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The Father Factor

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Melissa Steward

Melissa Steward is Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative. She is married and lives in Maryland.

Recent Posts

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.

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.

Teens, Sex, Fathers, Marriage: All That ‘N a Baby Carriage

Some would say the title of this post is just a bad plan. But what can’t be argued are the facts:

  • Teens are having babies.
  • Teen boys are becoming fathers.
  • Children are growing up in homes without their fathers.
  • Marriage is an option.

The topics of teen pregnancy, teen fathers, and marriage are of the utmost importance to NFI -- particularly because of how closely they align with father absence and child well-being.

According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in Why It Matters: Teen Childbearing, Single Parenthood, and Father Involvement, “…teen mothers are at high risk for single parenthood and especially high risk of parenthood without the biological father in the home”. Further, “Reducing teen pregnancy can improve child well-being by in­creasing the chances that children are born into two-parent families and, in particular, families with married parents.”

babycarriage

Research shows that children have better outcomes when they grow up in a home with two married parents. Studies further indicate that while father involve­ment is important, where the father lives is also important. In one study, the benefit of increasing father involvement was more than twice as great when the father lived with the child than when he lived elsewhere.

But when it comes to teens:

  • The majority of teen mothers (88% in 2010) were unmarried when their child was born.
  • Of those teen mothers who were not married when their child was born, only about one-third (34%) went on to marry by the time their child reached age five.
  • Furthermore, more than one-third (38%) of teens who were married when their child was born split up by the time their child reached age five, and 42% of those who were cohabiting when their child was born split up by then.

In addition, teen mothers living apart from the father of their child report that half of the nonresident fathers met with their child in the past month, and, among those who did, about half visited at least weekly. Recent research also shows that father absence is actually the cause for children having poor outcomes related to a range of physical, mental, and social issues – compared to when their father is involved in their lives

Interestingly, with regard to intergenerational cycles - teen boys who live with both parents initiate sex at an older age compared to teen boys whose father is absent (the former, helping to prevent future, unplanned, teen pregnancies.)

So, it seems decent to conclude that by working to help teens make wise decisions about sex and pregnancy, and how to participate in healthy relationships, we will also, by default, work to reduce father absence and increase the proportion of children who grow up with involved, responsible and committed fathers – all for the benefit of current (or future!) children.

BAM! A match made in heaven.

Looking for programs to work with teens who are, and who are not, already parents? NFI recently launched two new curricula for teens: Download samples of Love Notes and Relationships Smarts Plus.

What's Mom Got to Do With It?

I was at an acquaintance's house the other night, and the inevitable question, "What do you do for a living" led to an unending story of a father who was denied access to his child(ren) by the mother - for all sorts of reasons.

I heard about the endless heartache he suffered trying to be involved in the child's life, which lead to his frustration, and eventual hopelessness and realization that he would never have easy access to his child.

Now, we all know there are two sides to every story, but this scenario is all too common.

what's mom got to do with it fatherhoodWhen I tell people that NFI develops and distributes curricula to help organizations across the nation work with dads to increase their involvement, I often get the follow-on question, "Well, what about the moms who don't let them be involved?"

Enter the discussion of "maternal gatekeeping", which refers to a mother’s protective beliefs about the desirability of a father’s involvement in their child’s life, and the behaviors acted upon that either facilitate or hinder collaborative childrearing (often called “shared parenting” or “co-parenting”) between the parents. Maternal gatekeeping occurs regardless of whether parents are married, divorced or unmarried, and regardless of the parents’ satisfaction with the relationship between them. 

Let me clarify - this is not a discussion about the court system and its challenges. We're talking about the part of the father-child relationship over which a mother has some control - where she has the choice to be a gateway or a gatekeeper to dad's involvement. Specifically: 

  • The cognitive aspects of maternal gatekeeping include preferences or beliefs about the father’s involvement, satisfaction with his involvement, and the mother’s view of the father’s competence as a parenting figure. 
  • The behavioral aspects can include how the mother speaks about the father in the presence of their child; to what extent the father is included or updated on the child’s health, schooling or social life; and the extent to which the mother communicates to the father that she knows what is best for their child and the correct way to do things—while he does not 

How Does this Happen?

In most married or cohabiting American families, mothers and fathers divide their family roles and tasks to achieve maximum efficiency as they raise children. Even when parents expect during pregnancy that they will divide employment and family roles evenly, most new parents take on gender stereotypic roles after the birth of their first child and thereafter (Cowan & Cowan, 2000). Even when both parents work outside the home, fathers more often take on the dominant role as economic provider. Regardless of how much each parent works outside the home, mothers generally assume primary responsibility for childcare and associated responsibilities inside the home. In divorced and unmarried families, mothers most often assume legal guardianship of children. Consequently, children most often reside with them, resulting again in mothers’ assumption of primary responsibility for their care on a daily basis. 

Despite an increase in joint custody and the recognized importance of fathering among divorced, separated, or never-married couples, mothers continue to typically serve as the primary caretakers of children, particularly in their children’s early years. Even when mothers and fathers are equally or near-equally involved in raising children, mothers often feel a sense of ownership or that they have primary rights toward the children in comparison to fathers. This feeling can result from some combination of biology (mothers carry the children in pregnancy and give birth) and social roles selected by many parents—and reinforced by societal expectations—that currently sanction mothers over fathers as primary caretakers of children. 

Why Does it Happen?

The motivations for maternal gatekeeping vary widely. They depend on individual, couple, and familial circumstances and situations. Mothers might have a difficult time relinquishing familial responsibility, might want to validate their identity as “the mother” and garner recognition for their “maternal” or “feminine” contributions to the family, or might view the father as incompetent or even dangerous to the child. This latter view might be based either on actual evidence, the father’s past behaviors, or her personal perceptions of him and his failures in the male familial role.

