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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

24/7 Dad® & "Wrap Around" Services - So Happy Together

Recently, Catholic Charities’ Asylum Hill Family Center was featured in the Catholic Transcript Online - the Newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut. And guess what? They've used NFI's 24/7 Dad® group-based program to reach over 600 dads that have come through their doors over the last 2 years.

But they don't just offer the 24/7 Dad® fathering program - they offer other "wrap around" services to residents such as parenting skills, advocacy/empowerment, job training and support, homeownership training, money management/budgeting classes, and more. 

You see, 24/7 Dad® and wrap around services are so happy together (are you humming The Turtles song yet?)

According to NFI's Director of Program Support Services, Michael Yudt, "The 24/7 Dad® program is an ideal compliment to wrap around services such as job training, support, and financial literacy because the program speaks to WHY men do what they do. Fatherhood can provide men with a greater context and purpose for life, and when you tap into that, you can make significant in-roads in the other service areas as well."

Michael continues, "Motivating men to care more about their children is a great way to capture the heart of a man, and 24/7 Dad® does just that."

Kyle Parrish stands next to NFI's fatherhood poster.

Speaking of motivation, the Catholic Transcript article features Kyle Parrish (pictured right) not yet 21 years old, in a relationship, and father to a son who's just barely a year old. Due to an injury on the job, bills and stress mounted as he waited on a Workmen’s Compensation settlement. One day, he walked into a store in the same building as the Asylum Hill Family Center, and began talking with one of the center's Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood program representatives. A year later, Parrish had participated in the center's 24/7 Dad® program, and other services, and says he feels like a new man.

Quoting the article:

"We went from talking about my situation to him saying he might be willing to help me but at the same time, I had to be willing to help myself," Mr. Parrish said. "I had to partake in it; otherwise [my situation] wasn’t going to change."

Lois Nesci, CEO of Catholic Charities, said the program began about two years ago because fathers were an underserved segment of the population. "As they’ve [fathers] developed the skills for employment, their self-confidence increases," she said.

"Although they were somewhat involved in the lives of their children, they recognized, and we recognized, that they needed to learn better parenting skills," Ms. Nesci said. "They needed to learn ways to be more engaged with their children and their families and to develop the resources in order to become more self-sufficient. In addition to parenting skills, we also provide them with classes in financial literacy and also help them build their employment skills."

And that's great news because according to Mr. Parrish, the 24/7 Dad® fatherhood program has helped him:

  • In his relationship with his son’s mother - to show her that he's doing something constructive to be a better father. 
  • Learn how to better interact with women, and their expectations. 
  • Understand the demands and responsibility of being a father -- that it's more than just providing financially and picking up the child from school, etc. 
  • Learn to take care of himself and be healthy so that he can physically be there for his child.
Fathers can learn all this and and more through the 24/7 Dad® program. In fact, NFI Staff has worked with thousands of community based organizations who provide services to their neighbors in the community, and include 24/7 Dad®. Some common organizational implementations are:
  • Pregnancy Care Centers
  • Recovery Centers
  • Transitional Housing/Reentry Efforts
  • Rescue Missions
  • Workforce Development Organizations
  • Head Start / Early Childhood Development Programs
  • Community Action Agencies
  • Social Service Agencies / DHHS Program
Sound Off: How is your organization incorporating 24/7 Dad® into its wrap-around services? Why does it work for you?
Image credit: The Catholic Transcript Online

Embracing Fatherhood Within Addiction Recovery

This is a guest blog post by Jeff Spencer, M.Ed., ALC of IMPACT Family Counseling. Jeff works as the Fatherhood Coordinator and outpatient therapist. Before working at IMPACT he worked as addiction treatment counselor and case manager in an inpatient treatment facility. 

IMPACT fam counselingIMPACT Family Counseling, located in Birmingham Alabama, has the unique privilege of working with fathers in two area residential addiction treatment programs.  Clients in both programs are typically low-income individuals whose substance abuse problems greatly exacerbate the challenges of single parenting and economic instability. Family relationships in general have often been severely damaged by addiction-driven behaviors, contributing to a sense of guilt, shame, and discouragement.

24/7 Dad Handbook CoverIMPACT has been successfully working with addiction treatment clients and 24/7 Dad® since 2012, however, there is one main difficulty in working with this population: the danger of sending mixed messages about priorities. Treatment programs typically stress the importance on self-focus as a prerequisite of recovery.  (Alcoholics Anonymous calls this “keeping our side of the street clean”). While at the same time, fathers in our program are encouraged to prioritize their roles as fathers (which naturally incorporates an “others-focus”), which for many clients may be a new and overwhelming paradigm shift. 

