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The Father Factor

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Vincent DiCaro

Vince is NFI's Vice President of Communication and Development. He is married to Claudia, has one son with another son on the way and lives in Maryland.
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Recent Posts

Top 5 Reasons to Donate to NFI

NFI’s new fiscal year starts on October 1, so we are already planning for “2014.” Here is how you can help us (with a tax deductible donation!) make it a banner year for educating, equipping, and engaging our nation about responsible fatherhood.

1)    Fund the next Father Factsfatherhood.org_logo
2)    Reunite military fathers with their children
3)    Help incarcerated fathers become better dads
4)    Be the voice for fatherhood
5)    Develop the next generation of fatherhood education

1)    Fund the next Father Facts
Every few years, NFI produces the industry-standard research compilation on the causes and consequences of father absence. We call it Father Facts; we will produce Father Facts 7 in 2014. A donation of just $10 will go towards helping us compile and produce the book that media, government, nonprofits, and every day parents use to get the latest data and research on fatherhood.

Fund the next Father Facts!

 



2) Reunite military fathers with their children
Since 2001, NFI has created and distributed a portfolio of fatherhood skill-building materials to the U.S. military. Since then, over 300,000 military dads have received an NFI resource. A donation of just $10 will help us equip even more military dads in 2014.

Reunite military fathers with their children!

 



3) Help incarcerated fathers become better dads
Over 400 prisons across the country are using NFI’s program for incarcerated fathers, InsideOut Dad®. It is the only evidence-based program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers to help them connect with their children while in prison and successfully re-enter their communities upon release. It is even contributing to reducing recidivism, which is the rate at which people return to prison after leaving. So far, 25 state departments of corrections have “standardized” InsideOut Dad® for use across their states. Help us get the other 25 on board in 2014!

Help dads in prison connect with their kids!

 

 

4) Be the voice for fatherhood
Since its founding in 1994, NFI has taken pride in its position as a prominent voice for fatherhood in media and government. In 2014, we will continue pounding the pavement in Washington, DC, advocating for policies that support fatherhood. And we will continue to hit the airwaves to talk about the unique and irreplaceable role that fathers play in their children’s lives.

Be the voice for fatherhood!

 



5) Develop the next generation of fatherhood education
At NFI, we are never satisfied with the status quo. We are always looking for ways to improve the skill-building materials we've created, and to create new ones that address what today's fathers are facing. In 2014, we already have plans to create a huge online tool to help fathers build their skills. Help us develop this and other cutting-edge fatherhood resources!

Develop next-gen fatherhood education!

When Moms Mark Their Territory

Over the last four decades, men have had to give up their “territory” in the workplace to make room for women. Culturally, we’ve gone from Mad Men to the Working Mother 100 Best Companies list. But has the same change happened at home? Have moms given up their “territory” to make rooms for dads? 

While a definitive answer to such a complex question is hard to come by, we occasionally come across evidence that the answer is “not yet.” Take the incident outlined in this segment that aired yesterday on Good Morning America. 

Can't see the video? Watch it here.

It is disappointing to see that some moms have such low expectations for fathers. Why is this the case? Certainly, dads have done their part in lowering our culture’s expectations of fatherhood (see data on father absence here). But another significant part of it comes down to a basic human emotion that was mentioned at the end of the GMA segment: jealousy. 

I was not old enough during the 1970’s when the workplace started to transition from a man’s world to a more equal place, but I imagine that many men during that time felt jealous that the women in their lives were being seen as equally capable of doing what they had been doing at work for generations. Today, as men are starting to do the same things women do at home – like care for babies – many women are feeling jealous. After all, since time immemorial, moms have been seen as the “default” parent and nurturer of children. I think it is inevitable that some moms are going to feel a bit jealous that dads are taking on that role with aplomb.  

However, given the economic realities of the day, moms and dads have to share responsibilities at both work and home. It is becoming less and less possible for one parent to work, one to stay at home, and for that to be a static situation for a family for an extended period of time. Families have to be fluid and respond to the economic environment, like the family depicted in the GMA segment, where the Google-employed mom was the one who continued working after the baby was born for reasons I imagine were related to her pay, flexibility, and workload. 