Furthermore, she might be protective of her child purely as a function of the child’s age. If the child is not old enough to verbalize his or her own needs and desires, she might feel qualified to make decisions and judgments for that child, thus becoming the monitor, supervisor, permission grantor, and controller of all others’ involvement with the child—including the father’s. There are likely "good" intentions here.

However, when the father is less involved in raising his child or finds his access to his child constantly hindered and blocked by the gatekeeping actions of the mother, the ability of the child to adjust to parental divorce is weakened. The gatekeeping can damage the father-child relationship and the parents’ ability to cooperate and keep their conflict levels low and out of the child’s earshot or awareness. It is well established that conflict, low levels of cooperation, and less father involvement contribute to the child’s academic, behavioral, and social difficulties in the short and long term. Maternal gatekeeping therefore poses an important and powerful threat to the vitality of the father-child relationship and the overall well-being and adjustment of the child.

So we're back to helping fathers be involved in their children's lives. We need to discuss positive gatekeeping and its result.

Studies have demonstrated that when mothers perceived their partners as motivated and competent to engage in child care responsibilities, fathers were more involved in childcare (benefitting mom!). The father-child relationship is thus based on a triangle that includes father, child, and mother. In research on divorced parents, positive gatekeeping (that which supports and facilitates shared parenting) is linked to the mother’s beliefs about the importance of the father’s involvement and her duty to help nurture and facilitate it. The fathers’ positive gatekeeping response is linked to his acknowledgment that the mother’s role in his relationship to his child is a real and valid one.

As a Fatherhood Practitioner, What can You do About It?

Begin educating mothers on the importance of father involvement. Work directly on the maternal gatekeeping topic addressed in NFI's popular FatherTopics Workshop Mom as Gateway or in a deeper way with Understanding Dad: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms. You may even find that your staff members could benefit from a better understanding of maternal gatekeeping, and how to help moms understand the importance of dad's involvement. Your personal and organizational goals to increase father involvement in the lives of children in your community will thank you.

Download your free sample of "Mom As Gateway" here

image: creatas

NFI Releases Discussion Guide to Use with Dads in Any Setting

How should I start working with dads? What in the world should I help them with? What is a basic resource I can use that provides a way to talk with dads about the issues that matter most to helping them become more involved in the lives of their children?
17-Critical-Issues-CoverIn the span of our 20-year history, the National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) staff has received the above questions - and more - from practitioners, staff, and fatherhood mentors who work with and for organizations in every setting imaginable. They've called and e-mailed us, attended our presentations at conferences, and participated in our capacity-building workshops and training institutes on our curricula. 
So now it's our turn to ask some questions:
  • Have you struggled to find a resource that can guide you in having discussions with dads at any time and in any setting?
  • Do you work one-on-one with dads and need a resource that's more robust than a brochure?
  • Do you make presentations to dads in the community, such as at schools or businesses/workplaces?
  • Do you conduct home visits with parents and need a resource to help you engage dads?
  • Do you just not have the time or resources to conduct an intensive, group-based program for dads but still need a resource that can help you facilitate a short group discussion?
  • Do you use a NFI group-based program or workshop and need an additional resource to delve further into some topics with some of the dads one-on-one?
Enter our newest resource, 17 Critical Issues: A Guide for Practitioners and Staff to Use in Presentations, Home Visits or Meetings with Dads which provides an answer to these questions and more. At just $39.99, this guide can be implemented immediately in your organizational setting or discussions with dads. 

Led by NFI President Christopher Brown, an applied anthropologist with more than 20 years experience designing fatherhood programs and resources and studying fatherhood and masculinity cross culturally, our team has identified 17 critical issues (hereafter referred to as topics) over the years that are critical to address when assisting fathers of any race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background in becoming involved, responsible, and committed dads.
The structure of the guide makes it easy to use:
  • Each topic is covered in two to three pages. You will find background information on the topic, which includes several important factors to keep in mind when working with fathers on the topic.
  • The background information is followed by key learning objectives for fathers that you should build into the type of learning format that you decide to use.
  • The topic ends with key questions that fathers should ask themselves on the topic. These key questions are tied to the learning objectives.
The simple structure of the guide helps you customize a discussion with dads in any way you want. Use the guide to design lectures, workshops, seminars, events, and other activities for fathers. Cover one or more topics at any depth you like, in any format you like, and within your time constraints. Use the guide to experiment with the topics, format, and discussion length that works best for you/your organization. 

Learn more or purchase your 17 Critical Issues Guide on our fathersource.org resource website today.

How to Help Fathers with Child Support Issues

If you have fathers in your program who have a legal obligation to make child support payments, you are not alone.

In fact, most fatherhood programs do work with dads who are in this situation.
Fathers with child support obligations often face difficult issues such as: not understanding how the child support system operates; unpaid child support (e.g. large, unpaid arrearages that result from prolonged unemployment or incarceration); legal consequences that result from unpaid child support (e.g. jail time); and missed visitation opportunities when they have visitation rights.

how to help fathers with child support issues
Here are some ideas to consider as you work with these fathers.

  • Learn how the child support system in your community and state operates and share that information with fathers. Although a federal program, the operation, services and structure of child support systems vary greatly by state and even by municipality within a state. Contact the local child support enforcement office (the actual name of the office might be different) and review materials the office might have that will help educate you about the system. Ask staff for other ways that will help you learn
  • Invite an attorney with child support expertise, a judge, or other expert, such as a child support office representative, to address your fatherhood group. Because many fathers have a high level of interest in learning about child support, advertise an event that educates fathers on child support to help you recruit fathers into your fatherhood group.
  • Encourage fathers to request visitation and whenever possible to be there emotionally and physically for their child. In many cases, the right of visitation (unless specifically restricted by the court) is not legally connected to the father’s pattern of child support payments. Even if the father is not able to pay child support (or only partially pay), he might still have visitation rights.
  • Encourage fathers to make a serious effort to provide at least some child support, even if it isn’t possible to provide the full amount. Appeal to a fathers’ sense that they should pay because, well, they are the father. They have an opportunity to show fatherly care and concern in this way besides being legally obligated to do so.
  • Encourage fathers to be involved, responsible, and committed in the lives of their children to as great a degree as possible and to not become distracted by who receives the child support or by the specific way in which the child support is used after they pay it.
  • Encourage fathers to acquire competent legal advice regarding child support matters either by hiring an attorney or by securing legal services in some other way. You can recommend ways in which they can go about securing competent advice that is appropriate for dads’ specific situations and municipalities.
  • Strongly encourage fathers to go to every court hearing regarding their child support obligation. Court hearings are a time when a father can show the judge that he is doing everything he can to parent his children.
  • Investigate whether your state offers a program that forgives some or all child support arrearages and, if it does, assist fathers to meet the criteria.Typically in such cases, a portion of the interest due to the state on unpaid child support, but not the amount of the original child support obligation, can be forgiven if the father meets certain criteria.  