Specifically, clients enrolled in our treatment programs are immersed in a recovery culture based largely on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, a program that stresses the importance of consistency, honesty, and present-focused self-awareness as keys to recovery. We have found that drawing from these concepts as part of our fatherhood program allows group members to embrace their roles as fathers within the context of their recovery. 

In fact, we frequently reference the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous to strengthen the connection between participants’ roles as fathers and their recovery. In other words, becoming a better father does not happen as a result of, but rather as a part of their continued recovery. In teaching from the 24/7 Dad® curriculum, we highlight the fact that characteristics of the 24/7 Dad® begin with adequate self-care. I encourage my facilitators to read the Big Book (especially “Bill’s Story” and “How It Works”) to gain a better understanding of recovery concepts and how they relate to concepts presented in 24/7 Dad®.

We place heavy emphasis on the Fourth Step (a “fearless and searching inventory of ourselves”) during the co-parenting section of 24/7 Dad®. Using the fourth step in context of the practical methods presented in the curriculum helps to strengthens the concept of personal responsibility and empathy when relating to co-parents. 

In addition, exploration of family history in the 24/7 Dad® curriculum has been a beneficial concept for dads in recovery. Many clients have shared emotional stories of their own fathers’ absences due to addiction or other problems. This contributes not only to a better understanding of how these patterns repeated in their own lives, but helps clients to realize how breaking the cycle can benefit their own children. 

We also place heavy focus on the Getting Involved section in 24/7 Dad®. Discussions of practical ideas for becoming more involved seem to lessen the overwhelming prospect of reestablishing connections severed by drug addiction. Dads are challenged to complete Involvement Plans and reminded that even phone calls or letters can lead to stronger connections with their children. Family members of addicts become painfully familiar with the erratic nature of substance abuse. Constructing specific involvement plans and maintaining consistency, even in the smallest things, can help dads in recovery rebuild trust in their children.

The great news is that by using the concepts already presented in a program of recovery, along with integration of the 24/7 Dad® program, we are yielding positive results in participants' in recovery. Clients have reported renewed understanding about their roles as fathers and how consistency and self-awareness (both recovery concepts) can rebuild broken relationships with children. 

If you have further questions about IMPACT Family Counseling’s effective integration of 24/7 Dad®, please contact Jeff Spencer at JS@ImpactAL.org

Implementing Evidence-Based Programs: The Devil in the Details

This is a guest blog post from Christopher Brown, Executive Vice President, National Fatherhood Initiative. 

evidenceThe federal government, many state governments, and many private funders continue to place an emphasis on funding evidence-based programs. Indeed, many funders now require the use of evidence-based programs for receipt of funds.

What is lost on many funders is how difficult it is to implement evidence-based programs with fidelity (i.e. as designed). The primary reasons are:

  • How difficult (and often impossible) it is to replicate the controlled environments in which evaluations are conducted.
  • Lack of access to the resources (e.g. funding and staffing) in which programs are rigorously evaluated.
  • The desire to implement evidence-based programs with populations or in settings that are different from the populations or settings in which programs are evaluated.

These reasons are compounded by one of the unintended consequences of the emphasis on funding only evidence-based programs—it sends the message that evidence-based programs are the only kinds of programs worthy of funding and implementation. Consequently, an organization might not be willing to use a program that could work well with the population it serves and in its setting simply because it hasn’t undergone a rigorous evaluation. 

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness among some funders of the difficulty in implementing evidence-based programs with fidelity and that there are other programs worthy of implementation that haven’t undergone rigorous evaluations. (These latter programs are typically called “promising programs”.) Some funders now allow grantees to modify the content and delivery of evidence-based programs, within certain limits, and the populations that participate in the programs that they fund. Other funders allow the organizations they fund to implement promising programs that have been shown to be effective based on less rigorous evaluations and programs with content that is informed by evidence. (These latter programs are typically called “evidence-informed programs”.)

This flexibility is wise because an organization that wishes to use an evidence-based program might lack the resources, staff, and organizational culture to implement that program with fidelity. That organization might serve a population and operate in a community that are quite different from those in which the program was evaluated, and it might be better served using a promising or evidence-informed program.

How do NFI’s programs and workshops address these difficulties? NFI provides Facilitator’s Manuals with all of our programs and workshops (and training institutes on our programs) that guide organizations on how to implement them with fidelity. When implementing with fidelity isn’t an option, the modular structure of our programs and workshops provides the flexibility to customize them based on organizations’ resources, cultures, populations served, and community-based settings.