The best news in all of this – we know from decades of research that kids do best when raised by both of their parents, and when dad is involved in providing for, nurturing, and guiding his children. So, moms should be celebrating the dads who are finding various ways to be involved in the lives of their children. I think many are, but as this segment shows, some moms are still jealously guarding their territory. 

Do you know any moms who are jealously guarding their territory at home and in the playground? Let us know in the comments.

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Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin Partners with NFI to Strengthen Fatherhood

Two-year project aims to increase father involvement and reduce the possibility of father absence in the lives of children in the 9th District of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

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In a press release today from PRWeb, Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin (D)-District 9 and the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) have partnered to create a multi-sector initiative to strengthen fatherhood in southern Prince George’s County.

Using its Community Mobilization Approach™, NFI will work with Council Member Franklin and County leaders to engage 11 sectors in District 9, with a goal of increasing the involvement of fathers and father-figures in the lives of Prince George’s County children. The 11 sectors are government, faith-based, social service, education, health, law enforcement, philanthropic, community activist, civic, business, and media.

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods,” said Council Member Franklin. “The District 9 Fatherhood Initiative is an opportunity for a true public-private partnership to achieve this important goal. With NFI’s outstanding expertise and research-based methods, we will be better able to measurably improve the lives of children and families in southern Prince George’s County.”

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods.” —Council Member Franklin

NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ (CMA) consists of three phases:

  1. a needs and assets assessment of the community’s ability to promote responsible fatherhood; 
  2. a Leadership Summit on Fatherhood attended by community leaders; and 
  3. implementing an action plan for a fatherhood initiative that uses NFI resources and solutions generated by the district.

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families,” said NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere. “It will also provide the structure for Prince George’s County Government to lead a mobilization effort and establish model direct-service providers in different sectors to serve as benchmarks on how to involve more fathers in the lives of their children.”

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families.” —NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere

Over the course of the next two years, NFI will lead the residents of District 9 through the three phases with in-person training, technical assistance, web-based support, events, and other initiatives. At the conclusion of this set of activities, leaders and organizations will be identified in District 9 to comprise a Fatherhood Advisory Committee (FAC) and a plan to guide the FAC in continuing to mobilize the district.

As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 6.3 million resources, and has trained over 12,900 practitioners on how to deliver programming to dads. NFI is the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 2,400 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

Prince George’s County is a diverse community of nearly 900,000 residents located in Maryland, adjacent to Washington, DC. District 9 comprises the southeastern third of Prince George’s County’s land mass, including much of the Rural Tier and the communities of Accokeek, Aquasco, Baden, Brandywine, portions of Camp Springs, Cheltenham, Clinton, Croom, Eagle Harbor, portions of Fort Washington, Piscataway, and portions of Upper Marlboro, as well as Joint Base Andrews. Council Member Mel Franklin has represented District 9 since his election to a four-year term in November 2010. Council Member Franklin chairs the County Council’s Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee. He is married. He and his wife have two children.

With T1D Care, #DadsWay is Indispensable

One of the saddest statistics I have seen is that divorce rates among couples with special needs children are higher than among the general population. This breaks my heart. In situations where it is most critical for a couple to stay together so they can work together for the good of their children, there is even more family breakdown.

dadswayAnd the sad reality is that one of the main reasons for this breakdown is that too many fathers are walking away from difficult situations. My friend’s wife counsels women who are in high-risk pregnancies, and he swears that by the end of their wives’ terms, half the fathers have left. And often, even if they stay, they don’t make the selfless changes necessary to accommodate the special needs of the wife going through the difficult pregnancy.  

Again, this is heart breaking. At their wives’ and children’s most needful hour, their attitude is “this is not what I signed up for; I’m outta here.”  

That is why when my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) last June, I knew that I needed to step up in a big way. Responsible fatherhood needed to take on a whole new meaning for me. My son deserved for me to be there for him. My wife deserved for me to be there for her.  

Thankfully, due to incredible medical breakthroughs, T1D has become a manageable disease. But it still takes constant vigilance. You can’t take a day off from managing it. Really, you can’t even take several hours off from managing it. Our son is 3-1/2, so he is not yet at the age where he can tell us when he doesn’t feel quite right. It is up to us to figure it out, which involves checking his blood sugar every few hours (even in the middle of the night). It means making constant adjustments to his insulin pump to ensure that we are keeping his blood sugar under control.  

