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The Father Factor

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Parental Incarceration Might be Worse for Children than Parental Divorce or Death

The longer I'm at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), the more evidence piles up that shows how devastating having an incarcerated parent is for children.

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Last month researchers released a study that shows having an incarcerated parent might be worse for children than if their parents divorced or died. As reported in USA Today, the study found:

"That significant health problems and behavioral issues were associated with the children of incarcerated parents, and that parental incarceration may be more harmful to children's health than divorce or death of a parent...'These kids are saddled with disadvantages,' said Kristin Turney, the author of the study and an assistant professor of sociology at UC-Irvine. 'They're not only dealing with parental incarceration, but also mental health issues. It might make finding a job more difficult, or they may be forced to grow up faster than peers.' Compared to children of similar demographic, socioeconomic and familial characteristics, the study found that having a parent in prison was associated with children's behavioral problems and conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, speech or language problems and developmental delays."

We've known for decades that having an incarcerated parent places children at a greater risk for a host of poor outcomes compared with children whose parents aren't incarcerated. That's the primary reason NFI has equipped hundreds of correctional facilities, halfway houses, and re-entry programs and organizations with programs and other resources to help connect incarcerated fathers to their children and families prior to and after release. The fact that 25 states have standardized our InsideOut Dad® program across their facilities for men is a testament to how vital this work truly is. 

But when I add the results of this study to what we already know about the devastating impact of parental incarceration, I want to ensure that every state department of corrections standardizes on our InsideOut Dad program. I also want every county or city jail that houses fathers and every re-entry program that helps incarcerated fathers reenter society to understand how much impact they can have on improving child well-being by using our programs and resources to help incarcerated fathers be better dads. Unrealistic? Perhaps. But it's an objective worth pursuing. Please join me in achieving that objective.

What are you doing to help the children of incarcerated fathers?

What are you doing to help incarcerated fathers be better dads?

What Great Leaders Know That Others Don't

I never played high school football. My football career took place over a short span of four years, from the age of 9 to 12. Some call this peewee football; but not me. Peewee isn't accurate for what I learned about football, leadership, and life in those short years. As I watched When the Game Stands Tall, I was reminded of three things great leaders know that others don't.

Coach Lad knew what great leaders know. After winning 151 games in a roll, the film starts at the end of this great win streak. The Coach suffers a heart attack and the team loses game one of the following season. All seems lost for the "perfect" team. Oh, but no. Coach Lad knows what great leaders know. As he motivates his team about the importance of perfection, commitment, and accountability, we are reminded that playing football is about way more than just playing football. I found his lessons on leadership a helpful reminder of what it takes to be a good husband, dad, employee, and friend. 

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This movie and Coach Lad's example of leadership reminded me of three things great leaders know—in good times and in bad times—that others don't:

1) Great Leaders Know Leadership Starts in the Home

Leadership and fatherhood are one in the same. Watching as a husband and father, I was reminded when watching Coach Lad suffer a heart attack that try as I may, I can do everything necessary to be a great leader in my job and with friends, but if I neglect my home and family, all is pointless. 

Coach Lad's wife points to the fact that over the 151-game winning streak, Coach hasn't been around much for his own kids. We watch when Coach Lad suffers a heart attack, he breaks down and refers to himself as a "lousy husband and the worst dad." From the hospital bed, Coach Lad asks his wife, "what do I do now?" His wife responds caringly, “spend as much time with your family as you do with the team." We then walk with Coach Lad through his recovery and watch as he works to build a relationship with his son; who's now in his senior year of high school. This one lesson was clear: if you want to be great at something, be great at being around your family.

2) Great Leaders Know Leadership is about Commitment

At the start of the movie, the high school football players are in street clothes holding a meeting. Back when I practiced football, I don't recall having practices in street clothes talking like we were in a small group study. But Coach Lad had his athletes holding index cards and reading the other teammates goals aloud and verifying whether they completed their goals for the week. 

When it comes to commitment, we have to teach our children the importance of sticking to our word. When I was 9 years old, there were practices I didn't want to go to. I "just wanted to play" in the games and wear the jersey on Friday's. I hated it at the time, but I have learned after two decades to respect what my dad told me when he said, "you made your commitment they day you signed up to play; that means practice and all. You don't play on Saturday without practicing on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday." Kind of sounds like Coach Lad now that I think about it!

"We’re not asking you to be perfect on every play,
what we are asking you and what you should be asking of
each other is to give a perfect effort from snap to whistle.” 

—Coach Lad


3) Great Leaders Know Leadership is about Serving Others: 

When you're a dad, you quickly realize that life isn't about you. Coach Lad makes clear to his team that, "Love means I’ll be there for you in good times and bad." Basically, Lad is saying, whether it's convenient for me or not, I'll be there for you. See the application here in marriage? fatherhood? work? life? The power of showing up is real. Great leaders understand that while they may not have all the answers, they'll show up and serve no matter what. Showing up is in the job description.

