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The Father Factor

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A Focus on Fatherhood is Coming to New Jersey

NFI Logo verical BlackNational Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has been awarded a contract from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJDCF) to strengthen the state’s services to fathers.

Through the provision of training and technical assistance on its flagship 24/7 Dad® program, NFI will help the state’s 175 NJDCF-funded agencies deliver standardized, high-quality services to fathers across the state. This 18-month process will give NJDCF the ability to more effectively measure the impact of fatherhood programming on pro-fathering skills, attitudes, and knowledge in New Jersey.

Each of NJDCF’s 175 service providers will send two to three staff to a two-day, NFI-run Fatherhood Program Camp. At these camps, the staff will be led through NFI’s Father Friendly Check-Up™ workshop to measure the degree to which their current services are catered towards meeting the needs of fathers. Then they will be trained on how to deliver NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program, which will help them educate and inspire the fathers they serve with practical skills and encouragement on their importance to their families. They will also be trained on how to integrate NFI’s Understanding Domestic Violence™ workshop into the 24/7 Dad® program.

The end goal of this training program will be to create in the service providers an organizational culture that supports the effective delivery of fatherhood programming, to equip them with a research-based fatherhood skill-building program in the form of 24/7 Dad®, and to give the providers the means to effectively address the issue of domestic violence. Ultimately, this program will allow NJDCF to increase the well-being of children throughout New Jersey.

Christopher A. Brown, executive vice president of NFI said, “We are excited to partner with the state of New Jersey on this innovative program to help the state’s family service providers more effectively engage New Jersey’s fathers. Every child deserves to have a 24/7 dad, and NFI stands ready to help New Jersey reach that honorable goal.”

NFI will provide NJDCF with evaluation tools to measure the impact of this program. For example, 24/7 Dad® includes a pre- and post-survey that facilitators can use to measure the impact of the program on pro-fathering self-efficacy, attitudes, and knowledge, and ultimately allow NJDCF to conduct a statewide evaluation on the program’s impact. Additionally, NFI will provide reports to NJDCF and each of its providers that show the pre- and post-assessment results of the Father Friendly Check-Up™ to determine whether or not the agencies have become measurably more father friendly over the course of the first year of the program.

National Fatherhood Initiative has a long history of providing comprehensive training and technical assistance on a statewide and national level. NFI has run statewide initiatives on behalf of Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia, and has been involved in consulting with and operating portions of city & county initiatives in Milwaukee, WI and New York City. In 2006, under an open competition, NFI was awarded the administration of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. Under this federal contract, NFI provided and coordinated training and technical assistance for all of the approximately 100 fatherhood grantees of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also in 2006, NFI was awarded a grant to run the National Responsible Fatherhood Capacity-Building Initiative with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services / Administration for Children and Families / Office of Family Assistance.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the New Jersey program, or would like to engage NFI on a similar county- or state-wide fatherhood initiative, please contact Erik Vecere, NFI VP of Project Design & Consulting at evecere@fatherhood.org.

4 Factors for Successful Father Involvement

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Are you looking to help the fathers you work with be more involved in their children's lives? Michael Lamb, who has conducted research on father involvement for many years, identified four factors that influence the level of a father's involvement. They are: social supports, skills and self-confidence, institutional/cultural factors, and motivation. 

Your organization can have a direct impact on the first three factors by using father-specific curricula, such as our 24/7 Dad™ program, to help dads build strong peer mentoring supports, improve their fathering skills, and give them the confidence in their ability to be a good dad. You can improve the institutional/cultural factors for dads by becoming a father-friendly organization in your community. A great way to do that is to assess your father-friendliness by using the Father-Friendly Check-Up™.

By addressing these first three factors in an intentional way, your organization will ultimately have a direct impact on each father's motivation to be an involved, responsible, and committed dad.
 
 

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 >

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!

Fatherhood: An Act of Valor that Takes Zeal and Knowledge

Last night, Justin, my 26 year old son and I were having a conversation about how father absence is affecting his generation. He told me that many of his friends who grew up without fathers are very committed to being good dads. However, he offered that they don’t know how to be good fathers. He said that they have “zeal without knowledge.”

Zeal is an old English word that you don’t hear often these days, especially from a 26 year old. But, it’s a concept that is very contemporary because it means to have an intensity for a cause, an eager desire and enthusiastic diligence. Alas, there is zeal aplenty in our culture today, so having a bit of it for fatherhood is certainly a good thing. That said, I think that my son was on to something by linking zeal with knowledge. Here’s why…

Early in the week, I spoke at an event and when I finished a guy about Justin’s age approached me. He told me that he had grown up without a father and he recently had gotten married and was going to be a father soon. He then got a very strange look on this face and said, “Everyone keeps telling me that I am going to be a great dad and I really want to be…But, honestly, I’m struggling with how they can know this or how I can do this… I never had a dad.”