As you help fathers learn more about the child support system and how to effectively participate within it, they will be in a better position to connect with their children and more fully understand what it means to be a “24/7 Dad”.

NFI's FatherTopics Collection for Non-Custodial Dads is a great tool that provides information on some of the most critical issues faced by non-custodial fathers. Topics include Workforce Readiness, Rights and Responsibilities, Violation, Child Support, and Money Management. To get a free sample of this workshop, click the button below.

8 Ways to be a Leader and Engage Your Community

As you pursue your organization's mission or goals, it's easy to forget that someone in your community needs to be the leader.

connection

Maybe not the end-all-be-all leader that provides everything that everyone in your community needs, but the organization who steps up and coordinates other community organizations coming together to ensure the needs of the community are being met.

And amidst this leadership, there are several benefits your organization will receive. By identifying the other services available to families in your community, you will generate a referral system to help meet the needs of your community and the people who come through your doors. You will also create a network of other organizations to work with when you have a need, are looking for volunteers, or finding needy families you can serve.

In fact, connecting with other community organizations is something we recommend to anyone running fatherhood programs, as it can help you tremendously with recruitment to your fatherhood program(s). What follows are some ways in which you can bring your community together for the benefit of everyone involved, and become that leader who takes the first step toward community engagement.

  1. Involve Your Board
    If your program has little or no experience with community engagement activities, schedule a discussion for the next board meeting.  Putting community engagement on the meeting agenda will concentrate board attention on this vital strategy for program growth.  Encourage board members to identify key community members and to share ideas for ways to capture their interest. 
     
    Suggest that the board form a committee that will create a detailed plan to boost community involvement with your program.  The committee will help carry out and assess the activities outlined in the plan.  Members of the full board also should be counted on to participate in community engagement efforts, which will help sustain their commitment.    
     

  2. Prepare a Plan
    Just like the strategic plan that guides your program's operations, staffing, and services, a plan for community engagement will help focus your efforts.  Community engagement must be a two-way street, with participation, interaction, and communication shared consistently.  Therefore, a community engagement plan not only should outline how the program will reach out to the community, but also how others can work effectively with the program as you promote responsible fatherhood.  
     
    The written plan should present strategies for explaining the benefits of involvement to organizations and individuals.  In other words, the plan should answer the "What's in it for me" question you can expect to hear as you launch community engagement activities.  Be sure the answer aligns with the mission, goals, and objectives of those with whom you are trying to connect. 
     
    Once you complete the comprehensive community engagement plan, do not let it gather dust on someone's desk or bookshelf.  Monitor implementation of the plan and measure outcomes each quarter.  Then update your plan at least once a year, based on the quarterly assessments. 
     

  3. Identify Community Strengths
    Before you kick off a community engagement campaign, first pinpoint the particular communities you want to involve.  Be as specific as possible - proposing to involve "the community' is vague and could lead to scatter shot efforts.  You might determine your target communities are based on location (certain neighborhoods, for example), age (teen fathers, for example), or other factors and demographics.  

    Learn as much as you can about values, problems, and concerns of the groups you plan to contact.  Also find out how they view your program and the nature of any previous experiences they might have had with it.  Take advantage of the networking resources of your board members to uncover the unique skills and abilities organizations and individuals can bring to a partnership with your program.  Compile a database of organizations and individuals and the strengths they might contribute to enhancing the quality of your services.  
     

  4. Create Committees
    Carrying out an extensive community engagement plan can be overwhelming for even the most organized and dedicated board, if working alone.  Recruit community members to serve on an advisory board or committee.  The first-hand experience they gain is invaluable for transitioning them into being advocates for the program.  Community members can provide fresh perspectives that give program staff a better understanding of the issues on the minds of those the program serves.  And community members can be a terrific sounding board for new strategies or messages the program develops.  
     

  5. Open Your Doors
    Personal relationships often are built and thrive on people asking others into their homes.  Similarly, positive relationships can come about when your program invites community members into its home.  Schedule an open house event where staff, board members, funders, and other stakeholders can interact with community members.  Provide refreshments and make sure the space is professional, tidy, and able to accommodate diverse visitor needs (such as seating for seniors, easy access for persons with disabilities).

    Spark dialog with informative displays, attractive handouts, and activities for a variety of ages that showcase your work with fathers.  Gather contact information of people who request additional information or are eager to become involved with your program (and assign staff to follow up).  Have staff circulate during the event and note topics of particularly spirited discussions.  Fatherhood-related issues that community members are passionate about might be added to the agenda of a public forum your program holds. 
     

  6. Sponsor a Forum
    Like a town meeting, a forum or summit presents an opportunity to gather large numbers of people in one place to learn about and discuss a specific issue or topic.  A lively forum can give your program deeper reach into faith, business, health care, or other sectors.  Participants provide feedback to help you fine tune both your program's overall strategic plan as well as the community engagement plan.  

    Energetic discussion often reveals existing or potential challenges your program faces in implementing public awareness, education, and resource-building activities.  Recruiting volunteers and locating additional resources also can move forward at a community forum.  Plan a forum thoroughly and well in advance, paying attention to assembling a dynamic group of participants.  A structured agenda will help focus participant discussion and prevent the forum from becoming merely a grievance session.  
     