And none of these actions or decisions is made without my wife and I working together. And what makes it work even better, what gives it that magical synergy, is that my wife and I both approach things differently. Right on par with the research about how moms and dads take different approaches to parenting, my wife and I take different approaches to diabetes management! For example, my wife tends to be much more cautious/worried when it comes to dealing with his high blood sugars, whereas I tend to be a little more laissez faire and patient; what this creates is a perfect balance where we are not overreacting, nor are we standing idly by.  

Aside from the “transactional” part of managing the disease, there is the relational part as well. My wife and I both relate to my son differently, and we can already see how our son reacts and interacts with us differently. He makes it clear that he is happiest when both my wife and I are with him, eating dinner together, watching a movie, whatever. He gets irreplaceable comfort and security from our presence. When he wants to be thrown (high) into the air, he comes to me. When he wants to cuddle he goes to mom (I cuddle him, and my wife throws him (low) in the air, too, but I am talking about “on average” here).  

Short of there being a cure, my son will always have T1D, which means that I will always have to work with my wife to ensure that he grows up as happy, healthy, and normal as possible. This is a team task, and my wife and I are our son’s perfect team.  

Being there for my wife and my son to help him overcome the challenge of T1D – that’s #DadsWay.  

You may be wondering why we are using the hashtag #DadsWay. From now until June 23, every time you Tweet using the hashtag #DadsWay, Tide and Downy will donate $1 to National Fatherhood Initiative! So, if you are on Twitter, sign in and tell us what #DadsWay means to you.   

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The Heart of NFI’s Work

As NFI adds more and more followers, blog readers, and “fans” via our social media tools, it often occurs to me that many of you may only have a very vague idea of what constitutes the core of NFI’s work as a nonprofit organization. Many of you may simply think of us as "those folks who write stuff online about fatherhood."

iod training3 060613

So, this morning, I headed over to the local hotel’s meeting room to gather some physical evidence of the “real” grassroots work we do to strengthen fatherhood across the country.

This morning, NFI’s Senior Director of Program Support Services, Mike Yudt, is delivering a full-day training session on our InsideOut Dad® program for incarcerated fathers. The folks we are training are a dedicated group of professionals who work in communities around the country (we even have a guest from Hawaii!) and are striving to ensure that their agencies offer programs for fathers.

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So, they come to us to learn how to deliver our fatherhood curricula to the dads in their communities. Today is day three of a three-day program in which we trained groups of practitioners on our 24/7 Dad® program, our Doctor Dad® workshop, and today, InsideOut Dad®. Our trainees are folks who see that their communities’ notions of serving “families” often means serving mothers and children. They want to close that gap by ensuring that dads are getting the help they need, too.

iod training1 060613

How often do we do this sort of thing? Well, in many ways it is our “bread and butter.” Since 2002, we have trained nearly 13,000 individuals from nearly 6,000 organizations on how to deliver fatherhood programs into their communities. We have also distributed over 6.3 million fatherhood resources (brochures, books, CD-ROMs, etc) to help dads build their fathering skills.

This is the work that keeps us ticking. This is the heart of what NFI does.

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Great Commercial. Bad tagline.

I love the pro-fatherhood imagery in this commercial. Take a look:

Everything is perfect until the tagline. I think it should say the opposite, “It’s good to be a friend. It’s better to be a dad.”

Kids have plenty of friends (usually), but they only have one dad. There is something unique and irreplaceable about being a dad, and while being a friend to your child can certainly be part of that, there is so much more to it than that.

You are their teacher, their guide, their protector, their provider, their nurturer. I don’t think we typically expect all of that from our friends. Furthermore, one could even argue that kids don't need another friend in their dad; they need a parent. I’ve heard more than one story of a dad trying to be his child’s “friend” and finding out the hard way that the child needed a lot more than that, especially in the area of discipline.

Anyway, maybe I am splitting hairs on this one. The “feeling” that the commercial gives me is great. I just wish they had come up with a better tagline. This tagline almost ruins the commercial because it makes fatherhood out to be less than what I think it really is.

What do you think? Is it better to be a “dad” or a “friend” to your child?

