those roles.
  • After fathers develop their weekly activities, ask if they perform activities less frequently (e.g. monthly), but that they do consistently, to ensure you get a comprehensive list.

Step 2: Identify existing keystone habits that promote father absence.

  • Look for keystone habits that encourage or lead to father absence. Focus on habits that are within his control.
  • Ask of each father: What do you do with such frequency that it prevents you from being present? After you identify those habits, ask: How can you eliminate them? Work with fathers to develop tactics to eliminate these poor habits. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Step 3: Identify existing and potential keystone habits that promote father involvement.

  • Look for keystone habits that encourage or lead to father involvement.Again, focus on habits that are within his control.
  • Ask of each father: What do you do that gets you involved and that you could do with more frequency? Add to that list habits for fathers to consider integrating into their lives. You can come with a list to discuss or start developing a list with fathers from scratch. Identify habits within fathers’ control, they can do frequently (e.g. several times a week or once a week), and that provide “small wins.”

Step 4: Focus on small wins.

  • After fathers develop their list of potential keystone habits that promote father involvement, narrow that list down by focusing on habits that fathers can do easily and frequently before tackling habits that are harder to accomplish and that, even if easy to accomplish, they can’t do as frequently.
  • Why is this focus so important? Because it creates small wins that fathers experience often/repeatedly. While they might seem minor in the broad scheme of things, they build a foundation of confidence, especially in fathers who haven’t been successful at being involved.

Step 5: Reinforce/praise the small wins.

  • When fathers achieve small wins, praise fathers. This praise will help keystone habits snowball into the other habits of involvement the habits will affect. In other words, praise helps tip the keystone habits—the first dominoes—into the other habits. Watch them fall one by one!

Depending on your situation and how much time you have to work with fathers, it might not be possible to focus on keystone habits that both encourage and discourage father involvement at the same time. At the very least, address keystone habits that encourage father involvement. 

Application Tools

For users of NFI’s 24/7 Dad® A.M and P.M programs, the My 24/7 Dad® Checklist new to the 3rd Editions is an ideal tool for fathers to use to apply keystone habits. In fact, these should be the most important checklist items. 

In addition, NFI’s 24/7 Dad® To Go Android application (app) is an ideal tool that allows fathers to create to-do lists, and would be a great place for fathers to integrate keystone habits (download the app for free from the Google Play Store.) Having a checklist provides fathers with clear direction around what they should do on a regular basis to be involved. They can modify and add to their items (habits) as they become more involved, and want to tackle more challenging (but important) habits of an involved, responsible, committed father. 

Regardless of how you apply keystone habits, 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.

Resources

As you consider using keystone habits to improve retention and fathers’ involvement in the lives of their children, review the following resources:

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

1) Research to Application > Cues, Triggers, and Nudges

2) Research to Application > Framing and the "No Choice Option"

3) Research to Application > Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

4) Research to Application > The Power of The "Deviant Dad"

Click here for the full PDF of the this post. 

1) Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York, NY: Random House.

About the "Research to Application" Series

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 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 fifth one in the series. It provides ideas on how you might integrate research on keystone habits. Integrating this research could make it easier for you to help fathers to identify the most significant barriers that keep them from being as involved in their children’s lives as they’d like to be. It could also help fathers develop the habits of good fathering above and beyond reliance on the resources (e.g. programs/curricula) you might currently use.

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.

Get Your Father Engagement Certificate™ from the Nation’s Leader

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has always been dedicated to providing resources, training, and technical assistance on how to effectively engage fathers. That’s why I’m so pumped to announce that we’ve taken that dedication further with the launch of our Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that focuses on the 5 core competencies you need to make an even bigger difference in the lives of children, fathers, mothers, and families.

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What’s Great About It? 

The FEC is:

  • On demand. Learn and earn at your own pace. Get trained and earn the FEC as quickly as you need, or take as much time as you like.
  • Convenient. Always available. No travel, no hassle.
  • Affordable. Enough said.
  • Fully automated. Get started whenever you want. The entire process from purchase to receiving your certificate is fully automated. No need to email or call staff or wait for staff to get back to you. (Although we’re here if you need us!)
  • Valuable to You. Develops 5 core competencies. Increases your effectiveness. Builds further credibility within and outside your organization. You will receive an official certificate to display and an electronic badge you can place on your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other social media profiles/accounts.
  • Valuable to Your Organization/Program. Builds organization and program effectiveness. Includes practical advice and guidance that addresses critical pain points (challenges) in serving fathers. Builds credibility with funders. Your organization can promote that it has staff with FECs from the nation’s fatherhood leader.