"Growing up is tough, it’s not easy, it ain’t about football or scoring touchdowns, it’s about helping you grow up so that when you so when you take your place out in the community, you can be depended on.” —Coach Lad


When I played peewee football, I didn’t realize how much I was learning about leadership and life. It takes vigilance to be a great leader. It takes being faithful with what you have. It takes showing up. It takes placing others before yourself. This film was a great reminder for me that I’m an example, for good or for ill, to my wife, daughters, co-workers and how I do on these three tests determines how good or bad of a leader I am. Look, being a dad is hard work; but it's worth it. Oh, and as Coach Lad would say, "Family isn't just blood relatives." Get your home right so you can help serve those outside of your home.

What to see the trailer for this film? Check out our When the Game Stands Tall? page for more details.

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Become a Double Duty Dad Today! 

In this film, we see Coach Lad is what we at NFI calll a "Double Duty Dad". He knows how to lead in the home and outside of it. With 24 million children growing up in America without their biological father in the home, you can make a much-needed difference in your home and outside your home in two ways:

1) to a fatherless child in your circle of influence or
2) mentoring another dad.

Your commitment to be a Double Duty Dad will change everything. Visit here to get our helpful eBook.

In Theaters Next Friday 9/5: Seth Green, Ashley Judd & Ray Liotta Star in "The Identical"

What happens when your dad wants you to take up "his line of work" but you don't? The Identical is a redemptive movie about a young man, the son of a preacher, who rejects his father’s desire for him to join his work and instead try for a career as a rock singer. It's quirky, it's deep, did I mention it has Ray Liotta in it—and he's a southern preacher?

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About The Identical

In 1936, William and Helen Hemsley welcome identical twin boys into the harsh conditions of the Great Depression. When traveling evangelist Reece Wade reveals that he and his wife cannot have children, William feels prompting to give them one of the infant boys in hopes of that son obtaining a better life.

Despite their very different upbringings, the boys’ shared passion for music causes their lives to unknowingly intersect as they experience a powerful and mysterious connection often felt by twins. Drexel Hemsley becomes a rock and roll legend, while Ryan Wade struggles to find a balance between his love and vision for music and trying to please his adoptive father, Reverend Wade.

This film, spanning from the 1930’s through the 1970’s, is a captivating journey about the restoration and the reconciliation of a family broken apart by culture, devotion, creed and tradition.

As the adopted son, Ryan, struggles to pursue his dream and rise to stardom, he finds love, pain, success and failure, and ultimately uncovers a hidden family secret that reveals who he really is. It's a interesting story about a family restored, and a life discovered. 

This film stars Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, and Joe Pantoliano alongside Blake Rayne. NFI will write more about his film in the coming days related to fatherhood lessons that you can use for yourself and for the dads around you.

Check Out The Trailer of The Identical!

Be reminded of just how vital a father's words are—for good or for ill—when it comes to finding your way in life and living on purpose. For more details, visit here

Follow The Identical:

Download "The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with your Child"! 

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This free eBook is designed to help you and your children become closer and more connected. Use it for yourself or to help other dads.

In this free eBook we share:

  • The best questions to ask your school-aged child to get him or her talking
  • Great questions you can ask your teenager
  • Questions you can ask yourself to be sure you're doing all you should to be a great dad

Use this eBook for ideas to help you and the dads around you connect in a meaningful way.

Football, Family, and Fatherhood: Learn About When The Game Stands Tall

Inspired by a true story, When The Game Stands Tall shows the real-life De La Salle High School's incredible football winning streak and exactly what created the victories. This film is about football, but make no mistake about it, this film is about fatherhood. Let it inspire you to be a better leader for your home and for those around you.

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It's in theaters now, I'll write more about the leadership lessons from this film in an upcoming post. But first, you have to see the trailer! Coaches and parents who watch will be motivated by being reminded of the real reason you put in the time and effort to lead your children—in good times and bad.

“Winning a lot of football games is doable. Teaching kids there’s more to life? That’s hard.” —Coach Bob Ladouceur in the movie
When The Game Stands Tall

About When The Game Stands Tall

Inspired by the true story, When The Game Stands Tall brings to life the incredible winning streak of the De La Salle High School football team: 151 straight victories over 12 years. All along the way, as Coach Bob Ladouceur builds his seemingly invincible national powerhouse, he has emphasized purpose and significance rather than streaks and titles.

But when real-life adversity leaves the team reeling, the Spartans must decide if the sacrifice, commitment, and teamwork they have always trusted in can rebuild what is now disintegrating around them.