Based on feedback from the organizations that use our programs and workshops, we know that most of them don’t implement our fatherhood programs and workshops exactly as they’re designed. These organizations value the ability to create customized programs by combining portions of our programs and workshops (and often adding our other resources) that best meet their needs and the needs of the fathers and families they serve. 

In closing, please don’t hesitate to contact our Program Support staff at programsupport@fatherhood.org or 240-912-1270. They can help you to create a customized solution for your organization that draws from our more than 100 resources, several of which are either evidence-based, evidence-informed, or promising programs.

For more information on all of our programs, workshops, and other fatherhood resources, visit www.fathersource.org

How to Help Fathers Navigate the Child Support System

One of the primary challenges faced by non-custodial fathers is how to effectively navigate the child support system. Research shows that when these fathers consistently pay their child support that their involvement in the lives of their children increases.

So how can you help them?

Helping fathers to effectively navigate the child support system is, consequently, a challenge for organizations that serve these fathers. A recent report from Public/Private Ventures (P/PV), Navigating the Child Support System: Lessons from the Fathers at Work Initiative summarizes this challenge within the context of workforce development and provides guidance that can help.

The report “aims to help meet this challenge by providing information, resources and tools to use at the intersection of workforce development and child support enforcement. The guide is based on lessons from the Fathers at Work initiative, a three-year, six-site demonstration funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which was designed to help young, noncustodial fathers achieve increased employment and earnings, involvement in their children's lives, and more consistent financial support of their children.” Moreover, it “describes child support enforcement regulations, policies and actions that can affect fathers' willingness to seek formal employment and participate in the system, and provides examples of four services that organizations might offer to benefit fathers and their families.”

While this report can prove to be helpful for organizations working with fathers, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) offers a new tool that organizations can use now to help meet this challenge.

FatherTopics Collection for Non-Custodial DadsAvailable through FatherSOURCE™.org, the new FatherTopics™ Collection for Non-Custodial Dads contains five workshop sessions that organizations can use as stand-alone workshops or to complement their fatherhood programs (e.g. 24/7 Dad®) to address selected topics that are very important and helpful for non-custodial fathers.

Most importantly, The Collection includes a session that helps fathers to better understand the importance of providing child support. They learn what this type of support means for their children and for their self-identification as a father. And beyond that, it emphasizes the value of all types of support given by a father (e.g. financial, emotional, and physical). As part of the Child Support Session content, fathers meet a local child support expert/representative and learn about child support enforcement and how to navigate the child support system.

Other sessions in the collection focus on several additional critical challenges faced by these fathers:

  • Access and visitation
  • Workforce readiness
  • Money management
  • Fathers’ rights and responsibilities.

In fact, the collection of workshops for fathers was field tested for one year by practitioners in New York City as part of the city’s fatherhood initiative; the feedback from these practitioners and the fathers who participated in the sessions was overwhelmingly positive.

FatherTopics Collection for Non-Custodial Dads offers a total of five 2-hour sessions your organization can run for non-custodial fathers to help them succeed as involved fathers. Click the button below to learn more about how to implement these sessions with non-custodial fathers you serve.

NEW! Resources from NFI to Help Moms Involve Dads

It's an exciting day at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) as we just launched a new line of products and services designed to help mothers support the involvement of fathers in their children’s lives!Resources for moms, communication, co-parenting, new moms

This new line of products and services for mothers complements NFI’s longstanding, industry-leading work to equip community-based organizations around the country with the tools and training needed to effectively serve fathers for the well-being of their children.

Today, over 24 million children in America live in in homes where their biological father is absent. All too often, a mothers' gatekeeping behavior can prevent or reduce fathers' access to their children - when fathers' involvement in their children's lives would actually benefit their children. In addition, mothers can lack the self-awareness and communications skills they need to improve their relationships with the fathers of their children.

It's important to note that we devised our new programming for moms based on feedback from hundreds of organizations around the country using our signature fatherhood programs and other NFI low and medium intensity resources. These organizations identified a great need to involve mothers in their efforts to connect fathers to their children, but saw no programming available to help them do so. And, they were seeking resources to encourage communication and co-parenting. Accordingly, NFI’s new programs – the first of their kind – will help moms become gateways, rather than gatekeepers, between their children and their children’s dads.

Understanding Dad™: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms anchors the new line of resources. This complete program kit helps mothers successfully navigate their relationships with the fathers of their children in a group-based program over 8 sessions. It will give moms the knowledge and skills they need to effectively communicate with the fathers of their children and to understand the critical role fathers play in children’s lives.

