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The Father Factor

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How to Help Fathers Navigate the Child Support System

One of the primary challenges faced by non-custodial fathers is how to effectively navigate the child support system. Research shows that when these fathers consistently pay their child support that their involvement in the lives of their children increases.

So how can you help them?

Helping fathers to effectively navigate the child support system is, consequently, a challenge for organizations that serve these fathers. A recent report from Public/Private Ventures (P/PV), Navigating the Child Support System: Lessons from the Fathers at Work Initiative summarizes this challenge within the context of workforce development and provides guidance that can help.

The report “aims to help meet this challenge by providing information, resources and tools to use at the intersection of workforce development and child support enforcement. The guide is based on lessons from the Fathers at Work initiative, a three-year, six-site demonstration funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which was designed to help young, noncustodial fathers achieve increased employment and earnings, involvement in their children's lives, and more consistent financial support of their children.” Moreover, it “describes child support enforcement regulations, policies and actions that can affect fathers' willingness to seek formal employment and participate in the system, and provides examples of four services that organizations might offer to benefit fathers and their families.”

While this report can prove to be helpful for organizations working with fathers, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) offers a new tool that organizations can use now to help meet this challenge.

FatherTopics Collection for Non-Custodial DadsAvailable through FatherSOURCE™.org, the new FatherTopics™ Collection for Non-Custodial Dads contains five workshop sessions that organizations can use as stand-alone workshops or to complement their fatherhood programs (e.g. 24/7 Dad®) to address selected topics that are very important and helpful for non-custodial fathers.

Most importantly, The Collection includes a session that helps fathers to better understand the importance of providing child support. They learn what this type of support means for their children and for their self-identification as a father. And beyond that, it emphasizes the value of all types of support given by a father (e.g. financial, emotional, and physical). As part of the Child Support Session content, fathers meet a local child support expert/representative and learn about child support enforcement and how to navigate the child support system.

Other sessions in the collection focus on several additional critical challenges faced by these fathers:

  • Access and visitation
  • Workforce readiness
  • Money management
  • Fathers’ rights and responsibilities.

In fact, the collection of workshops for fathers was field tested for one year by practitioners in New York City as part of the city’s fatherhood initiative; the feedback from these practitioners and the fathers who participated in the sessions was overwhelmingly positive.

FatherTopics Collection for Non-Custodial Dads offers a total of five 2-hour sessions your organization can run for non-custodial fathers to help them succeed as involved fathers. Click the button below to learn more about how to implement these sessions with non-custodial fathers you serve.

5 First Steps to Starting (or Growing) a Fatherhood Program

There’s an old saying about starting on a path to achieving an objective: just put one foot in front of the other. Sage advice to be sure, but it doesn’t tell you much about the direction in which you should head.  For all you know, it could lead you to walk off the edge of a cliff. If you want to start or grow a fatherhood program, it’s vital that you know what to do first so that you head in the right direction. 

1. Conduct a Needs and Assets Assessment of Your Community.  You need to understand the “fatherhood landscape” in your community—the rate of father absence, the gaps in services for fathers, the programs for fathers (and the kinds of fathers they serve), etc.—before you can select a group of fathers to serve or who could also benefit from the program you already offer.

2. Identify and Learn About the Kind(s) of Father(s) You Want to Serve or Should Expand to Serve. Programs for specific populations of fathers are often more effective than programs for all fathers. Your organization alone can’t possibly address all the needs of all fathers. Educate yourself and your colleagues about the unique needs of specific populations of fathers in your community who can benefit the most from your program.

Men in Class

3. Create or Select a Program that Matches Fathers’ Needs and Wants. After you know who you will serve (or expand to serve), create or select a program and provide complementary services and resources that will meet fathers’ needs and wants. NFI has evidence-based and research-based and proven curricula, programs, and workshops to reach all kinds of fathers. There is no reason for you to “reinvent the wheel.” To get a current list of curricula and more detailed information about our resources, visit our website at www.fathersource.org or call our national office.