Get a Sneak Peek of When The Game Stands Tall

Check out these scenes from the new family film that show the real-life world of coaching, football, and leadership.

 

Endorsements

"WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL has the best football action I have ever seen in a movie—and I have seen a lot of great football movies over the years! Coaches, players, parents, and fans are all going to stand up and cheer for this powerful film."
—Bobby Bowden, Retired Florida State head football coach

"When I saw WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL, I thought of a great outline of what high school athletics should be. It shouldn’t be about the statistics, it shouldn’t be about the touchdowns—it should be about the team and the effort that a team puts forth together."
—Amani Toomer, Super Bowl champion and former De La Salle receiver

See more endorsements here.

Follow When The Game Stands Tall!

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Become a Double Duty Dad Today! 

In this film, we see Coach Lad is what we at NFI calll a "Double Duty Dad". With 24 million children growing up in America without their biological father in the home, you can make a difference:

1) to a fatherless child in your circle of influence or
2) mentor another dad.

Your commitment to be a Double Duty Dad will change everything. Visit here to get our helpful eBook.

Assistance Needed: Fatherhood Research & Practice Network Poll

In June 2014, the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) launched to promote rigorous evaluation of fatherhood programs. The FRPN will announce its first grant awards to researcher and program/practitioner teams this fall.  

If you read The Father Factor Blog, you know that NFI's president Christopher A. Brown has written about funding fatherhood research as he serves on the FRPN steering committee. NFI is committed to helping you help fathers. In addition to funding new research, the FRPN plans to offer free technical assistance (TA) to fatherhood programs to strengthen their ability to do evaluation research.

Screen_Shot_2014-05-29_at_12.39.39_PM-1What types of TA for evaluation do fatherhood programs need? The FRPN would like to hear from programs and practitioners.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Develop a computerized management information (MIS) system to track client enrollment, service delivery and outcomes. This is designed for programs that don’t have a system in place and will include a low-cost monthly hosting fee.
  • Offer consulting services for programs to improve use of their MIS.
  • Provide one-on-one consulting services on evaluation for interested programs.
  • Develop measurement tools and research instruments targeted to father engagement, co-parenting and other important outcomes.
  • Create an Institutional Review Board (IRB) for fatherhood programs that do not have access to one or are not connected with a university.
  • Develop a certificate program on evaluation research for fatherhood program staff that qualifies for continuing education credit.
  • Continue to develop videos, webinars and other resources focused on program evaluation and post them on the FRPN website (www.frpn.org). 
  • Develop an evaluation self-assessment tool for programs.
  • Help programs connect with researchers in close proximity who are interested in doing evaluation research projects.

Help the FRPN determine what types of TA the fatherhood field needs by completing the FRPN TA poll! Visit here to get started. We appreciate your time and feedback!


The FRPN seeks to:

  • Promote rigorous evaluation of fatherhood programs.
  • Expand the number of researchers and practitioners collaborating to evaluate these programs.
  • Disseminate information that leads to effective fatherhood practice and evaluation research.

Peanut Butter Cheerios #HowToDad is Spot-On Portrayal of Fathers

This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post. 

A little more than two months ago, I posted an article on the horrible portrayal of fathers in TV ads by Lowe's and LG. As I noted in that article, the Lowe's ad in particular was one of the worst I've seen in my nearly 15 years of work at National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI).

As fortune would have it, not soon after the release of those ads, General Mills Canada launched a web-based campaign for Peanut Butter Cheerios anchored by a series of ads that portray fathers in a completely different, positive light. Known as the #HowToDad campaign, it might be the best father-focused campaign for a consumer brand I've seen. The fact that General Mills Canada produced a series of ads within a broader web-based campaign is very important, but more on that later.

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The Lowe's ad is, unfortunately, all too common in its portrayal of a dad as an irresponsible, untrustworthy, incompetent adolescent whose children must be rescued by a responsible, trustworthy, competent mom. What makes this ad and the LG ad so insidious is couching the portrayal of the dads within humor because, these companies reason, the use of humor makes it perfectly fine to reinforce this notion of dads as poor parents, all in the name of selling products to moms. (As I pointed out in the article, this approach is disrespectful of moms as well.) Indeed, when NFI contacted Lowe's to voice our disapproval of their ad, Lowe's simply said they were sorry that we took the ad the wrong way, that their portrayal of the dad was all in fun and meant no harm, and that they had no intention of pulling the ad. Interestingly, we didn't ask them to pull the ad. Perhaps they were a bit defensive given their receipt of a petition signed by NFI and other organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada that called Lowe's out on the ad. (For details on the petition, see my previous article.)