  7. Conduct Interviews and Focus Groups
    One-on-one in an interview or with peers in a focus group - both techniques give your program important access to key community members.  The discussion topics, how many people should be included, time constraints, and availability of skilled facilitators will determine the technique you select. 

    Interviews more readily accommodate the schedules of busy community leaders and enable you to collect a lot of information in a limited time.  During interviews, individuals often are more candid about controversial or sensitive issues.  Additionally, training staff members to conduct a productive interview is easier than training them to facilitate focus groups.  

    Focus groups, however, are more effective for reaching several community members at once.  The interactions of the group also prompt questions, comments, and ideas that might not emerge from a personal interview.  Invite 6-12 participants and select an experiences facilitator who can help maximize feedback from all group members.  
     

  8. Spread the Word
    Keeping stakeholders informed is essential for a community engagement campaign to be successful.  Programs that promote responsible fatherhood can deliver information rapidly and cost-effectively to target communities by savvy use of media.  Positive media coverage can position your program as a vital community resource working to improve the well-being of its children.

    Whether low-tech (letters to the editor of the local newspaper) or high-tech (interactive web site), media strategies can be tailored to your program's financial, staff, and other resources.  Think beyond mailings, fliers, and newsletters to exhibits, billboards, community cable broadcasting, and other creative methods for increasing program recognition and enlisting volunteers.  

    Editors, columnists, and producers constantly look great for great stories.  Maintaining good relationships with them can lead to high-profile print space, air time, or radio spots at little or no cost to your program.  Contact media representatives and establish your program as a reliable source of information about responsible fatherhood.

6 Ways to Start a Fatherhood Program

Developing a program requires a process for planning, implementing and measuring the success of all the organizations efforts—which is where the "24/7 Dad™ Logic Model" comes in handy.

Once your organization has completed NFI’s Free Father Friendly Check-Up (which can help assess your organization’s leadership, program, and organizational focus as well as its engagement with the community,) a second important step, particularly for organizations that are starting a fatherhood program (or want to) is to create a logic model.  

Developing a program requires a process for planning, implementing and measuring the success of all the organizations 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 connection to achieving that goal. It is a valuable aid to show potential partners and funders that solid, systematic planning backs your program.

Logic Model
Click here to download the FREE Logic Model Sample >>

Let's look at 6 ways to create a useful logic model:

  1. Understand the Role of a Logic Model
    Program development is a process for planning, implementing, and measuring the success of board, staff, and volunteer efforts.  A logic model adds value to each stage of program development by showing the relationships among program components.  A logic model is merely a picture of how your program works.  It presents a visual display of the connections among the resources available to operate the program, current and planned activities, and changes or results you hope to achieve.  A logic model is a mechanism that helps you formulate program strategy while communicating to funders and others that the program is backed by integrated, systematic planning.  
     
  2. Evaluate the Situation 
    Start building your logic model by developing a comparison baseline for determining whether change has occurred as a result of what your program does.  You might organize a logic model committee or workgroup and schedule brainstorming sessions to identify the major issues and concerns facing fathers in the populations you serve.  In the logic model, state the issues and who is affected.  Identify areas of strength and weakness.  Consider the resources currently available as well as the ones you will need to operate your program.  
     
  3. Identify Inputs
    Inputs are the resources that are invested in a program.  In your logic model, include the human (board, staff, and volunteer time), financial (grants, donations), knowledge (research, curricula), and community (involvement of external organizations and collaborators) assets that demonstrate program quality.  Additionally, specify organizational inputs such as facilities and equipment.  
     
  4. Determine Outputs 
    Outputs are the direct results of program activities.  They are what they program does and the people it reaches.  Outputs can include workshops, counseling, volunteer development, training, distributing publications or other materials, or health screening.  Outputs often are described in terms of scope, such as the number of training sessions attended.  Outputs also can be depicted in terms of characteristics or behaviors, such as the degree of satisfaction with program services.    
     
  5. Envision Outcomes 
    Outcomes, or impacts, are the benefits or changes that result from your inputs and activities.  Outcomes can be individual, measured as changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills, behaviors, or status.  For example, one desired outcome might be increased demonstration of fathers' involvement in the lives of their children.  Programs that promote responsible fatherhood also can measure outcomes at the system or community level.  A desired outcome might be changes in policy that make child support guidelines more father-friendly.  Outcomes you work toward can be short-term (within a few months), medium-term (approximately 1 year),  or long-term (2-5 years).  While short- and medium-term outcomes tend to be easier for programs to measure, evaluating long-term outcomes is important for indicating how your program fosters sustained change.  
     
  6. Outline the Model
    There is no right or wrong way to fashion a logic model.  Through simple pictures and words, the logic model should reveal how your program will work and what you expect it to achieve.  The logic model should explain your program without supplying unnecessary detail or confusing readers with too many boxes or arrows.  As you shape the logic model, remember that people are the link between the situation and the impacts.  Whether the workgroup began to conceptualize the logic model by evaluating the situation first, or started with desired outcomes in mind and reversed the process, the model should have a logical sequence when read from either direction.  And just as your program changes over time, so too should your logic model.  Ongoing review and assessment will keep the logic model fresh and responsive to the evolving environment that is inherent in serving fathers. 

Hopefully creating a logic model will help to get you started off on "the right foot" with your fatherhood program, and will help everyone involved to understand what's needed and where you are headed.

6 Ways to Enhance Staff & Volunteer Capabilities

Your staff is your best asset. And you couldn't do it without your volunteers.

You rely on these people everyday to serve clients, help your organization meet its goals, and change the world.

seminar

So wouldn't it make sense to ensure these folks have the skills, resources, and confidence they need to do their best work? Of course! 