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(Video) Oprah Talks Fatherhood, Plans to Talk Single Mothers

“Part of [the problem is in] our culture. We talk about fathers almost solely as providers. If you look at the way the government treats fathers, we have the child support system for dads who aren't married to mom and the tax code for the rest of us.” —Roland C. Warren, Board Member, National Fatherhood Initiative   

That is how Roland explained, on Oprah’s LifeClass this past Sunday, why so many fathers in our nation walk away from their kids. Too many men, for a variety of reasons, including insufficient cultural norms, think that all they can contribute to their children is their wallets. So, when their “economics” aren’t right, they feel they have nothing to offer.  

But as Roland says in the below video, “good dads, provide, nurture, and guide.”  

Watch the video to see what this dad, Dwayne, said about why he left his family, and Roland’s response.  

Can't view the video? Click here.

Tune in this Sunday for another episode of Oprah’s LifeClass, where Roland, Oprah, and Iyanla talk to single moms raising boys alone, and the various issues they face. The show will air Sunday, May 12, at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

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Oprah, NFI, and Fatherhood

Oprah Winfrey remains one of the most influential people in the country. The fact that she is using her influence to highlight the crisis of father absence in America is remarkable.  

941587 648061311886864 788336605 n resized 600Back in 2002, when I first started working at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we got a call from the producers of The Oprah Winfrey Show, asking us to help them locate fathers who would want to be on their show. We did that, and we also were able to get our then-president, Roland C. Warren, to serve as that episode’s “fatherhood expert.” The show was called “The Secret Thoughts of Fathers” and it was one of Oprah’s most powerful shows.  

And it really started something. Roland went on to do three more shows within the next year and a half, helping Oprah deal with a variety of issues around fatherhood, parenting, and marriage.  

Fast forward to 2013, and here we are again, and it is clear that Oprah’s commitment to strengthening fatherhood has not faltered. As Oprah’s LifeClass headed into production of a new series of “fatherhood shows,” they wanted Roland back to fulfill his role as the fatherhood expert who could help Oprah’s guests navigate their issues.  

The first of the three shows that were created airs this Sunday at 9 pm eastern on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). It is called “Fatherless Sons, Part 1,” and it is powerful. Take a look at a sneak peak video.  

What if America's sons didn't have to grow up without their fathers? What difference could it make? It's a problem that's been going on for too long and at too great a cost. And it's time to talk about it. Tune in Sunday, May 5, at 9/8c for a special two-hour Oprah's Lifeclass with Iyanla Vanzant.

The audience will be filled with men who grew up without fathers. Men who still feel the pain from having been abandoned or ignored by their dads. Men whose relationships are still suffering because of the damage done by neglectful fathers. Men who have not gotten closure.  

This show serves as a step towards getting closure. With help from Iyanla Vanzant, Oprah, and Roland, the dads begin the healing process. The even better part about it is that viewers at home will be able to tap into the wisdom, advice, and shared experiences that are highlighted on the show, so that they can begin healing, too. This show has the potential to help millions of men come to terms with how father absence has affected them, which will only serve to help their own children have better fathers in the long run.  

As always, NFI has a portfolio of resources at the ready to support the dads who watch the show and are looking for the tools they need to implement change. Visit our “Fatherless Sons” page for more. And re-visit this blog next week to get our full commentary on Sunday’s show.  

Tune in Sunday, May 5, at 9 pm eastern on OWN to watch “Fatherless Sons, Part 1” with NFI board member, Roland C. Warren, and join us on Twitter (@thefatherfactor) for the live chat using #FatherlessSons and #Lifeclass.

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Moms Should “Lean In” …to Fatherhood

business woman 320 resized 600The mommy wars continue. Should today’s women dedicate themselves more to their careers so they can “catch up” to men – to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg suggests – or should they dedicate themselves more to motherhood because their kids need them?  

How about a third way?  

I propose that if moms want to do better at both parenting and work, they have to “lean in” to fatherhood.  

Yes, moms should do as much as they can to support the involvement of their children’s fathers in their children’s lives, because it will help them thrive at both home and in their careers.  

How?  

Research shows that two of the most powerful predictors of father involvement are mom’s perception of dad’s competence and the quality of their relationship with each other. In other words, moms can act as gatekeepers or gateways; they are largely responsible for either facilitating father involvement or holding it back.   

