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The Father Factor


Military Dads Serve as Doctor Dad, Too!

Being a military dad presents unique challenges - especially when it comes to deployment and fathering.

Dads can be away for long or extended periods of time due to deployment, and there are even situations when a military dad can't be present at his own child's birth. But that doesn't mean they can't benefit from learning the skills needed to be involved in the health, safety, and care of their baby. Military dads need to serve as Doctor Dad, too!

Military Dad and Facilitator in Doctor Dad session.

It's for reasons like these that the Army Community Service New Parent Support Program at Joint Base Lewis McChord offered the DoctorDad® workshop -- to increase self-assurance in new fathers by developing their parenting skills in the area of infant and toddler health.

DoctorDad® Workshops are presented as 60-90 minute stand-alone workshops, or as supplemental sessions to other fatherhood programming, and are great for new and expectant dads. The workshops help dads increase health literacy by providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to successfully care for their young children right from the start —from keeping children well, to taking care of a sick child, along with preventing injuries, and creating a safe home. Dads at organizations across the nation, and on military installations, benefit from this helpful program. 

According to an article by The Northwest Guardian about DoctorDad being offered at Joint Base Lewis McChord:

No rank, no commission, no promotion compares to the privilege of making it to “Daddy.” No adventure seems as satisfying as cuddling your newborn and seeing her first smile. Yet for all the joys fatherhood brings, anxiety over caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. How to know what that incessant crying means, why she refuses to eat, why she is fussy?

Researchers point to the importance of father involvement regarding child’s safety and future development. According to a study by the National Fatherhood Initiative, children have up to 30 percent higher chance of getting injured when dads are not involved.

Private First Class Matthew Burkett of 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, (3rd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment) wasn’t aware of the statistics when he decided to take the DoctorDad® class. Burkett was just concerned with understanding his 7-month-old daughter’s fussing and crying. “When the baby cries, you run down the list wondering which one it is,” Burkett said.

DoctorDad Bundle

Each DoctorDad® Workshop is structured in two two-hour sessions. For example, one session covers infant well being and health issues (such as understanding why they might cry,) and also proper nutrition and immunizations. Another session deals with child safety and proper emergency response. Sessions provide an open and supportive environment where dads can ask questions, exchange stories, and share advice.

According to Venice del Mundo-Davis, New Parent Support Program home visitor for Joint Base Lewis McChord, "There aren’t a lot of classes out there for new fathers to go to. DoctorDad® class offers practical and useful points in getting through the first few years of taking care of a child. We are also trying to help fathers realize they play a unique role in caring for their kids.”

During the sessions, dads even participate in hand-on demonstrations of newborn care such as changing a diaper, swaddling techniques to calm a baby, burping positions, giving medications, SIDS (prevention,) and more. The goal is to help dads to learn how they can take part in the care of their newborn and be supportive of their partner.

The Northwest Guardian article continues:

Private First Class Burkett was not surprised to find out his post-session questionnaire answers were correct and that one of the most important things in becoming a new parent is being involved in the child’s life.

He said, “I came to this class to make sure I do all the right things to raise my little girl and what I learned was like a confirmation that I already am."

DocotorDad® Workshops are available as four separate workshops, or as a bundle
Download the Overview Sheet below for more information!
Portions of this post reposted from The Northwest Guardian, newspaper of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Get the DoctorDad  Overview Sheet

The Heart of NFI’s Work

As NFI adds more and more followers, blog readers, and “fans” via our social media tools, it often occurs to me that many of you may only have a very vague idea of what constitutes the core of NFI’s work as a nonprofit organization. Many of you may simply think of us as "those folks who write stuff online about fatherhood."

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So, this morning, I headed over to the local hotel’s meeting room to gather some physical evidence of the “real” grassroots work we do to strengthen fatherhood across the country.

This morning, NFI’s Senior Director of Program Support Services, Mike Yudt, is delivering a full-day training session on our InsideOut Dad® program for incarcerated fathers. The folks we are training are a dedicated group of professionals who work in communities around the country (we even have a guest from Hawaii!) and are striving to ensure that their agencies offer programs for fathers.

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So, they come to us to learn how to deliver our fatherhood curricula to the dads in their communities. Today is day three of a three-day program in which we trained groups of practitioners on our 24/7 Dad® program, our Doctor Dad® workshop, and today, InsideOut Dad®. Our trainees are folks who see that their communities’ notions of serving “families” often means serving mothers and children. They want to close that gap by ensuring that dads are getting the help they need, too.