So as you think about your next fiscal year and budget, remember to plan for the growth of your best asset: your people.Well, it comes down to a matter of planning and budgeting. And just because you don't have a huge budget to pay for conferences or paid training, doesn't mean you can't take steps to enhance staff and volunteer capabilities. Don't forget that there's a world wide web full of free or affordable training opportunities out there.

Here are six suggestions:

  1. Workshops and Training Programs: A well designed workshop and training program provides an interactive and collaborative environment in which personnel can improve existing skills or gain new ones.  Your program can develop its own workshops or take advantage of those offered by other organizations, agencies, or associations.  Workshops can take place on site or off site at a hotel, campus, or other training facility. 

    Look for workshops that follow principles of adult learning.  Avoid training that is lecture-based.  Because adults learn best in an interactive environment, workshops should feature group activities and peer learning exercises in which participants learn from each other.   

    Staff and volunteers from programs that promote responsible fatherhood can benefit from training in a variety of key areas: board management; finance and accounting; fundraising and resource development; human resources and personnel management; leadership and organizational development; legal issues; marketing, public relations, and media relations; office administration; planning and evaluation; proposal writing and research methods; office administration; planning and evaluation; proposal writing and research methods; technical/technology training; and volunteer management.  
  2. Conferences: Time away from the program to attend a conference can revitalize staff and volunteers with new perspectives and information.  Regional or national conferences often draw hundreds or thousands of participants eager to share their experiences in the field.  Staff and volunteers can have access to funders and vendors all in one place.  They can gather materials and new resources that can improve your program's operations and services.  Networking with colleagues at a conference, your staff and volunteers will learn the practices that are working well for their peers.  They can discover how to adapt and implement those practices to have a positive impact when they return. 

    Although some conferences are free, many have registration fees.  Set aside some money in your annual budget for conference attendance.  

  3. Professional Coaching: When an urgent, high-stakes issue or problem arises, a professional coach, often can provide the customized guidance that program management, staff or volunteers need.  Professional coaching is a partnership between a specialized, expert coach and other professionals that inspires them to maximize their potential.  Professional coaches listen, observe, and tailor an approach based on the skills and abilities of the people involved.  Using a variety of solution-oriented techniques and tools, professional coaches help program personnel develop and carry out their own strategies.
      
  4. Peer-to-Peer Learning: No one knows the challenges and issues you face in your work better than your peers.  Peer-to-peer learning is particularly suited to adults because it usually takes place in the context of day-to-day problems in the workplace.  No need to explain the culture and features of your work setting - colleagues already understand. 

    You might organize a peer mentoring group with other professional who serve fathers in your area.  Peer-to-peer learning allows staff and volunteers from programs with restricted resources to enhance their skills at no cost and on a timetable that accommodates their schedules.  

  5. Online Learning: When an appropriate workshop is not available, or when funding or staff resources are limited, program personnel can build their skills through online learning.  Web-based courses, conferences and training can be accessed by staff and volunteers in the office, at their homes, or any place with an internet connection, such as a public library.  The 24/7 convenience of online learning lets participants attend training when their schedules permit and proceed at their own pace. Just search online for the training topics you are seeking, and consider adding the words "free" or "affordable" to your online search.
     
  6. Self-Directed Learning: Identify the skills and knowledge that management, staff, and volunteers should focus on to expand program capacity.  Then, based on your own research and feedback from peers, mentor, and experts, compile a comprehensive reading list.  The list could include books, journals, and articles that present tips and strategies for building program capacity.  Give a deadline for the reading on each topic to be completed, and ask for a short "book report" outlining their learnings.

    Web sites that offer guidance to nonprofit and community-based organizations are good sources for publications.  Biographies and autobiographies of leaders in the nonprofit field or in business also can give useful information about the lessons they learned. 

How has your organization been successful in enhancing staff and volunteer skills and capabilities?

 

Pilot Program of NFI’s Curriculum for Moms a Success

NFI has conducted a successful pilot program of its recently released curriculum, Understanding Dad™: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms.

Understanding Dad™ increased mothers’ pro-relationship knowledge, self-efficacy, and attitudes about their relationships with the fathers of their children.

An evaluation of the program conducted this summer at two pilot sites – Family P.A.C.T. Center in Coshocton County, OH and Allegheny Intermediate Unit in Allegheny County, PA – revealed that the program effectively met its goals with a group of 34 mothers diverse in race, age, marital status, and education. Specifically, Understanding Dad™ increased mothers’ pro-relationship knowledge, self-efficacy, and attitudes about their relationships with the fathers of their children.

NFI developed Understanding Dad™ based on demand from its customers who wanted an in-depth program that would address one of the most vital factors that affects fathers’ involvement in the lives of their children: maternal gate-keeping and its effect on the quality of the relationships between mothers and fathers.

The evaluation involved a pre- and post-test methodology. Facilitators at each of the two pilot locations administered a 51-item evaluation tool that is part of the curriculum (called the Understanding Dad™ Survey) to the 34 mothers before they started the program and again after they completed it. In addition to collecting basic demographic information on program participants, the survey used 44 measures to gauge mothers’ pro-relationship knowledge, self-efficacy (their confidence in their ability to use the skills taught in the program), and attitudes. By comparing mothers in each of these areas before and after their participation in the program, NFI was able to determine whether and how much change the mothers experienced.

The results from the analyses of the pre- and post-survey responses show that the program increased the overall knowledge of mothers by 88 percent. The two multiple choice questions where mothers displayed the greatest improvement in knowledge were, “Four of the best skills I can use to better under¬stand the points of view of the father of my children are…” and “One of the best skills I can use to improve the relationship with the father of my children is…”

The results also showed that the program increased the overall self-efficacy of mothers by 16 percent. Mothers were provided with a series of statements that measured their confidence related to using the skills taught in the program. The two statements for which the mothers displayed the greatest improvement in self-efficacy were, “Let go of the issues of control I have in the relation¬ship with the father of my children,” and “See things from the point of view of the father of my children.”