Who Should Earn It?

The FEC is ideal for:

  • Individuals who currently work with, or desire to work with, fathers and families in communities. It’s ideal for fatherhood practitioners and staff in community organizations, social service agencies, churches, prisons/jails, military bases, and more… basically, anywhere there are fathers receiving services or participating in programs.
  • Anyone working with fathers on a volunteer, mentor, or consulting basis.
  • Anyone who has started, or wants to start, a fatherhood initiative in his or her community.

Which Father Engagement Topics are Covered?

You will learn strategies and tactics not previously released to the public. These are strategies and tactics taught to a select group of nearly 125 fatherhood and family service organizations during NFI's 5-year federally-funded National Responsible Fatherhood Certification College. NFI invested a significant amount of time and funding to develop and hone the curriculum for the college. The FEC distills the most vital content from that curriculum. An evaluation of these organizations showed that they used the same content contained in the FEC to increase their organization’s capacity in the short term and long term to effectively engage fathers. (It also helped them acquire additional funding!)

The topics include:

  1. Foundational: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization
  2. Program Design: 7 Best Practices in Designing a Fatherhood Program
  3. Recruitment & Retention: How to Think Like a Marketer When Marketing a Fatherhood Program
  4. Involving Moms: How to Work with Moms to Encourage Father Involvement
  5. Fundraising: How to Develop a Funding Plan for a Fatherhood Program

Click here to learn even more about the FEC including the content of each training session.

What If I Want Multiple Staff in My Organization to Earn an FEC?

That’s easy. Purchase as many FEC trainings as you need. Our fully automated process does the rest!

What If I Want Multiple Staff in Several Organizations to Earn an FEC?

That’s easy, too. Let’s say you’re with a local, state, or federal agency that has grantees or partners who can benefit from acquiring FECs for their staffs. Or, perhaps, you’re part of a city, county, or state fatherhood or family strengthening initiative that includes multiple organizations as members or partners who could use FECs? Just contact us and we’ll coordinate everything for you for the cost of the certificates you need and an additional, reasonable coordination fee.

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How Do I Get Started?

That’s the easiest part. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement CertificateTM. (If you need to pay by purchase order [PO], email us.)

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

How NFI Programs Can Help You Secure a Federal Fatherhood Grant

As you probably know by now—and certainly if you receive regular updates from National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI)—the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) in the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just released the funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) for the next round of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grants.

2000px-US-DeptOfHHS-Seal.svgThe two Responsible Fatherhood FOAs are:

  • New Pathways for Fathers and Families (New Pathways)
    • Funding Opportunity Number: HHS-2015-ACF-OFA-FK-0993
    • Current Closing Date: July 7, 2015
    • For more details on the funding including eligibility requirements visit here.

  • Responsible Fatherhood Opportunities for Reentry and Mobility (ReFORM)
    • Funding Opportunity Number: HHS-2015-ACF-OFA-FO-0992 
    • Current Closing Date: July 7, 2015
    • For more details on the funding including eligibility requirements, visit here.

A thorough review of both FOAs reveals that OFA continues to build what it has learned from previous rounds of funding to identify:

  • How the agency can use this funding most effectively (e.g. with which groups of fathers)
  • Which organizations or groups of organizations working together can most effectively leverage this funding (e.g. through the provision of comprehensive services to fathers)
  • How it can prove that the investment of this funding has paid off (i.e. a keen focus on evaluating funded programs).

This review also reveals that NFI continues to be well positioned to help organizations secure their first OFA fatherhood grant or, if they currently have or had an OFA grant, another round of funding. 

Two independent evaluations—one of previous grantees by the federal government’s General Accountability Office and the other of the “fatherhood field” by Columbia University—found that NFI’s programs were, by far and away, the most widely used fatherhood programs. Specifically, we have the evidence-based and evidence-informed fatherhood programs and resources emphasized in both FOAs, and the training and technical assistance needed to effectively implement those programs and resources.