When fatherhood is “held back” – when fathers are unable or unwilling to embrace the fullness of their roles – moms become disproportionately responsible for what is happening at home. And, logically, if mom is responsible for a disproportionate share of the tasks at home, it is going to be harder for her to dedicate herself at work as much as she may need to.  

My own situation paints a picture. My wife and I both work full time, and my wife is fully supportive of my role as a dad. She lets me do things my way. I typically leave for work later than her and get home earlier than her, so I usually take our son to daycare and pick him up at the end of the day, I usually give him breakfast in the morning, and I usually cook dinner at night. He has Type 1 Diabetes, so I have to do what is needed to care for that complicated disease.   

Because my wife trusts me to do these things with a level of competence, she is thriving in her career. When the daycare calls and there is an issue with our son, I usually take care of it, not because my wife is a bad mother, but because she is an hour away, and I am 5 minutes away. In other words, my wife rarely has to take off from work or leave work early to care for our son during the workday.   

As an auditor who has to travel around the region quite a bit, if she was forced by circumstance (my absence) or choice (a belief that she parents better than me) to be the go-to parent for our son’s needs, her career would suffer. Neither her boss nor her clients would be able to count on her to be where she needs to be, when she needs to be there.  

Furthermore, when she comes home from work, she doesn’t have to do all the housework and childcare by herself. We work together; she lets me contribute even though I do things differently. Thus, she is able to focus not just on “housekeeping,” but on being a mommy.  

You may be thinking that moms obviously want help from dads. I think you are right, but it is part of human nature that we don’t always behave in a way that will get us what we really want. For example, mom wants dad to help at bath time, but vehemently criticizes him for using too much soap, so he is now reluctant to ever help at bath time again (this is a true story).  

So, the key then is to help moms align their desires (more help from dad so she can thrive at home and work) with their behaviors (acting as gateways to father involvement rather than gatekeepers) so that moms, dads, and most importantly, kids, are getting what they need.  

understanding dadWell, NFI has “an app” for that. We just launched a new line of products and services designed to help mothers support father involvement.  

Based on feedback from hundreds of organizations around the country using NFI’s signature fatherhood programs, the new materials will help mothers successfully navigate their relationships with the fathers of their children. Specifically, 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. Understanding Dad™: An Awareness and Communication Program for Moms is the flagship curriculum anchoring this new initiative.  

This is just another way that NFI is responding to what is happening in our culture with practical, timely solutions that move people from inspiration (something needs to be done!) to implementation (here is an actual program that we can start using today!).

Question: What do you think is the most difficult thing about parenting? 

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photo credit: Victor1558

I Ate Last Week: What "The Croods" Teaches Us About Fatherhood

Having worked in the “fatherhood field” for nearly 11 years, I have heard, seen, and read a lot about fatherhood. However, I am always surprised that so many of these conversations are disconnected from the one thing that actually makes guys dads: children.

the croods grug

In fact, a friend of mine once asked a room full of “fatherhood experts” what makes a man a dad. There was silence; no one could figure out that the answer is “having kids.” Perhaps it is our modern desire to “self actualize” or find the intimately personal meaning behind our lives’ activities that drives many men to talk about fatherhood almost exclusively in terms of how it affects them. “My blog, my career, my self-esteem, my health, my this, and my that improved when I became a dad!”

However, every once in a while I see something in our culture that gives me hope. While an animated movie may not be one’s first guess for where to find deep wisdom on fatherhood, I was not let down by the upcoming DreamWorks film, The Croods.

The Croods is the tale of the “first modern family” that has to leave the safety of its cave and venture off into an unknown land to find a new home. The dad, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage), is the family’s main guide on their road trip, and the film is filled with profound messages about the important role dads play in their children’s lives.

There is one scene in particular that summarizes the movie’s valuable perspective on fatherhood. The family has just found a large egg to share for breakfast. Each family member – mom, baby, son, daughter, and grandma – takes a sip out of the cracked egg. Then it’s dad’s turn. He turns the egg over and only a tiny drop comes out. Instead of complaining, he shrugs it off and says, “That’s ok. I ate last week.”