Finally, the results from the analyses of the pre- and post-survey responses showed that the program increased the overall pro-relationship attitudes of mothers by 9 percent. The two statements for which the mother displayed the greatest improvement in attitudes were, “A good mother asks the father what he wants when she communicates with him,” and “A good mother admits that she has a role in causing poor communication with the father of her children.”

Overall, the Understanding Dad™ program had a profound impact on this group of mothers as indicated by positive/desirable movement on 40 of the 44 measures across the three areas (knowledge, self-efficacy, and attitudes). Download the entire detailed evaluation report at NFI’s program evaluation webpage.

The results of this evaluation reveal that organizations and practitioners can be confident that using Understanding Dad™ will help mothers increase their pro-relationship knowledge, self-efficacy, and attitudes so that they can improve their relationships with the fathers of their children for the sake of their children.

Father absence in the United States has taken on crisis proportions. One in three children nationally, and two in three in the African American community, live in homes absent their biological fathers. These children face increased risks across every measure of child well being, including poverty, crime, emotional and behavioral problems, education, and ten pregnancy.

In the past 15 years, more and more community-based organizations have responded to this crisis by starting fatherhood programs to provide education and inspiration to the fathers in their communities, with the goal of increasing their positive involvement in their children’s lives. Since 1994, NFI has led this effort to provide the training and skill-building materials such programs need to succeed.

NFI’s Understanding Dad™ in particular focuses on the goal of accomplishing communication and awareness objectives that are vital to improving the relationships between mothers and fathers. Recent research has shown that a mother’s perception of the father of their children plays a significant role in the level of involvement that father has in his children’s lives. Therefore, Understanding Dad™ addresses topics like, “My Life as a Mom,” “My Father's Impact,” and “Open, Safe Communication.”

  

 

Get Your FREE Father Friendly™ Check-Up

Last week, I attended the Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center conference where I met hundreds of wonderful people working with women and men in the midst of crisis pregnancies.

When I asked them, "How are You Working with Fathers?" I received a variety of responses from, "Well, we aren't, really", to "We want to, but don't know how", to "We have a Fatherhood Program Coordinator on staff."

And no matter what kind of social work your organization does, I am sure - if asked - I could receive similar answers. 

Father Friendly Checkup Header

While having a fatherhood program coordinator on staff is viewed as a luxury for many non-profits with a small budget, it wasn't just by chance that the ones with full-fledged fatherhood programs got to the point of actually being able to hire a staff member for this role. They got there by starting with an intentional assessment of their organization, budgeting and planning for how they would involve fathers, and diligence with a focus on ensuring they involve fathers alongside everything they offer for mothers.

Father involvement is critical for your organization, and if you aren't sure whether you agree, be sure to check out the research and statistics on the consequences of father absenceGetting fathers involved is essential for happy, healthy, well-adjusted children and families.  When dads aren't involved, children are more likely to engage in drugs, alcohol, violent crimes, and other harmful behaviors, drop out of school, live in poverty, face teenage pregnancy, and struggle with depression or even commit suicide.

One of the best ways to get started in becoming a father-friendly organization is to make use of our Free Father Friendly Check-Up Tool

This simple assessment (using a likert scale) allows you to analyze your physical environment, location, organizational philosophies, staff attitudes, and more. We recommend that your leadership, as well as each staff member, fill out the Check-Up. The comparative results may surprise you! 

Many many organizations have already used the Father Friendly Check-Up to successfully asses their operations, and overhauled the way in which they intentionally provide offerings for, and equip, fathers to be the best dads they can be.

Check out several Case Studies below showing how organizations working with fathers and families - just like you - transformed their work with fathers after taking the Father Friendly Check-Up:

  • Pregnancy Care Center, Witchita, KS > Historically served mothers, with little or no outreach to fathers. Now offers several classes for fathers including NFI’s 24/7 Dad™ and Doctor Dad™.
  • The Children's Institue > Serves children with special needs and their families. Now offers NFI’s Doctor Dad™ and use Boyz to Dads™.
  • Clinical Outcomes Group > Created county-wide Fatherhood Task Force to raise awareness of the importance of fathers and began running NFI’s 24/7 Dad™ for organizations.
  • Community Action Inc. > Now provides enhanced parenting and fathering skills while helping them develop job skills. Uses several NFI curricula including The 7 Habits of a 24/7 Dad™ and Understanding Domestic Violence™ workshops.

And remember: Success comes after planning, and planning after assessing. Take this first step toward finding the best way for your organization to serve fathers in a "friendly" way. Then come back to learn How to Start a Fatherhood Initiative

Fatherhood Programs: Facilitating for Change

This is a guest blog post from Scott Lesnick, author, speaker, trainer, and 24/7 Dad® facilitator at The Parenting Network located in Milwaukee, WI.

Since 1977, The Parenting Network has served the greater Milwaukee community through its mission to strengthen parenting and to prevent child abuse with programs such as home visiting, parent education and support, fatherhood programs, and more.

 

The parenting Network Logo

Raising my children was a 24/7 job. And as a volunteer facilitator of the 24/7 Dad® Program at The Parenting Network in Milwaukee, I’ve heard from thousands of fathers who agree.

Every group of fathers I work with teaches me something new, and after ten weeks, we all feel better and even wiser. Parents who came in with a chip on their shoulder often graduate with a smile, extend a warm thank you (which isn’t easy for some) and say that they’ve learned some valuable and positive lessons that they WILL use in parenting their children.

I am confident that participant fathers are not only better equipped with positive, hands on ways to parent when they leave, but they also have a greater understanding of how their childhood shaped their adult lives as it pertains to parenting. Yes, really connecting to our children and treating each as the individual they are is the key to their growing up with good self-esteem. It takes a daily interest, a commitment that some did not see when they were young. Talking, listening, setting proper boundaries and playing are wonderful.

Further, breaking the cycle of physical and verbal abuse is a challenge, but many parents are able to, for the first time, really understand how they would feel if it happened to them. Anger, remorse and contemplation often set in, but the group is always supportive.

