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The Father Factor

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Fatherhood Programs: Facilitating for Change

This is a guest blog post from Scott Lesnick, author, speaker, trainer, and 24/7 Dad® facilitator at The Parenting Network located in Milwaukee, WI.

Since 1977, The Parenting Network has served the greater Milwaukee community through its mission to strengthen parenting and to prevent child abuse with programs such as home visiting, parent education and support, fatherhood programs, and more.

 

The parenting Network Logo

Raising my children was a 24/7 job. And as a volunteer facilitator of the 24/7 Dad® Program at The Parenting Network in Milwaukee, I’ve heard from thousands of fathers who agree.

Every group of fathers I work with teaches me something new, and after ten weeks, we all feel better and even wiser. Parents who came in with a chip on their shoulder often graduate with a smile, extend a warm thank you (which isn’t easy for some) and say that they’ve learned some valuable and positive lessons that they WILL use in parenting their children.

I am confident that participant fathers are not only better equipped with positive, hands on ways to parent when they leave, but they also have a greater understanding of how their childhood shaped their adult lives as it pertains to parenting. Yes, really connecting to our children and treating each as the individual they are is the key to their growing up with good self-esteem. It takes a daily interest, a commitment that some did not see when they were young. Talking, listening, setting proper boundaries and playing are wonderful.

Further, breaking the cycle of physical and verbal abuse is a challenge, but many parents are able to, for the first time, really understand how they would feel if it happened to them. Anger, remorse and contemplation often set in, but the group is always supportive.

It’s also a pleasure to watch the group’s reaction as I offer up how parents are always on their children’s radar. Children watch us like a camera making mental notes and comparisons hundreds of times a day. When you look at us adults from a kid’s perspective and realize were being “recorded” by them both consciously and subconsciousl,y it allows us to focus on what we say and how we react. This makes for better relationships with our children and strengthens our parenting skills.

Of course, I’m not under the assumption the fathers we work with are angels. Some have served serious time behind bars and others are completing the class in order to spend more time with their children. But nonetheless, they open up about things I never imagined I’d hear and it takes the breath out of many in the class. But, we talk. We discuss. Some even grow- maturing before my eyes. We stay on topic as it pertains to that week’s lesson and these parents are engaged! They’re thinking, talking, and debating all things parenting. That’s the golden ticket!

To make sure that the dads are getting tangible, applicable skills they can apply to their relationships (with mom and kids), I ask for 1-3 takeaways from each before he leaves the session. As a result, I can know if the handbook, our classroom discussions, my facilitating, and/or their peer interaction is moving them forward by how they answer. Some talk for five seconds and others 30 minutes! For example, I have heard: “Man. You opened my eyes. I’m not going to be like how “so-and-so was to me growing up.”  “I never knew why I acted like that - why I hit my kids instead of talking more. I get it now!”

I wanted to give back. I wanted to help fathers become better parents. The Parenting Network allows me to connect to parents who not only leave the course a better and more knowledgeable parent, but often remind me of some things I did well in raising my two children. I wish programs like this were made available to all those who want to improve their parenting skills. I know I could have definitely used it when my children were younger, and I suspect most of us could.

Surprisingly, some participants come back to the fatherhood program observe, add content and opinion, plus continue to grow. How can I say no? Their kids deserve nothing but the best.

Facilitating groups isn’t always easy. But being there to facilitate and watch groups connect, understand and add positive content is

If you have any questions for Scott about his experience as a 24/7 Dad® Facilitator, he can be reached at scott@scottlesnick.com.Scott is also a member of the National Speaker’s Association and his speaking engagements center around parenting topics, increasing performance, focusing on what’s important, and useful tools in overcoming life’s challenges.

Finding Your Way - Guides for Fathers in Child Protection Cases

You work with a variety of Dads. And they've got questions or issues that they need help addressing. And sometimes they're issues you or your staff aren't sure how to answer. Or, frankly, it's just not your area of expertise. 