At any rate, the #HowToDad campaign turns the tables by showing that dads are competent parents. The campaign transforms Peanut Butter Cheerios into the "Official Cereal of Dadhood." In doing so, General Mills Canada recognizes that the company doesn't have to denigrate dads to sell a product. This campaign reflects the growing influence of dads as moms' partners in raising children in all aspects of domestic life. Dads have taken on a steadily increasing share of the parenting load in recent decades. Dads spend more time than ever with their children generally, grocery and retail shopping for the family, and doing housework (e.g. cooking and cleaning). Dads are also more focused than ever on the desire to balance work and family. Indeed, they're often more conflicted than moms in this regard.

In addition to the overall portrayal of fathers, what I really appreciate is how General Mills Canada uses humor to portray fathers in a positive light -- a stark rebuke to the use of humor in ads like those of Lowe's and LG. I also appreciate that the campaign uses social media to share this positive portrayal across multiple channels used by people of all ages. The #HowToDad campaign is a comprehensive web-based campaign that, in addition to the ads, includes static images, infographics, and videos (e.g. of dads doing inspirational activities with their children) that visitors can share across multiple social media platforms.

It's this kind of campaign for a consumer brand that can make a difference in reinforcing the vital role played by dads. Because consumer brands are bellwethers of popular culture, they have a huge impact on cultural norms including those around parenting. That's why, in the coming weeks, NFI will present a National Fatherhood Initiative Fatherhood Award to General Mills Canada. It's vital that we recognize positive portrayals of dads wherever we see them and call out companies that do dads, moms and children a disservice. Join me in #HowToDad.

This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

NFI’s New Evidence-Based Program Offerings to Serve At-Risk Teen and Young Adult Fathers and Couples

Innovative Partnership to Help Organizations and Communities Teach At-Risk Teens and Young Adults How to Create Healthy Relationships for the Sake of Children.

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), the nation’s leading provider of fatherhood skill-building materials and training, has formed an innovative partnership with The Dibble Institute to offer two programs that will be implemented by community-based organizations across the nation, Relationships Smarts PLUS and Love Notes. The programs help at-risk teens and young adults who are and are not parents learn how to create healthy relationships—and ultimately—healthy families.

Dibble-PR-ImageOrganizations will use Relationships Smarts PLUS to teach teens and young adults how to make wise decisions about relationships, sex, dating, and pregnancy prevention, thus laying the foundation for them to be effective parents when the time is right, and not before. For teens and young adults who are parents, organizations will use Love Notes to help this population with one of its greatest challenges to effective parenting—lack of relationship skills between parents—and to make wise choices (e.g. planned pregnancies) that are also critical challenges they face and essential to building a strong family now and for the future.

Relationships Smarts PLUS is listed on The National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP), and Loves Notes (an adaptation of Relationships Smarts PLUS) is currently part of a rigorous evaluation as a pregnancy prevention strategy for at-risk youth, funded by a Tier II grant from the Administration for Children, Youth, and Families. Love Notes has also been shown to be effective as part of a rigorous evaluation in which males comprised nearly 70 percent of both intervention and control groups.

NFI president Christopher A. Brown says

“These two new offerings from NFI will help organizations that work with teens and young adults—whether parents or future parents, dads or moms—equip young people with the skills and knowledge they need to develop healthy relationships now and in the future and, ultimately, to be the parents their children need or will need them to be.”

About this innovative partnership, Brown says

“We know that there has been a lack of quality programs for teen and young adult dads because our customers have asked for such programs for many years. We could have created our own programs, but after conducting research into the salient issues facing this population—and whether such programs already exist that have been shown through evaluations to be effective with males—we discovered the two Dibble programs which center on healthy relationships. And with that being perhaps the most salient of the issues, it was a no-brainer to make these two programs a part of our offerings. They allow organizations to work with teen and young adult dads separately or couples together, and NFI to continue expansion of our resources for moms focused on improving the relationships between dads and moms for the sake of children.”

For 20 years, NFI has worked to end father absence by creating healthy families across the nation. These two new offerings are one of the many ways NFI continues working to help organizations and communities better serve young families through involved, responsible, and committed fathers.

If you would like to learn more, visit Relationship Smarts PLUS and Love Notes.

Your Children are What YOU Eat

You know what a fast-food diet can do to your waistline, not to mention your thighs, buttocks, arms, etc. But did you know that Baconator® from Wendy's could have consequences for your unborn children and grandchildren? It's time to wake up and smell the coffee (er, bacon) when it comes to your diet. What you eat can have either a positive or negative effect on your unborn child or grandchild. 

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Recent ground-breaking research by Dr. Ian Myles, an allergist-immunologist based in Bethesda, MD, and reported in the Nutrition Journal concluded that it's not just moms whose diets affect their unborn children. Dads' diets matter, too. Specifically, parents' diets affect their children's "mircobiome," the plethora of bacteria that live on our skin and in our gut. A diverse and balanced microbiome is critical to a strong immune system. Unfortunately, our Western diet--marked by an imbalance that favors refined grains, sugar, and too much saturated fat--creates a limited and imbalanced microbiome one that makes it more difficult for us to properly digest food (thus taking advantage of the nutrients that might be present but limited) and ward off disease, not to mention how lethargic such a diet can make us.