He had zeal without knowledge…

So, I sent him an email with links to several of NFI’s low cost products for new dads like, “When Duct Tape Won’t Work”, an interactive CD designed to improve his understanding of how to help his infant through the toddler years, and “24/7 Dad Interactive”, an interactive CD designed to help him with everything a good dad needs to know, from maintaining a strong relationship with mom to effectively disciplining his children.

I was delighted that this new dad-to-be had the wherewithal to understand his problem and proactively seek help. But, frankly, I am amazed at how many dads, especially ones older than this father, will spend $50 bucks or more to watch a pay-for-view sporting event but won’t invest less than $20 for resources, like the ones that I mentioned above, to help themselves become better dads. And, some dads who will spend hours researching and drafting the perfect fantasy football roster—as if it was “real”—but would consider it a fantasy to join a small group of other dads for just an hour a week for 6 weeks and use the "24/7 Dad Power Hour" to hone their fathering skills. Of course, these fathers say that they want to be good dads. But, discipline, not just desire, determines a dad's destiny. Indeed, they have zeal but they lack the discipline to get the knowledge.

And, that’s a real problem. Let me give you an example to better illustrate this point.

A few weeks ago, a movie called “Act of Valor,” which featured the heroics of real Navy Seals, hit movie theaters nationwide. The film was an instant box office hit. In fact, it was the top grossing movie during the opening weekend and continues to do well. No doubt, thousands of dads lined up to see the film. And, I can see why. Here you have a bunch of guys, many who are fathers, doing amazing things that make us proud to be Americans. Plus, lots of stuff gets blown up!

However, here’s the interesting thing about the Navy Seals in this movie. They have zeal…lots of it. But, they also have knowledge. Why? Because a Navy Seal without both is dangerous. He’s the type of guy on the mission who would kick a door in, guns blazing, and shoot the hostages and rescue the terrorist! In fact, others in his unit can’t count on him to have their backs. So, no one wants this guy on their team. It’s too risky. They would just as soon do the mission one man short.

So, am I saying the untrained dads are dangerous? Of course not. But, I am saying that these dads are less effective and are not prepared for the most important “mission” of their lives--raising their children. This is unacceptable. But, it is also fixable because a guy can learn to be a better dad. Accordingly, if you are a dad with zeal, like that young unprepared dad that I spoke to, I want to encourage you to do as he did. Zealously seek knowledge. Get the resources and training that you need to be the best dad that you can be. After all, being a good dad is the ultimate act of valor.

Is Hollywood Helping Or Hurting The Case For Fatherhood?

I came across an article some days ago in the Los Angeles Times that reported on a rise in Hollywood films that featured parents in situations that led the moms and dads in the film to be stressed or anxious. Featured in the piece was Golden Globe Award-nominated film The Descendants starring Globe Best Actor winner George Clooney. In the film, Clooney plays a dad going through a tough time with a dying wife, betrayal, and attempting to get closer to his two daughters.

The film (which is excellent) takes the viewers through a lot of emotional ups and downs as Clooney exhibits the fear of having to raise his daughters without his spouse by his side. In the family film We Bought A Zoo, Matt Damon plays a widower with two young children struggling to stay close while Damon’s character navigates opening a zoo.

Another movie that was up for a few Golden Globe Awards, Carnage, also featured parents who argued with other parents over how to best deal with their fighting children’s issues. Although the film is billed as a black comedy, the core of the movie centers on how parents all have their own way of dealing with their children. The all-star cast of Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz delight in their roles, but the ugly war of words become the centerpiece instead of these adults finding a way to cope with one another.

Parents going through times in film, especially dads, is not a brand new concept although the recent slate of films would suggest this is the case. There is something about watching angst unfold onscreen that captivates and infuriates all at once; there’s always an end to the movie but never to the realities that exist outside of the theater.

As said by Dr. Alexandra Barvi of New York University, “In the past, people parented based on instincts and how they were raised, but now with technology and the ease of transmittable information, we know so much more about parenting. We do so much more thinking about parenting. You can't turn on a morning show without an expert talking about college anxiety, how to keep your kids busier.”