While the rest of the theater was laughing, I was nearly in tears. The writers got it! That is what fatherhood is all about. Fatherhood is about sacrificing your own comfort to ensure that your family is comfortable. It is about ensuring that your children are first and you are last.

The “fatherhood framework” that the film beautifully captures is this: good fathers provide for, nurture, and guide their children. In that one line of dialogue, Grug shows us how to do all three. Provide: he led the operation to catch the egg that they are eating. Nurture: he let them eat first. Guide: he showed them the right values through his self-sacrificial act of putting the needs of others ahead of his own.

It may be too much to hope that one family film will change the way we all look at fatherhood. But I am confident that The Croods will serve as a powerful reminder that the only measure of a father’s worth that counts is whether or not his children are getting what they need from him.

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Photo credit: Dreamworks (Grug holding NFI's Fatherhood Award)

The Croods and “Leaning In”

It seems that strong women beget strong women. However, research also shows that involved fathers beget strong women. Let me explain...  

the croods CDS FirstLook 21 4K RGB v10 1 rgb resized 600Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has made headlines recently by imploring today’s working women to “lean in” to their careers in order to reach their full professional potential.

According to a CBS News story, “If there's one message she wants women to hear it's to aim high -- seek challenges and take risks -- and fight the instinct to hold back.”  

Much of the response to Sandberg’s idea has focused on whether or not women should try to act more like men, whether it is appropriate for women to “lean in” as much as Sandberg thinks they should, what the future of work-life balance policy is, etc.  

I am not going to get into that debate. Rather, I think it is critical that we are honest about the characteristics that many successful women tend to share – they grew up with involved dads.  

The conventional wisdom seems to be that strong women beget strong women. I don’t doubt that that is true… to a degree. But what research has shown consistently is that involved fathers beget strong women.  

For example:

  1. Children who have involved fathers expressed emotions in non-traditional gender patterns. Girls express more aggression, competition, and less intense fear and sadness whereas boys expressed more warmth and fear as well as less aggression. Also, 3 to-5-year-old children with highly involved fathers had less traditional views of future employment possibilities when they became adolescents than did their peers whose fathers were more aloof.
  2. A study of 302 adolescent girls showed that those who feel connected with their biological father but have little contact are at higher risk of problematic psychosocial functioning. Poor school behavior also increases for girls with low contact levels with their father.
  3. Fathers’ emotional involvement in the lives of their child can lead to less gendered roles.
  4. Fathers have a unique effect on their daughter’s tendency towards anti-social behavior. A study of 325 families revealed that fathers who present their daughters with more opportunities and reinforcement lessen the likelihood of their daughters’ poor behavior.

Having recently seen the upcoming DreamWorks Animation Film, The Croods, and then seeing what Sandberg had to say about women in the workplace, I couldn’t help but make the connection to this compelling data.  

While you may not think of an animated cavegirl as the poster child for today’s working women, the reality is that Eep (pictured above on her father's shoulder), the young girl in the Croods’ family, drives the film’s plot through her desire to “leave the cave” and find new adventures out in the wide world. And guess what? She had a great dad.  

As you may have seen on this blog, we gave Grug a Fatherhood Award™ for his heroic fathering in the film. Sure, these aren’t real people, but they are archetypes that mean something in our culture; the makers of The Croods have tapped into something very real. The reason Eep had the confidence to step out into a dangerous world is because she knew her father had her back. She may have been rebelling, and her father may have seen it as such, but the reality is that she would not have had the foundation to take such bold steps if she didn’t come from a supportive, strong family whose bedrock (Flintstones pun not intended) was dad. Again, take a look at the above data points if you have your doubts.  

If a movie, even an animated one set in a fantasy world, is too unhinged from reality it will not be successful. That is why we at NFI believe The Croods is a special movie. DreamWorks is tapping into a truth about what gives children, especially girls in this case, the confidence they need to reach their full potential. Dads are the secret ingredient to “empowering” today’s girls to do their best.  

The tagline for The Croods is “the first modern family.” Indeed.

Question: How have you seen this play out in your life as a dad?   

