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How Training on NFI Programs Helps Organizations be Creative and Effective

Posted by Christopher A. Brown

I’m constantly amazed at how much our training can help organizations implement our programs in creative, effective ways. Here is one example...

Community Action of Central Texas (San Marcos, TX) recently purchased the 24/7 Dad® A.M. and P.M. programs for use with Head Start and Early Head Start families and as part of the statewide Texas Home Visiting Program. In addition to taking part in the Texas Home Visiting Program, Community Action serves more than 500 children through its Head Start and Early Head Start efforts in two central Texas counties immediately south of Austin.

I recently conducted a two-day training institute for Community Action on NFI’s 24/7 Dad® programs. It was one of the most challenging institutes I’ve conducted because of how much I had to customize it to help Community Action to, in turn, integrate them into their home visiting, Head Start, and Early Head Start efforts. Community Action will implement the program for use in a group-based setting—the specific setting for which NFI designed it—but will also use some of the activities in the program in a home-based setting in which staff will work with dads one-on-one.

Because no two organizations are alike, our staff doesn’t assume that every organization needs exactly the same training institute. Sure, we have a standard training institute for each program that serves as the foundation for every training institute on that program. Nevertheless, we talk with an organization’s staff about their plans for implementing the program before we finalize the content for each training institute. This approach ensures each organization can implement the program as effectively as possible. 

If an organization plans to implement one of our programs exactly as we designed it to be implemented, we don’t have to customize the training institute much, if at all. In the case of Community Action, however, I worked with Father Engagement Specialist David Bryant and Family/Staff Involvement and Development Director Edith Rivera—both of whom have responsibility for overseeing Community Action’s fatherhood efforts—to customize a significant portion of the training institute that involves practice facilitating the program. (Our two-day training institutes emphasize practice facilitation.)

The reason for this level of customization is David and Edith plan to not only run the programs with groups of fathers, staff that are home visitors will use activities from the A.M. and P.M. programs in their one-on-one work with dads during home visits. (David, Edith, the home visitors, and the home visitors’ supervisors attended the training institute.) The beauty of the programs is their flexibility, including the ability to use them in one-on-one settings. The challenge in those cases, however, is picking which parts of the programs to use and exactly how to modify those parts for the specific one-on-one setting associated with an organization’s fatherhood efforts (e.g. case management within an office setting or working with a dad or couple during a home visit).

Because Community Action had not yet determined exactly which parts of the programs to use and how to use them, I recommended to David and Edith that they practice facilitating a couple of sessions (as co-facilitators given that they’ll co-facilitate the group sessions) and pairs of home visitors select parts of the program they thought would be ideal for use during a home visit and role play delivering those parts during a home visit (i.e. one of the home visitors played the part of the home visitor and the other the part of the dad). David and Edith agreed with this approach, but, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. I had no idea whether the approach would work, let alone whether it would help Community Action get started on how to use the programs during home visits. 

Fortunately, the approach worked extremely well. The staff did a fantastic job selecting parts of the programs to use and how to modify them. Some parts required no modification while others required some creative modifications. Because David and Edith were scheduled to meet with the home visitors in the weeks after the training institute to select additional parts of the programs to use, they were off to a great start. The role plays had the effect of helping staff start the process of selecting which parts of the programs to use and how to modify them given the goals of the home visiting program (e.g. covering specific content, such as child discipline) and their knowledge of their one-on-one setting (e.g. how much time they could expect to spend with a dad). They also generated excitement among the home visitors about the potential of the program to help them help families in a new, creative way, thus creating buy-in from staff critical to the effectiveness of the programs.

I’m pleased to report that Community Action has kicked off their fatherhood program with an event attended by some of the families they serve. Check out some of the photos from the event...

I can’t wait to see how their fatherhood program increases the involvement of dads in the lives of their children. This experience was gratifying for me because of the way in which David and Edith helped me understand their needs so I could deliver a valuable training. Moreover, we now have this experience under our belt to use with other organizations that want to use the 24/7 Dad® programs in a one-on-one setting.

If you use or plan to use one of NFI’s programs, I encourage you to consider bringing in one of our staff to deliver a training institute, especially if you use or plan to use them in a unique setting and in novel ways. I also recommend a training institute even if you plan to use one of our programs in the conventional manner. You’ll be glad you did.

Do you use or plan to use an NFI program? Have you received training on the program you use or plan to use?

We have several upcoming trainings, please visit our Training Institutes Page for more information.
  The Father Factor Blog

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