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The Father Factor

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Nick Smarrelli

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How To Start A Fatherhood Initiative

This is a guest blog written by NFI Sr. Program Support Consultant, Ave Mulhern. If you would like to blog for us, please send an email.

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In my role at NFI as a Senior Program Support Consultant, I talk to people from across the U.S. regarding the topic of fatherhood. Sometimes it is a dad looking for ways to connect with his child, and many times it's an organization looking for our great resources or trainings; in general, I speak to impassioned people who simply see the need to engage fathers in their community, and specifically, to educate the community on the impact father absence is having.

And very often, no matter what their role or background, they just don’t know how or where to start a Fatherhood Initiative.

To begin, I point them to the father absence Statistics section on our website www.fatherhood.org.  There, they can sharpen their understanding of the impact of father absence on common societal issues and concerns such as Poverty, Education, Emotional/Behavioral Problems, Teen Pregnancy, Childhood Obesity, and more. This helps individuals and organizations "make the case" for a fatherhood inititive, whether it be to a boss, a community organization, or even a town Mayor.

Many are astounded to see that this kind of data shows a direct connection between father absence and the issues communities and children face each and every day.

For example, the Father Factor in Maternal & Child Health area shows: Babies with a father’s name on the birth certificate are 4 times more likely to live past 1 year of age.  Source: Alio, A.P., Mbah, A.K., Kornosky, J.L., Marty, P.J. & Salihu, H.M. "The Impact of Paternal Involvement on Feto-Infant Morbidity among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics". Matern Child Health J. 2010; 14(5): 735-41.

And the Father Factor in Teen Pregnancy shows: Adolescent girls who reported higher levels of relationship quality with their fathers were less likely to have sex before age 16, compared with adolescent girls who reported lower levels of father-daughter relationship quality. Source: Ikramullah, E., Manlove, J., Cui, C., & Moore, K. A. (2009). Parents matter: The role of parents in teens’ decisions about sex. Washington, D.C.: Child Trends.

Then, for those looking to provide specific research on both the cost of father absence and the benefits of father involvement, I recommend Father Facts 6, a comprehensive survey of the last 5 years of Census Bureau data and social science research. This collection of data gives a clear picture of the causes and consequences of father absence, and provides the reader with the data needed to make the case for father involvement!  

NFI also has a great tool for those who want to start working with fathers in their community but are not sure how… A Guide to Strengthening Fatherhood in Your Community™ provides helpful and practical information on how to start your own organization, start serving fathers from an existing organization, offer fatherhood programming in your community, raise funds, and mobilize your community around the issue of father absence. This is the most comprehensive resource available for those interested in promoting father involvement locally.

And from here, some next steps: 

Preparing Teens for Fatherhood with Boyz2Dads

The following is a guest post by Shawn O'Keefe, Youth Programs Specialist for Newport News Department of Human Services. If you would like to guest blog for us, email here.

As a Youth Program Specialist, it is my job to provide prevention, education, leadership, and youth development programming and opportunities to young people in the middle and high school age range.boyz2dads blog pic

One of the curricula I researched was the Boyz2Dads™ program, which I have been using now for the last three years. I like the Boyz2Dads™ program for many reasons:

  • It has a pregnancy prevention component focused on young boys instead of girls
  • It is computer based
  • It allows for discussion about the roles/responsibilities of fathers, as well as the characteristics that make good fathers

I have had the opportunity to implement the program several different ways and in various venues. I have facilitated the program in a high school, at a Boys and Girls Club, a middle school summer enrichment program, and inside the city’s Juvenile Detention Facility. Through trial and error, I have found that the best practices for the most effective implementation of Boyz2Dads is for the group to be limited to no more than 10-15 participants; individual access to a computer; headphones for each participant; and scheduling the program in six 45 minute to one hour sessions once per week.

Interestingly, I have had the most success with the young men in the city’s Juvenile Detention Facility, which was really a big surprise. I thought of any of the young men I was working with that this group would think the program was “whack” or “corny” or just a waste of time. I have found quite the opposite. These young men don’t want to wait for me to come back the following week to complete the next level-they want to complete all six levels that day! They say, “The graphics aren’t as good as the Playstation or XBOX games, but the levels are interesting” and they love the discussion afterwards. That’s right…a group of 10-15 teen boys that I sometimes have a hard time getting to shut up!

As a single father of two sons, it is a joy for me to see these young men I work with start to redefine what it means to be a dad and a man.  You hear them say things such as, “When I’m a dad, I’m gonna make sure my kids know I love them,” or, “I used to think it was gay for a man to kiss another man, but if you really love your dad or son, there’s nothing wrong with kissing them,” and, “My kids might not get everything they want, but I’m going to be there for them and spend time with them.” 

One of our funding sources was impressed with the work I was doing with the young men and the Boyz2Dads program. He had been reading my reports and wanted to know exactly how and what I was doing. After speaking to my Supervisor and her telling him that I have impacted 170 young men who have all shown an increase in the knowledge of the impact fathers have on their children and families and what characteristics make a good father, he asked, “How would you like some more money so you can offer some more fatherhood programs?” 