 

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Sources:
1. Rivers, Caryl and Rosalind Chait Barnett. “Father Figures a Slew of New Studies Applaud Dads.” The Boston Globe 18 June 2000: E1.
2. Coley, Rebekah Levine. “Daughter-Father Relationship and Adolescent Psychosocial Functioning in Low-Income African American Families.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 65 (November 2003): 867-875.
3. Deutsch, Francine M., Laura J. Servis, and Jessica D. Payne. “Paternal Participation in Child Care and Its Effects on Children’s Self-Esteem and Attitudes Toward Gendered Roles.” Journal of Family Issues, 22 (November 2001): 1000-1024.
4. Kosterman, Rick. Et al. Unique Influence of Mothers and Fathers on Their Children’s Anti-Social Behavior.  Journal of Marriage and the Family, 66. (August 2004). 762-778.
Image credit: The Croods © 2013 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.

PA is 25th State to Standardize NFI's InsideOut Dad®

National Fatherhood Initiative Trains Pennsylvania Department of Corrections on Delivering Fatherhood Programming to Inmates Across the State

Facilities Across Pennsylvania Have Been Equipped to Deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® Program to Connect Incarcerated Fathers With Their Children.

InsideOut Dad Curriculum

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has trained 37 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) staff members on how to deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® program to incarcerated fathers across Pennsylvania.

The training took place at a Training Academy in Elizabethtown, PA on January 15 and 16 following the decision of PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel to standardize InsideOut Dad® at the state’s 24 adult male correctional facilities and 1 boot camp facility.  The training equipped treatment specialists, corrections counselors, and chaplains to deliver the classroom-based curriculum to fathers seeking to reconnect with their children. The curriculum covers topics such as family history, what it means to be a man, showing and handling feelings, co-parenting, and much more.

Michael Yudt, NFI’s Senior Director of Program Support Services, who delivered the training, said, “The training revealed a great deal of excitement among Pennsylvania Department of Corrections staff for this type of program, aimed at helping inmate dads reconnect and strengthen their relationships with their children.  In fact, one facilitator plans to delay her retirement until she has a chance to run InsideOut Dad® for a year.”

Pennsylvania is the 25th U.S. state to “standardize” InsideOut Dad® -- the nation’s only evidence-based program designed specifically for working with incarcerated fathers --across its state correctional facilities. An independent study by Rutgers University qualified InsideOut Dad® as evidence-based, proving its effectiveness in building fathers’ knowledge and confidence in being better fathers, even while incarcerated.

"When individuals come to prison, not only does the community suffer, often their children, innocent victims in the situation, pay a toll. This program addresses the need for male offenders to stand up, face their responsibilities, and truly be a man in every sense of the word. Not only do we need this program, society does, as 90% of our men will return to our communities one day," said Secretary Wetzel.

SCI-Mahanoy, a facility in Frackville, PA, has been running InsideOut Dad® and was instrumental in arranging for implementation across the entire state. As a result of the training, each of the 25 facilities aims to offer InsideOut Dad® once per quarter as a voluntary program for inmates, with state-mandated eligibility criteria in place for fathers seeking to participate in the program.

What Makes Girls “Brave”?

Each week, we will post a review of one of the four films National Fatherhood Initiative has nominated for the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year. These will not be your typical movie reviews, but will instead focus on what in particular makes the movie a good “fatherhood movie.” Our fourth and final entry is on Brave. Reminder: Vote daily through midnight, February 24th.

I can’t say that I have read a ton of articles about women in business or sports, but many of the ones that I have read have a common thread running through them – successful women in business and sports had great dads.  

brave disney

I am not sure what the conventional wisdom is on this topic, but from the various public education campaigns I have seen, and the mentoring programs that businesses run, it seems that the attitude is that women need to see other strong women in order to become strong themselves. This may very well be the case, but it appears to only be part of the story.  

Moreover, the research on the unique effects that fathers have on their children consistently shows that fathers, more than mothers, instill a sense of adventure in their children, encourage safe risk taking, and help them see beyond narrow definitions of what is “expected” of each gender.  

If you apply that research to what it takes to thrive in the business or sports worlds (or anywhere), there is a very strong case for the importance of fathers in helping their children, including girls, become successful.  

What does this have to do with the movie Brave? While Brave is a decidedly mother-daughter story, it was actually the father, Fergus, who, from the very beginning of the story, encouraged his daughter Merida’s adventurous spirit. It was mom who had to “come around” to the idea of her daughter wanting to delay marriage, ride horses, and become an expert archer. Dad “got it” all along.  