Is Hollywood and television making it so that fathers new and old are overloaded with what can be seen as poor parenting tactics? Is the portrayal of parents in harrowing situations inspiring to dads who want to combat the anxiety that goes along with raising their children? Are fathers and mothers looking for ways to stave off the sometimes bleak imagery of parenthood and offer a reversal of sorts?

A good number of films with these sorts of plot tie-ins end with a happy moment of closure or triumph. There are even several films over the years that tell great stories about devoted dads who go through a lot of turmoil (and eventually joy) such as Big Fish and Finding Nemo. What we should focus on while viewing movies that feature dads and moms under duress is to make sure we’re talking about ways to avoid that struggle in our real lives.

Perhaps then, Hollywood can begin to tell a different story showing the endless possibilities of a blissful union between fathers, mothers, and their children.

A day in NFI's programming world

A key part of National Fatherhood Initiative’s work is to equip fathers to be the best dads they can be. Our staff in the National Programming department travel around the county training facilitators at community-based organizations, correctional facilities, and military bases on how to use NFI’s programs -- like 24/7 Dad™, InsideOut Dad™, and Doctor Dad™ -- to help dads.

I am a step or two removed from this work, because my role is to provide administrative support to the organization’s president, and I don’t normally work closely with the programming staff.

However, last week I had the privilege of spending a day in “programming world” by attending a 24/7 Dad™ Training Institute. It was great to see that side of NFI and hear first-hand stories from men and women who work directly with fathers.

A very diverse group of people participated in the training – from suburban moms running a domestic violence prevention program in Northern Virginia to guys working with men in urban St. Louis. People came from as far away as Georgia and Texas to learn how to use 24/7 Dad™. Some of the attendees worked with incarcerated men, some ran Head Start programs for families, and some worked at a church.

Despite the diversity of backgrounds, these 20 or so men and women became a community for the day, united by a shared passion to see fathers become more involved, responsible, and committed. The attendees were excited to find others engaged in the same challenges and to learn about a resource to help them and the dads in their community. They questioned each other between training segments on ways to handle certain situations, shared success stories and innovative ideas, and swapped contact info so they could stay in touch afterward.

At the end of the day, the participants were asked to describe in one word their experience at the 24/7 Dad™ training. “Equipped,” “inspired,” and “encouraged” were just a few of the words shared.

That described my day at the 24/7 Dad™ training, too. It was wonderful to get away from my cubicle and get a glimpse of the tremendous impact that fatherhood programs around the country are making in the lives of children, families, and communities. It gave renewed meaning to the day-to-day tasks I do and reminded me how grateful I am to be part of an organization devoted to such an important mission.

Ending the Baby Blues

I tend to be a pretty outspoken person about the things I care a lot about. Working at NFI has only made me more passionate about responsible fatherhood, resulting in my friends occasionally being subjected to a spontaneous rant or soapbox speech from me when the issue comes up in conversation. They must not mind too much, because they will sometimes send me news stories or songs about fatherhood, which gets me talking even more.

Case in point: one of my friends sent me this Baby Blues comic recently, and I knew there was a lot I could say about it:

This could be the official comic for National Fatherhood Initiative. The dad’s statement that “Dad school” is a 7-days-a week, 24-hours-a-day program is exactly why NFI’s flagship curriculum to help fathers build their fathering skills is called 24/7 Dad™ - being a Dad is a 24/7 job.

Even though fathers who enroll in 24/7 Dad™ have a graduation ceremony at the end of the program, Darryl, the Baby Blues dad, is right – you never graduate from learning how to be the dad your kids need. It’s a lifelong process that changes as your kids grow – and the good news is, if you keep doing your “homework” like Darryl, you should always get better at it as you go.

Darryl’s comment that being a Dad is what he really wants to do reminded me of something that Dave, a dad who went through NFI’s 24/7 Dad™ program, said about the impact it had on him:

"My kids didn’t want anything to do with me. Dope was more important to me than anything, including them … After inpatient treatment, I completed outpatient. Then I learned about the 24/7 Dads group. Then other things started to change … I got to see [my daughter] more and more. Now she’s home for good. I married her mother and we are really happy. Sometimes I think about the old days. But … I know I’d rather be a 24/7 Dad.”

So, friends, keep those news stories, songs, and comics about fatherhood coming. The Father Factor blog exists in part to give a platform for positive portrayals of fatherhood in our culture, and we need all of you to be on the lookout for good things we can shine a spotlight on. Not to mention that it’ll make my day when other people get involved in this issue.

But feel free to tell me you "get the point" if my enthusiastic soapbox speech starts getting a little long...

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