FYG

That's why National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) is not only committed to providing you with our own research-based, high-quality resources -- we’re also committed to providing you with supplementary resources that we’ve partnered with other organizations to create, including resources that you can integrate with NFI’s programs (such as NFI’s 24/7 Dad®, Doctor Dad®, or InsideOut Dad®.) 

From 2006-2011, NFI partnered with the American Humane Society and the Center for Children and the Law at the American Bar Association to establish the National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System (QIC-NRF). Wow! That was a mouthful…but it was a tremendously valuable project that NFI was proud to be a part of.

This 5-year project (funded by the Children’s Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) sought to identify models that child welfare organizations and professionals could use to improve their engagement of non-resident fathers whose children were or had been involved in child welfare systems. And this is where you benefit.

The QIC-NRF produced several excellent resources. One of these, titled “Finding Your Way: Guides for Fathers in Child Protection Cases,” is a collection of 6 FREE guides (each in English and Spanish) for non-resident fathers involved in child protection cases (child welfare cases) that you can download for FREE from NFI’s website. These colorful, easy-to-understand guides are extremely useful for any organization that works with non-resident fathers and especially those who run NFI’s or other fatherhood programs.

The 6 Finding Your Way Guides are:

  • Guide 1: Your Rights and Responsibilities -  Includes fathers’ rights in child welfare court cases, how to exercise and protect those rights, and fathers’ responsibilities inside and outside the courtroom.
  • Guide 2: How to Work with Your Lawyer -Includes how fathers should talk to their lawyers and interact with them, what to bring when meeting with a lawyer, and what to expect from a lawyer.
  • Guide 3: Your Role in Court -  Includes how fathers should act in court, what to do before, during, and after court, and how to prepare arguments. This guide includes three sub-guides—3.1, 3.2, and 3.3—that cover the court process, who will be in court, and common court terms.
  • Guide 4: Your Role Outside Court - Includes case meetings fathers should attend, why they should attend those meetings, and how to prepare for those meetings.
  • Guide 5: When You Owe Child Support - Includes why paying child support is important, how a child welfare case relates to child support, and when fathers must pay child support.
  • Guide 6: If You Are or Have Been in Prison - Includes fathers’ rights as a prisoner and ex-prisoner, and how fathers can protect their rights while in prison and outside prison.

How should you use them? Well, we're glad you asked.

  • We highly recommend that you distribute these guides to the fathers you serve (e.g. via case management or via display in a waiting area).
  • If you run a fatherhood program (such as NFI’s 24/7 Dad®, Doctor Dad®, or InsideOut Dad® programs), keep copies on hand to provide to fathers when they ask questions—which they undoubtedly will—about the subject matter covered in the guides.
  • You can also provide copies to staff to increase their knowledge about how to help fathers who need guidance on how to navigate child welfare systems. And if your organization is connected with other organizations that serve non-resident fathers, please tell them about this great free resource from NFI.   

We hope these guides are helpful to both you and the fathers you serve!

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.
 
 

Guest Post: 30 Days (Or More!)

This is a guest post from Jeff Allanach, a newspaper editor in Maryland. Jeff is a married father of two children, and writes about fatherhood in his weekly column. You can follow Jeff on his Facebook page, Adventures in Fatherhood.

I’m at my best when I do one of two things: play with my children and write.

I feel like Superman when I combine the two, so I saw a great opportunity to leap tall buildings in a single bound when I signed up for “30 Days to Be a Better Dad,” the National Fatherhood Initiative’s program to kick off 2011.

I figured I would write in great detail about my efforts to hone my fathering skills as part of the program. I would share my triumphs with anyone who cared to read about them by answering every question the initiative asked and doing every task challenged of me.

I could do it, I figured. After all, I'm Superman. It would be “American Idol” and “The Justice League” combined in one string of blog posts.

I started out OK by answering a couple of questions in the first e-mail in early January. Yes, I know what my children need (a father who loves them) and we do follow daily routines (two, in fact, morning and night) they find comforting.