WHAT!??! More money to make more of an impact!? You know we said, "YES"!

Photo credit here.

NFI's Community Mobilization Approach Workshop

This is a guest blog from NFI Senior Program Support Consultant, Ave Mulhern

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Capacity-building is the way in which organizations build up their staff and organizational capacity to successfully run programs.

When is comes to training and serving fathers in your community, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) wants your fatherhood program to be the best it can be, and reach as many dads as possible. That's why capacity-building is so important and will help your fatherhood program succeed, thrive, and effectively serve fathers.

To that end, please join us for NFI's Community Mobilization Approach Workshop in Germantown, MD on January 30, 2012 where you will learn how your organization can create lasting change in your community by working to engage all sectors of society to increase the number of children who grow up with involved, responsible fathers. 

Hear from Ave Mulhern, NFI's Sr. Program Support Consultant, about NFI's work with numerous organizations in the over the years to successfully mobilize communities around responsible fatherhood. 

During this workshop you will learn about: 

• How to raise up new fatherhood champions that represent all sectors of your community

• A needs and assets assessment process you can use to jumpstart a community-wide fatherhood initiative 

• Other cities, counties, and states that have successfully implemented the Community Mobilization Approach

We look forward to you dedicating your time with us!

Click Here to Learn More and Register for Our Upcoming Capacity Building Workshop>>

The Why to Why Knot?™

This is a guest blog written by NFI Senior Program Support Consultant, Ave Mulhern.

Without going into detail, my son, much to his dismay at age 25 is back living at home.  He is finishing his degree and looking to start a career. In the last year or so has he started to become serious about his faith, school, the future, and of course, relationships.  Why?

why knot

Maybe because my husband and I have been married for over 37 years and although, imperfect as we are, we have set the bar high about committed relationships to both of our children.  Surrounded by messages from media and seeing friends and extended family living together without marriage or having children out of wedlock, my husband and I commend him on his willingness to do things right and in order.

Because of the work I do for National Fatherhood Initiative my son has been maybe a bit over exposed to this great work we do.  Talk of fatherhood seems to make it’s way into conversations about almost everything.

As a Sr. Program Support Consultant for NFI, I connect individuals and organizations to research, resources, and tools that will help them engage and equip men to be involved, responsible and committed fathers to their child(ren).  Why? The message is that father’s are irreplaceable in their child’s life.  The other message that NFI consistently supports is the importance of the father’s relationship with the child’s mother.  

You may say, well, okay, agreed -- but Why the push about marriage?

Did you know the most common reason fathers are not involved with children is because they are not married to the mother of their children? Father absence and un-involvement typically occurs in a divorced or never-married parental situation.

So there's the "Why's" for creating a marriage readiness program for men:

-There is a noticeable gap existing in programs that are designed to prepare couples and individuals for marriage who are not already involved in a romantic relationship and considering marriage.

-Also, no widely used program specifically focuses on the issues that men face when making decisions about marriage. This fact is important to note because men are much more likely than women to instigate a marriage proposal and engagement. Consequently, it is paramount that our society equips men with the tools to start and sustain a long and happy marriage to the mother of their children or future children.

NFI’s Why Knot? is a unique program for single men and fathers. A marriage-readiness program for men in a groundbreaking curriculum that prepares men for healthy relationships and equips them to make one of the most important decisions they'll ever make! This program helps men breakdown common misconceptions about relationships and marriage, equips men with important relationship skills, and helps men assess their readiness for marriage.  Created for men ages 18-30, it's the perfect compliment to programs that provide relationship skills critical to sustaining healthy marriages. 

Why Why Knot?  

We know a child does best in a healthy and stable marriage.  So, if that is the “true north,” then we are selling our children (and families) short if we are not discussing marriage as an option and providing couples with skill building tools to attain healthy marriages.

Engaging Your Community - Again!

This is a guest blog from NFI Program Support Consultant, Ave Mulhern

On August 30th at 2pm EST, NFI will offer a Free Webinar on the Community Mobilization Approach!computer hand mouse

Why Community Mobilization? 

An organization’s fatherhood program can be greatly enhanced to improve the well being of it’s children with a community that understands the connection between father absence and the community’s negative social issues. Take a look at the statistics.

Along with research and statistics, NFI has a number of resources to help educate and empower agencies and their communities.  NFI's Guide to Strengthening Fatherhood in Your Community™ provides helpful information on how to: start your own organization, start serving fathers from an existing organization, offer fatherhood programming in your community, raise funds, and mobilize your community around the issue of father absence.  

NFI also provides customizable Capacity-Building Workshops with topics like Community Mobilization for Fatherhood Programs and Social Marketing for Fatherhood Programs. These workshops are essential if you are looking to enhance your presence and gain support from your community.  

In addition, when dads are involved from the start of a child's life they make a unique and invaluable contribution to the health of their child and the mom. For research and statistics check out Father Factor in Maternal Health and Infant Mortality.

Don't forget to join us for the Community Mobilization Approach Webinar on Thursday August, 30th at 2pm! Register Now >

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