Worse yet, our poor diet is a bad gift that keeps on giving as the microbiome it creates in parents (or expectant parents) passes directly to their offspring. When it comes to moms, it's easier to see the connection. Dr. Myles says, for example, "When the mother’s diet causes a harmful imbalance of her bacteria, she passes this imbalance on to her child and thus fails to present the ideal commensals for a proper immune education during her child’s most critical developmental window. This developmental dysbiosis leaves the offspring’s immune system poorly trained to fight off infections and encourages autoimmune and allergic diseases." 

While the mechanism for moms' contributions to their offspring's microbiome is easier to get your arms around, you might understandably wonder what's the mechanism that links dads' diets to their offspring's microbiome. It's DNA that wonder of nature that allows two human beings to create another one. Poor diets can negatively affect men's DNA by altering the genes that men eventually pass to their offspring. Those alterations can affect the development of organs some of which (e.g. the pancreas) are vital to a properly functioning immune system. As Dr. Myles says, "Since the information encoded upon DNA is passed from parent-to-child and even potentially from parent-to-grandchild, cells that learn bad habits like ignoring signs of infection or over-reacting to antigens could combine with microbiome shifts to further worsen a child’s immunologic development." 

This research is quite new. The jury is still out on how strong a link there is between dads' diets and the affects on their unborn children. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to strongly suggest that what you ingest can have far-reaching consequences for your children. It's not enough to understand and act upon the clear evidence on how your diet directly affects you and indirectly affects the children you might now have (e.g. they learn through modeling what to eat). You also must seriously consider acting on the emerging evidence that you can pass along the impact of a poor diet (or a good one) to the very core of your children's being just like your height, eye color, hair color, or any other heritable trait.

How poor or good is your diet? How much do you care about how your diet affects your children or unborn children?


image: iStockPhoto

See How Connecticut is Changing Fatherhood and Why It Matters to You

In a recent issue of Connecticut Magazine, Ray Bendici writes, "The Changing Face of Fatherhood in Connecticut" and takes a look inside the fatherhood program that is literally changing lives. Learn what this group is doing to help dads connect with their children. 

Ray writes for Connecticut Magazine:

it's Monday afternoon at Madonna Place in downtown Norwich, men ranging in age from their early twenties up to mid-fifties trickle into the plain brick building...They greet each other with fist bumps and handshakes, load paper plates with pizza, sit down at the table and start talking about busting their asses at work, trying to negotiate child visitation with ex-wives and girlfriends, navigating legal issues, going fishing with their kids...and motorcycles—you know, guy stuff.

connecticut_magazine_changing_fatherhoodWill Marquez is the leader of the 24/7 Dad® program and leads a dozen men in 90-minute sessions all connected and ready to learn how to be better dads.

Bendici points out that around 90 percent of the men in this program are single dads and are referred either by a social services agency or others who have successfully completed the program.

Some things jumped out at me from Bendici's article that will prove useful and encouraging for you.

U.S. Census data for Connecticut shows that in 2000:

  • 676,467 married households—52% of the state population.

By 2010, that number had dipped to:

  • 672,013—49% despite the overall population of the state having grown from 3.41 million to 3.57 million.

In Bendici words, "there are more singleparents—and singledads—than ever before, which means fatherhood has become an evolving enterprise."

As we know from our years of experience working with community-based fatherhood programs, many point to employment as one of the biggest roadblocks to improved paternal relationsAnthony Judkins, program manager of Connecticut’s Fatherhood Initiative since it started in 1999 says, “When you have children, there are no instructions on being a father...when you have been incarcerated and you are a felon, when you have low education levels, when you have child-support debt that continues to mount—those things are sometimes insurmountable." This is where the fatherhood program comes in.

The fatherhood program in Norwich has been successful:

  • helped 152 fathers (and 302 children)
  • 56% of unemployed fathers obtained employment after program enrollment,
  • 60% of fathers initiated, resumed or caught up on child support payments because of the assistance they received

All of the above positive results have, as you might imagine, translated into better relationships with their children.

As one session at Madonna Place wraps up, Bendici recalls an exercise. Will Marquez poses a scenario of teenage son smoking marijuana, and asks the fathers in the group how they would handle the situation, especially given that many of the dads have used it themselves.

Bendici writes that, "Before the discussion goes too far, a man named Jeff raises his hand—he thinks his 15-year-old son may already be using marijuana. “I was that age when I started smoking, so trust me, I can tell,” he says."