Here is what you need to know about what these FOAs emphasize, and how including NFI’s programs and resources in your grant application(s)—along with other programs, services, and resources that combined comprehensively serve fathers—will help you address these areas of emphasis. Both FOAs emphasize:

  • The overall plan/intervention must contain activities that support at least one of the following three categories: responsible parenting; economic stability; healthy marriage and relationship education (the plan/intervention may contain activities that support one, two, or all three)
  • Development of a clear logic model for the overall plan/intervention
  • Implementation plans that include how staff will be trained (e.g. on implementing a fatherhood program)
  • Programs that are appropriately tailored to the characteristics of the target population, including formerly incarcerated fathers and their families, and descriptions of curricula
  • The use of skills-based parenting and healthy marriage/relationship education
  • In the case of New Pathways, a particular interest in serving the following kinds of fathers:
    • Fathers and young fathers receiving TANF assistance, as well as those who have previously received, or who are eligible to receive TANF assistance
    • Active-duty military and veteran fathers
    • Low-income, at-risk fathers and young fathers, including high school dropouts; young fathers involved with the juvenile justice systems; fathers who are in, or aging out of, foster care; non-custodial and custodial single fathers; and refugee and other immigrant fathers
  • Measurement of short- and long-term outcomes for fathers, children, couples, and families (outcomes must be included in the logic model)
  • Plan for project sustainability

Activities that Support at Least One of Three Categories (responsible parenting; economic stability; healthy marriage and relationship education):
NFI has a number of evidence-based and evidence-informed programs/curricula that support responsible parenting. The two programs most relevant for these FOAs are 24/7 Dad® A.M. or P.M. (New Pathways) and InsideOut Dad® (ReFORM). 24/7 Dad® has also been used in combination with InsideOut Dad® in reentry programming to serve fathers prior to (InsideOut Dad®) and after release (24/7 Dad®). (For an example of the use of both programs in reentry, read this blog post on the use of them by the Kentucky Department of Corrections.) Both of these programs address topics emphasized in the FOAs (e.g. co-parenting, employment, and relationship education). 

We also encourage you to consider Understanding Dad as a component for mothers to enhance the focus of your plan/intervention on improving the marriages/relationships between fathers and mothers. Other programs/curricula to consider include:

A Clear Logic Model:
Each of our programs for fathers and mothers include a clear logic model (with short- and long-term outcomes) that you can integrate into (draw from) the model for your overall plan/intervention or simply use to show an additional emphasis on logic models (i.e. overall plan has a model and so does the NFI program[s] you will use). – you can learn the 6 ways to create a useful logic model in our free ebook: How to Start a Fatherhood Program.

Staff Trainings:
NFI provides comprehensive, affordable training on all of our programs, on-going support after training, and, for 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad®, guides on implementing the programs with fidelity. (All of our trainings touch on implementing with fidelity—these guides provide even more information.) Visit our training page for details.

Programs Appropriate for Target Population:
24/7 Dad®, while appropriate for fathers of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses, is designed with a special emphasis on non-custodial, non-residential fathers, including young fathers. Activities within the program are designed for effectiveness with these fathers. You can also add the FatherTopics for Non-Custodial Dads as “Booster” sessions that target this specific audience of dads. Moreover, the curriculum provides facilitators with guidance and instructions on how to modify sessions depending on the unique makeup of each fatherhood group (e.g. when some fathers are employed and others are not, and when some fathers have access to their children and others do not). 

Additionally available is our InsideOut Dad® curriculum, the only evidence-based program in the country specifically designed for incarcerated fathers (as opposed to incarcerated parents generally).  

Use of Skills-Based Parenting and Healthy Marriage/Relationship Education:
All of our programs are skills-based.

Interest in Serving Particular Kinds of Fathers:
The focus of our fatherhood programs on universal concepts of effective fathering has facilitated organizations’ use of them with each of the kinds of fathers of particular interest, including active-duty military and at-risk and young fathers.

Measurement of Short- and Long-Term Outcomes:
NFI’s programs focus on creating positive, short-term outcomes that research shows can affect/lead to positive, long-term outcomes. NFI’s programs include evaluation instruments you can use to measure short-term outcomes. You will need additional instruments to measure short-term outcomes unique to your plan/intervention not captured by our programs’ instruments, as well as additional instruments to measure long-term outcomes. Carefully choosing instruments will be a critical part of your evaluation plan.

Project Sustainability:
We have designed and priced our programs, trainings, and other resources to help you sustain your fatherhood program/intervention at a reasonable cost. The cost to sustain our programs after your initial investment (which is low compared to other options) is extremely reasonable (e.g. simply purchase additional handbooks for fathers or mothers you will serve after the grant ends). Moreover, we have options for affordably training additional facilitators (either those to replace existing ones who might move on from your organization or additional ones to help your program expand) via our webinar-based trainings and Organizational Master Trainer program. 

In addition to the information in this post, please take advantage of these free resources to help you put together an outstanding application.