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How often do we do this sort of thing? Well, in many ways it is our “bread and butter.” Since 2002, we have trained nearly 13,000 individuals from nearly 6,000 organizations on how to deliver fatherhood programs into their communities. We have also distributed over 6.3 million fatherhood resources (brochures, books, CD-ROMs, etc) to help dads build their fathering skills.

This is the work that keeps us ticking. This is the heart of what NFI does.

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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. 


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!

Access these Guides Now!

6 Protective Factors All Dads can Apply

The Department of Defense recently produced new instructions about the New Parent Support Program addressing six Protective Factors.

Military Community & Family Policy eMagazine introduced these six factors by emphasizing that "Becoming a parent is a major life change. No matter how many books you've read, videos you've seen, or classes you've taken in preparation for your baby, you may still have an unanswered question or two. Parenting challenges may be intensified within the military community with periods of separation, deployment, reunion, and relocation."

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For each of the six factors below, we have highlighted NFI resources that will not only assist military dads, but dads everywhere:

1) Nurturing and attachmentNurturing and bonding with your child from an early age can foster a positive relationship, and it may also set your child up for healthy relationships outside of the home.

2) Knowledge of parenting and child and youth developmentWhen you have a clear understanding of your child's developmental stages, you can use realistic communication, education, and positive discipline techniques.

3) Parental resilienceStress may be inevitable, but you can control how you react to stressful circumstances. Building resilience means building trusting relationships and finding healthy ways to reduce stress.

4) Social connectionsFriends, family, neighbors, and other connections in the community can give you healthy outlets for communication, and they may offer emotional support and help in stressful situations.

5) Concrete support for parentsWhen you have a problem that requires outside support, it is important to know where to find help. In the military community, you can reach out to your installation's NPSP for support and guidance.

To find contact information for your local resources, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS and select "New Parent Support Program" from the dropdown "program or service" box. 

  • Look for New Parent Support Programs and other departments in the military community which offer 24/7 Dad® and/or DoctorDad® programs.

6) Social and emotional competence of childrenUnderstanding your child's development can help you identify social and behavioral issues that, when identified early, can spare your family additional stress.

Together, these protective factors and NFI resources can help ease the challenge of preparing for your baby.

New Dads Really Do Affect Infant Behavior!

Dad with Infant Girl

Have you ever wondered how important father involvement is for infants?


I mean, does a two-month-old really notice the differences between a dad and a mom, and do those differences even matter?

Apparently, they do.

A new report from The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (April, 2012), found that “disengaged and remote interactions between fathers and their infants were found to predict externalising behavioural problems at the age of 1 year.”

Based on this finding, the researchers conclude that “these [disengaged] interactions may be critical factors to address, from a very early age in thechild’s life, and offer a potential opportunity for preventive intervention.” 

The key phrase there is “preventive intervention;” that is the “business” National Fatherhood Initiative is in. And we have been especially mindful of the need to provide hospitals and community-based organizations with the tools and skill-building materials they need to educate and inspire fathers in the earliest stages of a child’s life. More on that in a moment.

Regarding the research findings above, the researchers defined disengaged or remote interactions as ones “where a father is silent or not engaged with the infant.” I think all parents have been there. There are times when parents are caring for their baby out of obligation, but they are just not that into it --- they may be tired, stressed, or just in a bad mood. Amazingly, infants notice this! They sense the lack of interest and engagement, and it has an impact on them. Dads can be especially vulnerable to pulling the “silent treatment” when they are doing something they don’t want to do. But this research is another powerful reminder of just how important their active engagement is in their children’s lives, even when their children are infants. 

But how do you get fathers to the point where they know how to interact in an engaged fashion? Many of the dads you work with grew up in father-absent homes and have never seen a good dad in action. 

It starts with knowledge and confidence. When dads have those two tools at their disposal, their level of engagement with their infants skyrockets. 

NFI’s Doctor Dad™ workshops help build this confidence and knowledge by increasing fathers’ health literacy in the areas of infant and toddler health and safety. There are four workshops: The Well Child, The Sick Child, The Safe Child, and The Injured Child. Presented as 60-90 minute stand-alone workshops, or as supplemental sessions to your current fatherhood programming, Doctor Dad™ Workshops can be presented individually or as a series of four to cover all the areas of need your clients have.

Take it from me: When men feel like they know how to do something well, they do it with passion!  

Tell Us: What are you doing to address the health literacy of the dads you work with?


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.

The Father Factor Blog > Where Fatherhood Leaders Go To Learn.

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