4. Market and Promote Your Program. Marketing a program or service is the greatest challenge of all. It not only involves recruitment, it involves retention and creating a positive image of your program or service in the community to generate referrals. (To learn how to create an effective marketing effort, contact NFI to bring the “Social Marketing for Fatherhood Programs™” workshopto your organization.)

5. Evaluate Your Program. Just because you follow the first 4 steps doesn’t mean that you won’t veer off course. An evaluation is like a GPS—it tells you whether you’re headed in the right direction as you implement your program and helps you to correct your course if necessary. Moreover, evaluations are critically important for program credibility, accountability, improvement, sharing of best practices, and to prove to funders that their dollars were well spent. You don’t need a complicated design to effectively evaluate your program. To help organizations with this step, NFI includes evaluation tools with many of its fatherhood programs.

Don’t waste time. Go ahead and put one foot in front of the other—just make sure to know in which direction you should take that first step. For more information on implementing these 5 steps, consider purchasing our how-to guide on starting a fatherhood program called “A Guide to Strengthening Fatherhood In Your Community: Moving From Inspiration to Implementation.” Download a sample below. 

 

For direct assistance from NFI on how to implement a comprehensive model that includes these and other steps, contact us at programsupport@fatherhood.org to bring “The 7 Bright Spots to Designing Your Fatherhood Program™” workshop to your organization.

Sexy Sustainability: The Missing Element in Effective Father Engagement

sustainability

Sustainability planning and execution of that plan is the most important investment for any social service agency or non-profit organization looking to effectively engage fathers, mothers, and the community around responsible fatherhood. Planning is not as “sexy” as starting up a new program for dads, but it is the groundwork that makes the sexy programming possible...and sustainable.

All too often I’ve seen the disruption (or elimination) of fatherhood services in communities because the larger agencies where the fatherhood services were offered didn’t weave this work into the fabric of their organizational culture.  I’ve seen grant writers miss opportunities to write fatherhood resources into proposals that focus on broader issues, but clearly have a father factor involved.  I’ve seen executive staff give up trying to hire male staff prematurely.  There have been missed opportunities because staff have not formally mapped community assets or looked seriously at the father-friendliness of the agency’s physical environment.

Conversely, the “best practice agencies” that I’ve come across over the years consistently assess and improve their leadership development, organizational development, program development, and community engagement from the lens of father engagement and convert their assessment to specific tasks that have a clear “who, what, when” attached. 

Moreover, quantitative data -- which we gathered running a federally-funded project to build organizational sustainability in the fatherhood field -- reveal that agencies that develop action plans around the abovementioned categories increase overall sustainability in the short term, and that those gains hold in the long term.  Ninety-eight percent of those organizations increased their sustainability by the end of the first year of developing these father-friendly action plans.  Ninety-three percent maintained or further increased their sustainability after 2 years (Source: 2010, National Responsible Fatherhood Capacity-Building Initiative, Inspiration to Implementation).

In spite of this information, many agencies lack the resources, tools, awareness, and support to take this process as seriously as they should. The end result is that we have few (if any) parenting programs in our communities that are balanced in male and female participation.  This translates into fewer men becoming better dads and lower child well-being outcomes.

When agencies are forced to take a hard look at their organizational culture rather than just their services (which tends to be the default for most), it helps them create the Velcro that their programs and services can stick to.  But making these kinds of changes are not for the faint of heart and agency leaders need to be properly prepared, equipped, and trained to understand how to disrupt the present in order to change the future.

It is for that reason that National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) is committed to helping organizations attain sustainability for fatherhood work regardless of what the funding landscape looks like.  In our five years running the abovementioned federal project, we learned how to measure gains in sustainability and capacity, and how to help organizations maximize those gains.  From our free Father Friendly Check Up assessment to our 5 Steps to Fatherhood Programming Success, NFI recognizes that systemic change and better outcomes for fathers and families begins with community leaders and agencies doing a better job of creating a continual and uninterrupted stream of services for fathers. 

Here’s to making sustainability sexy… for the sake of our nation’s fatherless children.

Photo credit here

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 >

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