  • A recording of a free webinar NFI held on April 16th on putting together an effective federal grant proposal. 
  • Our Copy Blocks for use in describing our programs/curricula, a requirement noted in the FOAs.
  • Learn how to create a logic model in our free ebook: How to Start a Fatherhood Program
  • Visit the page of each program in FatherSOURCE, our online resource center/store for additional information and to download samples and tables of content.
  • We also encourage you to visit our evaluation page to download evaluations of our programs. Use the results of the evaluations and the content in the evaluation reports as you see fit.

All of us at NFI wish you the best of luck in securing your first or a subsequent grant from OFA. And, as always, we’re here to help.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

2 Basic Traits Key to Lasting Relationships

Whenever I speak on the importance of father involvement, conduct a training institute on one of our programs, or conduct a capacity-building workshop, I make it a point to drive home the fact that the most important relationship in a child's life is the one between the child's parents. It's the blueprint that a child uses as a model for his or her own relationships. 

couple-relationships-two-keys

That's why improving the father-mother relationship is a vital part of our fathering programs, and why we provide programs and resources for moms, such as Understanding Dad™, that help mothers improve that relationship for the sake of their children. It's also why I scan the research for insights into how NFI can help you, if you're a dad or mom, or your organization to help individuals and couples understand the importance of this relationship and help them improve it.

The husband and wife team of John and Julie Gottman brings together two of the country's leading experts on what makes relationships successful. Together they run The Gottman Institute and have researched for four decades what makes relationships between couples work. One of their recent, fascinating discoveries is the influence that "bids" between couples have on their chances of success (i.e. a happy, long lasting relationship). (For more on this research, read this article in the Wall Street Journal from which I drew to write this post.)

A bid involves one half of a couple making an attempt to connect with the other half -- not unlike when a government agency or company issues a bid for work in an attempt to connect with a vendor to perform that work. In the case of couples, a bid can involve asking a partner a question, making an affectionate gesture toward a partner (e.g. attempting a hug or kiss), or simply making a statement. Regardless of the action, the partner who makes the bid hopes the other partner will respond, ideally in a positive, supportive manner.

The "bidee" (my word, not the Gottmans') can respond in one of two basic ways. The bidee can turn toward the "bidder" (again, my word) and respond with interest or turn away (i.e. not acknowledge/ignore the bid or respond in a hostile manner). Depending on the nature of the bid, either reaction might seem minor in the broad scheme of a relationship, especially when bids are examined in isolation. But because relationships involve frequent bids -- sometimes several times a day -- how couples handle them can provide a hint about the health of relationships. In other words, they reflect patterns of communication in relationships, good or bad. If, for example, a husband typically doesn't acknowledge bids from his wife, that pattern of communication is harmful. Why? Because when the wife makes a bid, she's doing so because she thinks it's important, which is why she expects a positive, supportive response.  

John has found that he can predict with 94% accuracy whether a couple will stay together based on how they respond to bids. He and Julie studied the interactions between married couples and followed up with them six years later. The couples who were no longer married only responded positively to bids (turn-toward bids) 33% of the time. Couples who were still married responded positively to bids 87% of the time. Although these couples were married, John says he can predict the success of relationships, based on bid reactions, whether a couple is married or not.

Herein lie the two traits of generosity and kindness that mark successful relationships. How someone responds to bids exists on a continuum with generosity and kindness on one end and contempt, criticism, and hostility on the other. This continuum applies not only to bids but also to the ways in which partners generally interact with one another. Successful relationships involve partners (or one of the partners) who constantly look for ways to support each other -- a kind of proactive generosity and kindness. They go out of their way to find ways to support their partner in minor and major ways. Unsuccessful couples involve partners (or one of the partners) who constantly look for what's wrong with the other partner that they can point out and criticize and who generally react to the other partner's statements and actions with contempt or outright hostility.

I'm convinced that these two traits lead to success in any relationship whether a couple is romantically involved or not. (Every relationship, personal or professional, involves bids.) We receive a lot of emails, calls, and responses to our blog posts from divorced parents struggling with the relationship with their ex-spouses. These relationships are often at the contempt, criticism, and hostility end of the spectrum, to the detriment of these parents and their children. These traits also apply to the relationships between parents and their children. We see a lot of dads who, as they enter our fathering programs, treat their own children with contempt, criticism, or hostility. Those reactions are a cancer that destroys everyone it touches.

If you're a dad, mom, or practitioner who works with dads, moms, or couples, heed this insight. Seek ways to move yourself or those you work with toward the generosity and kindness end of the continuum. While doing so might not be easy, everyone will be the better for it.

What's the level of generosity and kindness in your relationships? Are some toward one end of the continuum while others are at the other end?

What's the level of generosity and kindness in the relationships between the dads and moms you work with and between the dads and their children?

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