“Research shows that two of the most powerful predictors of father involvement for a child are the quality of the mother-father relationship and the way the child’s mother perceives the child’s dad,” said Christopher A. Brown, executive vice president of NFI. “NFI’s new programming aims to help moms develop the knowledge and skills they need for effective communication and come away with a positive impression of the role of fathers in children’s lives.”

Understanding Dad™ increases mothers’ self-awareness about the impact of their personal histories on their relationships with men and fathers, how their histories have shaped their communication with the fathers of their children, and provides them with research-based skills to overcome negative communication styles and replace them with positive ones.

Other products in the new line include Pocketbook for Moms™: A Pocketbook Full of Ways to Communicate with Dad and Pocketbook for New Moms™: A Pocketbook Full of Reasons for New Moms to Involve Dads. Pocketbook for Moms™ contains practical tips and strategies to help mothers build trust and positive communication patterns with dads. Pocketbook for New Moms™ helps moms understand the benefits of father involvement during pregnancy and during their children’s infant and toddler years and beyond.

Lastly, our popular FatherTopics Workshop: Mom as Gateway is already being used by oragnizations across the country to address mom's gatekeeping behavior, and is an excellent complement as an add-on to our new Understanding Dad Program.

All of the new resources are now available through FatherSOURCE™ along with customized NFI trainings and technical assistance that organizations can choose to help them effectively implement the new programs. And don't forget, NFI’s team of program support consultants, are here to help you start or enhance your fatherhood programsor create a custom program to meet your needs! 

Factor Fathers in 2013 - The Year You Involve Dads

Fatherhood Program

Many organizations who serve families and communities do excellent work toward providing resources to create happy, healthy, and propserous families. But unfortunately, many fail to intentionally include fathers in the work they are doing.

In 2013, do it for the children. Involve Dads in your work!

If you are an organization who is already focusing on fathers - great! We have 5 things to ensure your fatherhood program thrives. 

If you're not focusing on fathers, here are 5 ways you can jump-start your efforts, plus some recommended resources:

1. Assess Your Father-Friendliness.  When fathers come to your organization, do they only see images of mothers?  Are there any male staff members in your organization?  Your father involvement efforts won't be successful unless fathers feel comfortable. A simple way to help fathers feel more welcome is to use posters or a Fatherhood Kiosk in your lobby or waiting area.  

Not sure how father-friendly your organization is?  Take our FREE Father-Friendly Check-Up™ for a customized evaluation and helpful recommendations. Get started by clicking the button at the end of this blog post.
 

2. Focus Your Efforts. This is one of the most important steps in preparing to serve fathers, and therefore, the longest in this post.

What kind of fathers do I want to engage?  
Think about the fathers that may come to your organization, the types of families you serve, or the kind of fathers you're looking to serve.  What are these fathers' interest points, and what barriers may they have for father involvement? The answers to these questions will inform what kind of resources you use, and how you structure and market your programs.  
• If you want to educate new dads, look for programs with practical child health and safety information, like Doctor Dad®
• For engaging inmates, look at a reentry program, like InsideOut Dad®, designed to address inmates' unique barriers
• Conducting home visits?  Try a portable resource - like Dad's/New Dad's Pocket Guides, Tip Cards, or the 24/7 Dad® Interactive CD-ROM

How much time and budget does my staff/organization have to dedicate to fatherhood programming?
Considering this aspect will help you hone-in on the types of resources that will best fit your organization. NFI categorizes fatherhood programming into Low, Medium or High Intensity levels, based on the amount of staff time and budget you have to invest in serving fathers. Choose the level that best fits your commitment in 2013.

3. Partner with Other Organizations.  Be creative and look for a variety of non-profit and for-profit partners that will help you increase your reach and provide valuable resources that you may not have on your own.  You can use partners to create a referral network - have other organizations who aren't prepared to work with fathers refer them to you.  Or, for-profit partners may be able to fund your efforts or help with promotion.

4. Think About Sustainability.  Funding is a key part of any father involvement program.  Many organizations sustain their efforts through local, state, and federal grants.  Click here for a recording of our Financial Sustainability Webinar and get ideas for program sustainability.  

5. Start with a Kick-Off Event.  Ready to get started?  Hold a community-wide event to create exposure and excitement!  Whether it is a family fun day, father-child activities, or a basketball tournament, an event will help you expand your reach and create excitement for your upcoming programs and efforts. Consider handing out fatherhood skill building materials like brochures or 24/7 Dad® magnets. Use one of our Fatherhood Kiosks to make free fatherhood resources available to dads you serve!

Fathering after Domestic Violence?