While the good folks at Pixar may not have realized it, they were tapping into the truths unearthed in the research I mentioned above (all of which can be found in our Father Facts publications).  

This is why we have nominated Brave for the Fatherhood Movie of the Year. There have certainly been criticisms of the treatment of men and boys in the film. Many of the male characters are childish, violent, immature, and stupid. Even Fergus has moments like that. But at the heart of the father’s character is his love for his daughter and the unyielding support he gives her, even as she makes “unconventional” decisions. Moreover, he has a very loving and affectionate relationship with his wife, to the point where he embarrasses Merida with his public displays of affection.

So, for depicting a loving father and husband who encourages his daughter’s adventurous spirit and unashamedly loves his wife, Brave is up for Fatherhood Movie of the Year.

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Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance

KostinerCover resized 600At NFI, one of the most common questions we get is “So, what do you guys do?” This question often follows a long explanation of what we do. That was a joke…  

But the question is a fair one, because we are not a “direct service” organization that can simply show you our office’s “underwater fathering” workshop. Instead, we enable direct service organizations to work with fathers. Therefore, it is always a bit harder for the public to visualize how we are strengthening fatherhood across the country.  

But thanks to a new book, our job just got a lot easier. It is called Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance, a photography collection (and much more) from renowned photographer Lewis Kostiner.  

In 2007, Kostiner began traveling around the country with NFI staff members to document the stories of real dads who had been through NFI’s programs at community-based organizations around the United States. We would choose a city, find out which community-based organizations in that city were using NFI resources, and then go meet with the dads at their homes, places of work, and with the service providers to capture the images and words that would do justice to their fatherhood journeys.    

When all was said and done, Kostiner had photographed more than 150 fathers from all walks of life in 17 states and 39 cities who had at least one thing in common – they were all working hard to be the best dads they could be.  

The visually stunning book tells their stories, and, as a result, NFI’s story. These are dads who were going through NFI’s 24/7 Dad® curriculum at their local social services agency. They are formerly incarcerated fathers learning how to be great dads through NFI’s InsideOut Dad® program. They are “regular guys” benefiting from community resources that NFI helped create.  

Several prominent figures contributed to the book to round out these compelling stories. The foreword is by journalist Juan Williams, who urges our nation and its leaders to take seriously the need to strengthen fatherhood for the sake of our children. The book also includes an essay by NFI board member Roland Warren, who provides practical steps that dads can take to help themselves and others be the kinds of dads our children deserve. David Travis, Shipra S. Parikh, and Derrick M. Bryan also lend their voices to the book.  

Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance should have come with a box of tissues, as it is hard to keep your eyes dry as you see these dads and hear their voices and their children’s voices. What those voices are telling us -- or, more accurately, screaming to us from the mountaintops -- is that every child needs a great dad.  

But it is one thing for us to tell you that. It is another to look into the eyes of a child and really see that. That is the gift that Choosing Fatherhood gives you.

Choosing Fatherhood: America’s Second Chance will make a great addition to your coffee table or, if you work in a community-based setting, your waiting room. It can be purchased here.

 

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State of the Union Address: Fatherhood on the Agenda

obama state of the union“And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one. Stronger families.  Stronger communities.  A stronger America.  It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home.” -- President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, 2/12/13

Not for the first time, President Barack Obama urged the nation to strengthen the institution of fatherhood. He also made the important connection between marriage and fatherhood; two forces that work together to strengthen families and the economy. 

The President’s timely comments ride on the heels of new research from the Pew Research Center (which we cited in a CNN.com op-ed on Monday) that shows that marriage is in decline, creating an enormous cultural and economic gap between those who marry and those who don’t. Thus, the President hit the nail on the head in tying the vibrancy of the middle class to the health of marriage.

The President has consistently voiced his support for responsible fatherhood, having formed the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Task Force in 2007, of which former NFI president, Roland C. Warren, was part. NFI and Roland helped create this report on how the federal government can address fatherhood issues.

For NFI’s part, we are inspired to hear the leader of the free world choose to take time out of his most important speech to voice his support for fatherhood and marriage. Twenty four million children grow up in biological father-absent homes today, and we don’t have a fatherless child to spare!

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photo credit: white house

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