The dads in the group have a wide variety of advice, some common sense and some not-so-common. But, Jeff is happy to have the support of other dads. After listening to the advice, he replies, “I think I have a good idea of how I’m going to address it now.”

As the group breaks for the evening, Travis (a father of three) is seated at a table, completing an exit survey (this was his twelfth and final session to get his certificate of completion).

Bendici recalls overhearing a conversation between Travis and another dad, “So are you done here now that you’ve got it?” someone asks him. “No,” Travis says with a smile. “I’ll definitely be back for more.”

I'm glad Bendici wrote about this fatherhood program. While reading this story, I was reminded of how much work there is to do in helping dads be better dads. Fatherhood work can seem daunting; but, it's encouraging to know groups like this one in Connecticut exist, not only because Connecticut families need it, but every family needs it.

Father Involvement and the Gender Gap in Education

A new column by Christopher Brown in The Huffington Post reveals how a new gender gap has started in higher education. Brown points out that women are enrolling in and graduating from college at much higher rates than men. In this post, get details on the issue so you can help encourage dads around you.  

kids_in_classroomBrown writes in How dads' Involvement Can Address the Gender Gap in Higher Education, which I recommend you read in full, but some insights you should know are as follows:

  • In 1994, the proportion of female and male high school graduates who enrolled in college was virtually the same (63 percent and 61 percent, respectively). By 2012, a sizable gap had emerged with 71 percent of female high school graduates enrolled in college compared to 61 percent of males.
  • The gap doesn't discriminate based on race or ethnicity.
  • Women now represent nearly three-fifths of graduate students.
  • While we should celebrate that more women attend college and obtain degrees than ever before, we should be concerned that men are being left behind and that extremely little is being done about it.
  • This trend has dire economic and social consequences.
  • Men who don't graduate from college earn less money, for example, than men who do. It also makes them more vulnerable to unemployment, which has a host of consequences that include a higher risk for criminal behavior.

What can we do to address this gender gap?

  • Greater father involvement in the lives of high school students.
  • Father absence is at the heart of the educational challenges faced by boys and men.
  • Boys are more likely to drop out of high school, for example, when they grow up without their dads. (Accordingly, My Brother's Keeper acknowledges this fact.)

Brown mentions a recent study on the impact of father involvement on college graduation rates and says it reveals why "greater father involvement is vital to addressing the gender gap specifically and increasing college graduation rates generally because, quite frankly, we should also be concerned that only 1 of 3 young adults, regardless of gender, graduates from college."

Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia studied children ages 7-12 by dividing teens into four groups based on their fathers' level of involvement:

  1. not involved
  2. less involved
  3. involved
  4. very involved

Wilcox findings were as follows:

  • regardless of socioeconomic status and compared to teens of not involved dads, teens with involved dads were 98 percent more likely to graduate from college while teens with very involved fathers were 105 percent more likely to graduate from college.

Brown summarizes:

more involved fathers contribute to more college success for our nation's young adults and is a much more cost-effective solution than hundreds of programs and initiatives that, while laudable and part of the solution, don't go far enough upstream and cost a ton of money.

Wilcox and Brown make it clear that while the dads in the home are more involved than ever; sadly, more children are growing up without dad in the home. Fixing this education gap means understanding and working to fix the father absence problem.

Read the full article at The Huffington Post

 

7 Brands Who Got Dad Commercials Right

In the hectic schedule of Father's Day, we're catching up to these great videos. Thanks to The Agency Post, we were reminded of some of the brands who got their portrayal of dad right. 

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I've worked at NFI for over two years now, one thing that still surprises me is the lame portrayal of dads in media and advertising. But, I'm not going to complain in this post, I promise. Keeping positive, these seven brands got fatherhood right this time.

Take note brands, you can be funny, witty, and/or serious, and still show involved, responsible, and committed dads. Thanks Jami Oetting at The Agency Post for reminding us of the positive dad-portrayal in advertising with her post Dads in Advertising: 10 Commercials that Challenge the 'Doofus Dad' Stereotype.

Fatherhood Leaders: use these videos to start a conversation about the portrayal of dads in media. Ask dads: which depiction do you more often see of dads in media: doofus dad or responsible dad?  

Brand 1 > Dove Men+Care "Calling Dads" 
Perhaps you've notice by now, we kind of like this new Dove Men+Care commercial.

Along with the commercial, Dove released new research of 1,000 fathers between the ages of 25 and 54 that found, “Three quarters of dads say they are responsible for their child’s emotional well-being, while only 20% of dads see this role reflected in media.”

Dove Men+Care went the extra mile and asked dads to post using #RealDadMoments on social media. Awesome, and tear-worthy. Go dads, and Dove!  

 

Brand 2 > Extra “Origami”
The smallest gesture can make the biggest impact on a daughter.