It’s also a pleasure to watch the group’s reaction as I offer up how parents are always on their children’s radar. Children watch us like a camera making mental notes and comparisons hundreds of times a day. When you look at us adults from a kid’s perspective and realize were being “recorded” by them both consciously and subconsciousl,y it allows us to focus on what we say and how we react. This makes for better relationships with our children and strengthens our parenting skills.

Of course, I’m not under the assumption the fathers we work with are angels. Some have served serious time behind bars and others are completing the class in order to spend more time with their children. But nonetheless, they open up about things I never imagined I’d hear and it takes the breath out of many in the class. But, we talk. We discuss. Some even grow- maturing before my eyes. We stay on topic as it pertains to that week’s lesson and these parents are engaged! They’re thinking, talking, and debating all things parenting. That’s the golden ticket!

To make sure that the dads are getting tangible, applicable skills they can apply to their relationships (with mom and kids), I ask for 1-3 takeaways from each before he leaves the session. As a result, I can know if the handbook, our classroom discussions, my facilitating, and/or their peer interaction is moving them forward by how they answer. Some talk for five seconds and others 30 minutes! For example, I have heard: “Man. You opened my eyes. I’m not going to be like how “so-and-so was to me growing up.”  “I never knew why I acted like that - why I hit my kids instead of talking more. I get it now!”

I wanted to give back. I wanted to help fathers become better parents. The Parenting Network allows me to connect to parents who not only leave the course a better and more knowledgeable parent, but often remind me of some things I did well in raising my two children. I wish programs like this were made available to all those who want to improve their parenting skills. I know I could have definitely used it when my children were younger, and I suspect most of us could.

Surprisingly, some participants come back to the fatherhood program observe, add content and opinion, plus continue to grow. How can I say no? Their kids deserve nothing but the best.

Facilitating groups isn’t always easy. But being there to facilitate and watch groups connect, understand and add positive content is

If you have any questions for Scott about his experience as a 24/7 Dad® Facilitator, he can be reached at scott@scottlesnick.com.Scott is also a member of the National Speaker’s Association and his speaking engagements center around parenting topics, increasing performance, focusing on what’s important, and useful tools in overcoming life’s challenges.

Military Dads Serve as Doctor Dad, Too!

Being a military dad presents unique challenges - especially when it comes to deployment and fathering.

Dads can be away for long or extended periods of time due to deployment, and there are even situations when a military dad can't be present at his own child's birth. But that doesn't mean they can't benefit from learning the skills needed to be involved in the health, safety, and care of their baby. Military dads need to serve as Doctor Dad, too!

Military Dad and Facilitator in Doctor Dad session.

It's for reasons like these that the Army Community Service New Parent Support Program at Joint Base Lewis McChord offered the DoctorDad® workshop -- to increase self-assurance in new fathers by developing their parenting skills in the area of infant and toddler health.

DoctorDad® Workshops are presented as 60-90 minute stand-alone workshops, or as supplemental sessions to other fatherhood programming, and are great for new and expectant dads. The workshops help dads increase health literacy by providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to successfully care for their young children right from the start —from keeping children well, to taking care of a sick child, along with preventing injuries, and creating a safe home. Dads at organizations across the nation, and on military installations, benefit from this helpful program. 

According to an article by The Northwest Guardian about DoctorDad being offered at Joint Base Lewis McChord:

No rank, no commission, no promotion compares to the privilege of making it to “Daddy.” No adventure seems as satisfying as cuddling your newborn and seeing her first smile. Yet for all the joys fatherhood brings, anxiety over caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. How to know what that incessant crying means, why she refuses to eat, why she is fussy?

Researchers point to the importance of father involvement regarding child’s safety and future development. According to a study by the National Fatherhood Initiative, children have up to 30 percent higher chance of getting injured when dads are not involved.

Private First Class Matthew Burkett of 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, (3rd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment) wasn’t aware of the statistics when he decided to take the DoctorDad® class. Burkett was just concerned with understanding his 7-month-old daughter’s fussing and crying. “When the baby cries, you run down the list wondering which one it is,” Burkett said.

DoctorDad Bundle

Each DoctorDad® Workshop is structured in two two-hour sessions. For example, one session covers infant well being and health issues (such as understanding why they might cry,) and also proper nutrition and immunizations. Another session deals with child safety and proper emergency response. Sessions provide an open and supportive environment where dads can ask questions, exchange stories, and share advice.

According to Venice del Mundo-Davis, New Parent Support Program home visitor for Joint Base Lewis McChord, "There aren’t a lot of classes out there for new fathers to go to. DoctorDad® class offers practical and useful points in getting through the first few years of taking care of a child. We are also trying to help fathers realize they play a unique role in caring for their kids.”

During the sessions, dads even participate in hand-on demonstrations of newborn care such as changing a diaper, swaddling techniques to calm a baby, burping positions, giving medications, SIDS (prevention,) and more. The goal is to help dads to learn how they can take part in the care of their newborn and be supportive of their partner.

The Northwest Guardian article continues:

Private First Class Burkett was not surprised to find out his post-session questionnaire answers were correct and that one of the most important things in becoming a new parent is being involved in the child’s life.

He said, “I came to this class to make sure I do all the right things to raise my little girl and what I learned was like a confirmation that I already am."

DocotorDad® Workshops are available as four separate workshops, or as a bundle
Download the Overview Sheet below for more information!
Portions of this post reposted from The Northwest Guardian, newspaper of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
 


How to Get Fathers in the Door

There's a popular phrase which states “build it and they will come.”

This saying is sometimes true but oftentimes not realistic—especially when it comes to developing and implementing fatherhood programs. 

There are a great number of fatherhood programs with great staff, curriculum, facilities, and community support—but lack participants. Logic dictates that there is no actual program without participants to serve. Unfortunately, some fatherhood program practitioners 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.

