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The Father Factor


Melissa Steward

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

Recent Posts

A Unique Resource to Begin Healing Relationships Affected by a Father’s Incarceration

In case you hadn’t heard, NFI recently released a new resource entitled, Out of the Ashes: Where a Seed Finds Life. Out of the Ashes is a one-act spoken-word play written and performed by Coley Harris (the father) and Ahmarr Melton (the son). It leverages the power of story in a more intimate way than any film or documentary we’ve seen. The format draws the viewer in and focuses them in such that they are, in a word, mesmerized. The first time we watched it, by the end of the film, we knew it could be the basis for one of the most powerful resources we would ever release.

A Father's Contact from Prison Made All the Difference to His Son

Last week we shared the story of Coley Harris, a previously incarcerated father dedicated to helping youth in his hometown of Wilmington, DE to develop meaning and direction in their lives. But what about Coley's son?

For 14 years, Ahmarr Melton knew that something wasn't quite right. Ahmarr grew up with his dad in prison until he was 16 years old. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common reality for many of our nation's children. Over 1.1 million incarcerated individuals are fathers of children between the ages of 0-17, and the number of children with an incarcerated father has risen 79% since 1991.

But the silver lining is that a father's absence (or in this case, incarceration) doesn't have to end badly for all involved. With commitment and determination, a father-son relationship can come out of the ashes, and become a seed that finds life. 

While Wilmington, DE has a High Rate of Father Absence, it Also Has One of the Best Fathers

Wilmington, DE has one of the nation's highest rates of father absence in our nation (65.5%), followed closely by Detroit, MI (63.3%), and Birmingham, AL (61.5%). That's why when we hear a father-son story of healing, reconciliation, and connection coming out of this town, we've got to proclaim it from the rooftops! (OK, maybe not the rooftops, but indulge me for a minute.) 

This story will forever change your perspective on father absence and incarceration. It demonstrates how a person - and a relationship - can come out of the ashes. That relationship is a seed that can find life with commitment and determination.

So let's go back to Wilmington, DE where the story begins with, “ I’m this 18-year-old drug dealer, and I’m stressed out of my mind worrying about myself, my future, my child, and these kids are looking up to me, because I’m the leader at this point.” 

The Federal Funding Process and Engaging Fathers in Corrections/Reentry [Free Webinars]

Here’s the scoop: Back in January, NFI hosted a webinar titled "Responsible Fatherhood: What’s Mom got to Do with It?" (You can access the webinar recording here in case you missed it.) During that webinar, we surveyed participants on other topics of importance to their work, and learned of two highly requested webinars: 

1) Funding fatherhood programs and other related work

2) Working with fathers in corrections and probation/parole

Armed with these requests, NFI went to bat to find experts to partner with us on these topics. We think you’ll agree that we hit a home run with two, valuable (and free!) learning opportunities coming soon in April.

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”.)

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

6 Ways to Enhance Staff & Volunteer Capabilities

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

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.

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.

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