Brand 3 > Subaru “Flat Tire”
Dads can’t teach you everything, but they can teach you that you can do anything. 


Brand 4 > Cardstore “Dad Casting – World’s Toughest Job”  
Casting for “dad” can be tough. But being a dad isn’t an act.  


Brand 5 > Ad Council “Cheerleader”
 
Pride goes to a new level when you become a father.  


Brand 6 > Cheerios “Gracie” 
Explaining changes in your family in simple ways can sometimes lead to an even bigger family.  


Brand 7 > Google Chrome “Dear Sophie” 
Remember: Your dad is there from the beginning, witnessing every moment.  


Which commercial is your favorite?

Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day is kind of a big deal when you're National Fatherhood Initiative. 

DOVE-MEN-LOGO_v1[1]When most of today's advertising and media portray dads as stupid, incompetent, bumbling and the like, Dove Men+Care rises above all that noise by showing that a brand can not only move product, but celebrate dads.

Dove Men+Care continues to be on the cutting edge of men's products while showing real, caring dads. We are grateful for such a brand and feel it's worth promoting them. This is not a sponsored email from Dove, we promise. But this Father's Day, after seeing all the negative portrayals of dads, we paused to watch this film again and again this week. Now, watch it and cry with us!

Take a moment today to celebrate the dad in your life. Watch this video from Dove Men+Care and share it with your family and friends. Happy Father's Day! 

New Release: Father-Readiness Training Kit™

DIY Kit helps organizations and communities prepare to serve dads: National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), the nation’s leading provider of fatherhood skill-building materials and training, has released the Father-Readiness Training Kit™, a new do-it-yourself kit to help organizations and communities prepare to serve fathers.

father-readiness training kit The kit captures over 15 years of NFI experience in training organizations on how to implement low- and no-cost strategies and tactics to engage fathers and to create an environment that supports successful fatherhood services and programs. To develop a field-tested and field-ready set of tools, NFI’s fathering experts drew from NFI’s experience running the federally-funded National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse and several national and state-level fatherhood initiatives.

In many communities across the country, there is a dearth of services available to fathers, often in communities where services for mothers and children are abundant. “Father-Readiness” is a process implemented by an organization, group of organizations, or group of community leaders to create an environment that increases father engagement.

Accordingly, the Father-Readiness Training Kit™ helps organizations address the barriers to creating and implementing effective services for dads; undertake the foundational work necessary to create a supportive environment for programs; and address the five Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. 

The kit includes:

  • CD with a User’s Guide 
  • NFI’s Father Friendly Check-Up™ assessment
  • PowerPoint presentation for training staff
  • comprehensive set of planning and implementation documents to conduct and evaluate the father-readiness training and process.

“We are excited about the impact the Father-Readiness Training Kit™ will have on communities across the country working to implement effective fatherhood programs,” said Christopher Brown, president of NFI. “Nothing like this has ever been offered in the field before. It opens new opportunities for organizations to engage fathers in ways they never thought possible. And for organizations that want to have a broad impact in addressing father absence, this tool allows them to train other organizations across their communities.”

Through August 15, 2014, the Father-Readiness Training Kit™ will be available at an introductory price of $759 through NFI’s FatherSOURCE resource center. After August 15, the price will increase to $999.

A Tribute to Gregg Nicklas

In my ten years at NFI, I have never known a more humble, action-oriented, and courageous champion of fatherhood. Aside from Gregg being a man of faith, a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and care-giver, many things could be said to honor his memory. I want to highlight only one here—his diligent stewardship of opportunities.   

GreggNicklasThursday night, May 29th, at 11:00 p.m., Gregg Nicklas, Executive Director of Christian Heritage—a highly respected foster home with a thirty-plus year history in Lincoln, NEwas struck by a car while walking his dog. The driver fled and Gregg was pronounced dead on the scene. We are left heartbroken by this tragedy along with Gregg’s entire family, community, and friends.

In 2007 Gregg, identifying incarceration and father absence as root causes, sensed the need for a fatherhood program. His first activity, with staff, was to launch a Father of the Year award. It was at this time that he learned of the National Fatherhood Initiative, submitted a proposal for a capacity-building grant, and became one of the awardees. This capacity-building grant helped Christian Heritage define their vision and be encouraged by meeting others from around the country who shared a similar passion.

Returning to Nebraska, they began to implement their vision and in October of 2008 sponsored a Leadership Summit on Fatherhood, bringing 56 community leaders together. At this Summit, Larry Wayne, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services’ (NDCS) Deputy Director of Programs and Community Services, requested the implementation of a parenting program at Nebraska’s correctional facilities for men. Gregg moved on this request and, in February 2009, leveraged another opportunity—bringing NFI staff (where I first met Gregg) to Nebraska to train facilitator’s on the evidence-based InsideOut Dad®. This program became the entry point for a new initiative launched by Christian Heritage called Destination…Dad™. 

