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How to Effectively Serve Dads Involved in Child Welfare

Posted by Christopher A. Brown

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Increasing the involvement of young fathers in the lives of their children is particularly challenging when fathers are involved in the child welfare system. 

To help meet this challenge, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) has just released an excellent policy report (and accompanying video) that includes recommendations to help child welfare agencies and organizations that serve these young fathers (under age 26) and their families. If you work with young fathers involved in the child welfare system, you must read this report. The recommendations fall into the following categories:

  • Father-inclusive organizational culture
  • Father identification
  • Father-focused practice
  • Family time
  • Co-parenting
  • Father-focused services
  • Undocumented fathers
  • Incarcerated fathers
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Data collection and analysis

The good news is National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) has resources that can help agencies and organizations implement many of these recommendations. (The content in many of these resources is informed by NFI's participation as part of a three organization team, along with the American Humane Association and the American Bar Association, in running the federal government's National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System, a five-year project that tested and identified innovative models for increasing the engagement of fathers by child welfare agencies and organizations.) Here are some of the most important of those resources that fall into the recommendation categories:

  • Father-inclusive organizational culture: The free Father Friendly Check-Up™, the most comprehensive assessment available on the fit of an organization's culture to serving fathers.
  • Father identification, Family Time, and Father-focused services: The FatherTopics™ Collection for Non-Custodial Dads booster sessions, which includes sessions/workshops that address some of the most important challenges young dads face and that are mentioned in the report (e.g. a lack of understanding of their legal rights and responsibilities, access and visitation, and effectively managing money). 
  • Father-focused practice: A policy brief NFI developed in partnership with CSSP shows how NFI's resources build each of five protective factors vital to the healthy development and well-being of parents and adolescents.
  • Co-parenting: The evidence-based 24/7 Dad® program addresses and improves the co-parenting relationship between fathers and mothers. NFI also has a number of brochures, tip cards, and guides for dads and moms that address co-parenting.
  • Incarcerated fathers. The evidence-based InsideOut Dad® program is used in corrections facilities, including facilities that house juvenile fathers. NFI also has a number of brochures that address the needs of these fathers (e.g. tips for successful reentry).
  • Intimate partner violence: The Understanding Domestic Violence™ booster session helps fathers understand the signs of potential and existing domestic violence in themselves and others. Many agencies and organizations use it, along with a domestic violence protocol, to help them meet requirements that they address domestic violence in their fatherhood programs and services.
  • Data collection and analysis: Although the report does not specifically mention the importance of evaluating of fatherhood programs used with young dads, all of NFI's fatherhood programs include surveys for assessing the impact of the programs on pro-fathering attitudes, beliefs, and skills (self-efficacy). 

And as if those resources aren't enough, NFI has bundled many of them into our Child Welfare Bundle. It removes the guesswork if you're unsure where to start in serving these young dads and the mothers of their children.

Have you assessed the fit of your organization's culture to effectively serving dads?

How father-focused are your programs and services for young dads involved in the child welfare system?

Check out our How to Manage Money Brochure for 7 tips that will help dads better manage their own—or their family's—money.

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