This may surprise you:
It's not usually the fatherhood program itself that gets them in the door. 

shoes on welcome mat

We've all heard the saying "Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance." That's why successful fatherhood practitioners plan ahead by strategizing how they will draw fathers in, what other services they will offer that has a "hook", and lay out the demographics and location of their target population.

Begin by asking yourselves:

  • 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 our target? e.g. New fathers, teen fathers, single fathers, non-custodial fathers, etc.
  • What is our target father's age range? Children's age(s)? Marital status?

Now answer the 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.)

Regarding effective "hooks", NFI’s own research has found that 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.) They often only realize the benefits of learning fatherhood skills after they’ve been enrolled in a program for awhile. 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.

What's next?
Create a flyer or other invitation materials to invite the fathers to your center for your services. (And, based on the above, you may or may not decide to specifically advertise a fatherhood program at this point in the game.)

Further Tips for Finding Fathers
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 more urban in nature, 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, skateboard parks, shopping malls, computer gaming facilities, and dance clubs tend to serve as prime locations for recruitment. 

Here is a lits of some common male or father-friendly locations (as reported by successful 24/7 Dad™ program practitioners):

  • Fishing Locations
  • Hunting Locations
  • Sporting Events
  • “Bass Pro” type venues
  • Barbershops
  • Fire Stations
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Healthcare Facilities
  • Educational Facilities
  • Restrooms
  • Religious Institutions
  • Military
  • Airports
  • Social Service Facilities
  • Judicial Courts
  • Basketball Courts & Gyms
  • Health Clubs
  • Public or Private Recreational Facilities

With this knowledge, wrap-around service offerings, and ideas for father-friendly locations that may be unique to your community, you will be more effective and efficient in strategically targeting your program marketing and recruitment efforts. 

Now the business of serving fathers can begin! Start by getting them in the door.

Thinking of starting a fatherhood program? Download our free guide to learn how to start and be successful.

Engaging Fathers in Home Visits

Father Friendly Check-Up LogoNFI has worked with numerous service providers and state agencies to enhance their home visitation models by integrating resources for fathers, resulting in increased father engagement in home visitation programs and ultimately, in the lives of their children and families. 

Currently, we are working with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to do extensive work engaging fathers in home visitation programs as part of their larger MIECHV grant.

What is unique about the work that NFI does in states/counties/cities is that we do not offer a “one size fits all approach.” While we have frameworks and models to guide your father engagement strategy, your community leaders/staff, etc. are involved and engaged in developing the approach that best meets your needs and area of focus.

In the state of Texas, with a focus on home visitation, NFI has or will:

  • Conduct six regional Father Friendly Check-Up™ Master Trainer trainings to all of the state’s lead agencies and their partners
  • Create a Father Readiness Tool Kit
  • Conduct a quantitative assessment of every lead agency’s father friendliness
  • Assist in creating father friendly action plans
  • Collect reports of immediate impact in the organizational culture and home visitation programs of these agencies and their partners

Recently, we heard from Darlene Thomas, HIPPY Program Coordinator at the Greater Opportunities of the Permian Basin (GOPB Inc.) (HIPPY is subcontracted by GOPB Inc., Head Start.) Darlene trains, supervises and monitors four home visitors.  Each Monday is reserved for training home visitors in the home visiting curriculum and ensuring that all props (materials used to role play curriculum) are ready. The rest of the week is spent inputting data into ETO (Efforts to Tracking Outcome, which is the HIPPY tracking system,) observing home visits, planning parent group meetings, ETO training, monitoring home visits, recruiting and much more. 

Darlene attended the recent Texas Father Engagement Training designed to increase father engagement in home visitation programs. At this training, Darlene was also trained to be a “Master Trainer” on NFI’s Father Friendly Check Up™ that allows organizations to assess their father friendliness with the goal of improving it. Darlene is now certified to train other home visitation specialists in nearby agencies to do a better job of engaging fathers in their home visitation work.

We asked Darlene: 

What were you hoping to learn at the Father Engagement Training by NFI?
Mainly I wanted to learn how to increase father participation in our HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Children). 

In what way did the Father Friendly Check Up allow you to look at your work differently? 
It helped me to see how “father unfriendly” our program was.  The training helped me to realize this, and that we have an important task of making it friendlier. One of the first things that the home visitors and I will do is change our thinking about the role of fathers in their children’s lives. The four assessment categories we learned: Leadership Development, Organizational Development, Program Development, and Community Engagement, were an excellent way for GOPB Inc., HIPPY to understand our weaknesses and strengths. However, there were very little strengths. 

What was the most valuable aspect of the training for you?
The most valuable aspect was when I realized that fathers are ignored - and they should not be. Fathers are a valuable asset to the family, and we should make every attempt to get them involved in their child/children’s lives. 

In what way were you surprised by information received during the training?
The large percentage of women who feel that dads are replaceable by them or another man.  It was also an eye opener to realize how father unfriendly my organization is. 

How will you be using/passing on the information you learned?
It is important that others be trained in father engagement. I will begin training the home visitors with whom I work. Then, I will be available to train other interested organizations throughout the community because like our organization, many do not engage fathers simply because of lack of knowledge. 

Which specific tools from NFI do you think will be helpful in your efforts to engage fathers in home visitation?
I am looking forward to using the strategic planning guide and category assessment provided by NFI to implement ways to increase father engagement in my organization.   

What are you doing now to better to engage fathers as a result of the training?
We are strategically planning our parent meetings in the evening. We recently conducted our End of Year Celebration in the evening and over 50 fathers participated! This was fantastic because only 0 - 3 fathers attended when the meetings were held in the afternoon. 

Thank you Darlene! We appreciate you sharing your experience and are hopeful that your agency and others in Texas will continue to encourage and train others on the importance of father involvement in the area of home visitation. 

If you have any questions about Darlene’s experience with NFI’s Father Engagement Project, or would like to know more about the HIPPY work, email her at darlene.thomas@gopb.org.

Get started with father engagement in your state, visit our website to learn about NFI's State, City, and County Initiatives here.

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