Jack Kammer 78x100

This is a guest blog from NFI Program Support Consultant Jack Kammer, MSW. In 2012 Jack was named Outstanding Recent Graduate at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

A powerful idea in domestic violence circles is that a man, but not a woman, who has been abusive is disqualified as a loving parent. The mere allegation, to say nothing of the actual abuse (no matter how minor,) can prevent a father from having a role in his children’s lives. But there is reason to believe that idea may be fading.

On August 22, 2012, National Public Radio carried a report about efforts in New Haven, Connecticut to engage fathers in the lives of Head Start children. Predictably, the specter of male abusiveness came up. But this time NPR quoted Fernando Mederos, Ed.D., Director of Fatherhood Engagement in the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. He said, “What we owe [abused] women is to say to them, ‘What are your concerns about him and is there any way of having him involved with your kids in a safe way, even in a helpful way?’”

NFI understands that domestic violence is an important topic that deserves serious attention. But we sometimes get a bit weary of having domestic violence be the first thing that comes to people’s minds when we mention fathers in families. NFI works to make sure that men have the skills, confidence and support they need to be strong, confident, loving fathers, and we wish to highlight the sexism that paints fathers far too broadly and far too indelibly with the family violence brush.

The scientific evidence about domestic violence makes quite clear that it is a two-way street between women and men. We can argue whether the balance is 50-50, 60-40 or 35-65, but women as well as men can feel the unhealthy impulse toward power and control, the factors that contribute to domestic violence. And the evidence also calls into serious question the ready notion that when women are physically violent towards men it is only in self-defense; in fact, significant science suggests that women initiate more domestic violence than men do. (The annotated bibliography maintained by Martin Fiebert at the University of California, Long Beach, is a good place to start your own investigation of the science around domestic violence.)

Now, having said that, NFI readily acknowledges that when domestic violence involves serious injury, women are somewhere between three and seven times more likely than men to be the victims. And having said that, it is important to point out that most domestic violence – especially under the very broad and vague definitions propounded by some DV activists – does not involve serious injury. Furthermore, most men are not involved in domestic violence at all.

So, back to the initial question: Can a man who has been abusive be a loving parent? NFI is firmly committed to the idea that for most fathers, the answer can be a resounding yes, to the benefit of children, mothers, fathers, your agency and entire communities alike. NFI products such as our 24/7 Dad  and InsideOut Dad curricula and our Understanding Domestic Violence FatherTopics Workshop all help to provide fathers with the skills they need to understand and be understood by their partners through healthy, compassionate, nonviolent communication.

What do you think?

So NFI has a New Blog?

You may be wondering why you're here. Frankly, you may be wondering why we're here! Another blog from National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI)? I thought NFI already had a blog?

Well, we do! But yowelcome matu see, NFI's current Father Factor Blog discusses the father factor related to pop culture, news of the day, NFI happenings and campaigns, as well as other father-related stories and topics. 

Our new organization-focused blog, aptly named FatherTopics™, will address the topics and Technical Assistance (TA) that organizations and individuals doing fatherhood work need. We grabbed the name from our FatherTopics™ Workshops which some of you may be familiar with. FatherTopics™ Workshops are modules that you can add to your current fatherhood programming, or resources you can use as stand alone workshops to train dads on a variety of specific topics - such as Communication, Domestic Violence, Cultural Diversity, and Spirituality.

In a similar manner, this blog will serve as a location for the information and topics that matter to you - organizations and individuals working in the fatherhood field or other community organizations working with fathers. We hope to provide you with perspectives, best practices, and advice - so you are as equipped as possible to create sustainable fatherhood programs that meet the needs of your fathers and families.

This will also be a place for community, comments, and sharing of insight from other facilitators having success in the fatherhood field. It's the place where those of us doing fatherhood work come together to be even better - and more impactful - than we already are, to ensure every child grows up with a 24/7 Dad™. 

So on the note of community and sharing, let me tell you who I am and why I'm here.

My name is Melissa Steward, and I'm NFI's VP of Marketing and Program Support. I oversee NFI's Resource Center FatherSOURCE, Program Support Team, and our Graphics Department. I am also part of NFI's Product Development Team and Communications Team. Basically, I'm blessed to touch many parts of NFI in an effort to bring you - the organizations in the field using our resources and training fathers - the information, TA, and guidance you need to do your work even better. There's no greater feeling than coming to work every day knowing you are making a difference in the lives of children by helping equip those in the fatherhood field, to help dads be better dads. And although I don't get to see the results of my work first hand, I'm glad to be here supporting you.

So, sit back. Stay awhile. And join us on this adventure in blogging - the FatherTopics™ way. I'm sure you will be glad you did. 

Please introcuce yourself in the comment section below, and tell us what FatherTopics™ you want to hear about on this blog!

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