It wasn’t as much as I originally planned because I couldn’t find the time to write as much as I wanted. I shrugged, figuring I could still be Batman if not Superman. After all, driving the Batmobile is kind of like flying, right?

I checked off the first week, and waited in anticipation for the next one. When it came, I quickly read through it and gravitated to one tip in particular: “Stay focused.”

No problem, I said. I’m Batman. He has to focus to work all his cool gadgets. I went about my day, which slipped into a week, and then some. So much for staying focused. I tweaked my plan again, and figured I would be Aquaman instead of Batman. After all, talking to fish is kind of like driving the Batmobile, right?

The third week came, and I realized that I already do most of the activities the initiative suggested. I play with my children. I read with them. We bake cookies and have movie nights. The only problem was that it wasn’t the third week. I had fallen behind to the fourth week. I shrugged again, and figured I could be Plastic Man if not Aquaman. After all, being super stretchy is kind of like talking to fish, right?

I looked back at the previous 30 days to account for my time. How could I not find time to write? It’s what I do best. Saturday mornings are a great time to write, but I’ve been taking my daughter to gymnastics, so no writing then. It snowed several times, and that gives me a great opportunity to write because I’m trapped inside. But then again, the best time to make a snowman with your children is when it snows, so no writing then. Evenings are another good time to write, but then there’s homework and Wii Lego Star Wars with the kids, so no writing then. Let’s see, we also did a 500-piece Barbie puzzle, played Legos, and had a marathon session of Connect Four.

No wonder I didn’t have time to write as much as I planned. I was too busy being a dad, and being dad beats Superman every time.

You can only be a better dad if you are alive!

This is a post from NFI's Director of Corporate Relations, Tom Patras.

Six months ago, during church, a friend surprised everyone by wheeling his 85 pound son on stage in a wheel barrow. Pointing to his son, he exclaimed, “This is how much weight I’ve lost!” After receiving a standing ovation from the congregation, my friend went on to share that he’d been facing serious health issues due to an unhealthy lifestyle. He finally woke up when our Pastor confronted him and said, “What are you doing? You have a wife and kids and you are eating yourself to death!”

As I listened to my friend, it took everything in me to keep from crying. I was happy for him, but sobered that my Pastor’s words could easily have been directed at me. Weight issues are a generational plague in my family. After many failed attempts at losing weight (and keeping it off), I felt discouraged and defeated. I’d reached my heaviest weight ever and was frankly disgusted with myself. With health issues mounting, I knew I needed to change the trajectory of my life. So…inspired by my friend’s success with the Take Shape For Life program, I decided that if it worked for him, why not me?

During my first week on the program, I had a pivotal moment. One day, a scene from The Biggest Loser came to mind. In the scene, a 25 year old girl was told by a doctor that based on the condition of her organs, she was living in the body of a 55-year-old woman. Suddenly the thought hit me – “holy cow, that’s 30 years! That’s almost two generations!” I then asked myself, “What kind of an example am I setting for my children? What kind of legacy am I building for future generations? Do I want my wife and kids grieving over my untimely death because I wasn’t willing to do everything in my power to fight for my health?”

In that moment, I said, “I’m done! I’m going to engage in (and win) this battle. I’m going to be a chain breaker and change the legacy of my family for future generations.”

Six months later, I’m 68 pounds lighter! At 39, I’m the same weight I was as a freshmen in high school. I have tons of energy, am much more confident, and feel better than I have in years.

No doubt there are fathers reading this post who are battling weight-related health issues – you may be one of them. If so, I encourage you to join NFI’s 30 Days to Be a Better Dad Campaign and make it a priority to get healthy in 2011.

BUT, don’t go it alone! 85% of people who try to lose weight without support gain it back within 2 years. Also, find a plan that teaches you how to build healthy habits for life. There is no magic pill or medical procedure that will allow you to eat whatever (and however much) you want.

Building a healthy lifestyle takes commitment, but you can only be a better dad if you are alive!

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