This is one of the most holistic interventions I have seen nationally and includes the following:

  • Daddy Day Visits—once a month, children spend two hours with their incarcerated dads, who report that “this is the most like being at home.” One mom said, "two hours once a month may not sound like much, but it has changed my son’s life.”
  • DVD’s from Dad—Fathers read books to their children while being video-taped. The books and DVD’s are sent to the children’s caregivers. Children are reported not to want to go to bed or leave for school until their dads have read to them.
  • Peer mentoring/Alumni Program—These are monthly meetings to review curricula and participate in conversations related to being a responsible father.
  • Reentry Family Action Plans—Reentry planning with family members prior to release.
  • Extended Phone Time—Additional 15-minute phone call each day for qualified dads to talk with their children and caregivers. 
  • Parent/Teacher Conferences via Skype—Studies reveal that children do better in school when their dads are involved.

Gregg’s leadership and diligence led to solid outcomes in just five short years: 

  • 930 dads, who have 2,102 children, have participated as of April 2014
  • 486 of these men have been released. Only 68 inmates have been out long enough to be calculated into a three-year recidivism rate. Nevertheless, the recidivism rate for the program participants is 13.2% to date!
  • NDCS projects Destination…Dad™’s long term recidivism rate at 15 percent. Inmate population has been reduced by 40 dads, saving the state $1 million (annual cost per inmate: $28,773).
  • In December 2013 they secured funding through passage of Legislative Bill 483 for the next two years.

I once asked Gregg in an interview what final thoughts he would share with the national fatherhood field and he said, “Encourage your participants to be ‘bold and courageous.’”  

Gregg, we are saddened by your loss but will do our best. Thank you for the great legacy you left us. Be assured, your example will help us make the most of every opportunity and diligently steward all we have been entrusted with.

Visit Christian Heritage for more details.

What Dads Can Learn From the Santa Barbara Killing Spree

I’ve blogged many times over the years about the disturbing “father factor” I’ve seen in virtually every shooting spree or mass murder that has made the news. In nearly every case, the shooter grew up in a fatherless home. 

what dads can learn from santa barbara killing spreeFollowing in the wake of the D.C. sniper, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, Chardon High School, and the Norway terrorist, the Santa Barbara case in the news today appears to be no different: a murder spree carried out by a lonely, angry, disturbed young man with a troubling family background. 

At this stage, we don’t have a lot of detail about the “inner workings” of Elliot Rodger’s family life, but we do know that his parents divorced in 1999, and he, according to an article in The New York Times, seemed to be at odds with his family throughout his teenage years. And reports have shown that Rodger’s parents gave him lots of “things”: therapy, medicine, an expensive BMW. But did they give themselves? 

I am not suggesting that his family life caused his violent behavior, but it is becoming more and more clear as these horrific incidents occur that a family life defined by instability and turmoil is a significant factor that must be considered as we figure out how to make such incidents less common. 

But given Elliot Rodger’s clear hatred for women (and everyone else for that matter), there is another “father factor” that is important to consider here as well: the positive role that good dads can play in helping their daughters and sons navigate the world of dating. 

Rodger, in his last video before he carried out his murders, suggested that he was doing what he did due to being rejected too often by the women he desired. It is understandable that such an act could cause young women to fear what the consequences may be when they turn aside unwanted advances from young men. How can fathers help their daughters get their heads around this?

For starters, it is important to note that Rodger said in his video that he thought he would be rejected if he asked a woman out. This was a young man who felt rejected; he was seemingly never rejected by an actual woman. So, young women and their dads should take heart that Rodger’s actions were those of a severely disturbed individual, not the result of a run-of-the-mill rejection by an actual woman. 

That aside, it is the role of good dads to help their daughters find their prince without kissing all the toads.

Here is how dads can help:

  • Be there: First and foremost, a good father’s mere presence helps daughters see what a healthy relationship between a man and a woman (her parents) looks like. Good dads model that relationship for their girls, allowing them to start learning about healthy relationships from the very start of their lives. Good dads also build their daughters’ self esteem, as various studies have found. 
  • Be proactive: As their daughters get older, good dads play an active role in their decisions around dating. Dad and mom should call the shots on when their daughter starts to date; it is their call, not hers. They are in a better position than anyone else to determine if she is ready to date. 
  • Discourage “bad boys”: Once she does start dating, good dads help their daughters avoid guys who appear to need “fixing;” so-called bad boys. They are bad for a reason. Despite the allure, dating should not be therapy, where your daughter is the therapist and her boyfriend is the patient. 
  • Encourage group dating: Good dads encourage their daughters to spend their first months of dating going on group dates so that they, a) are rarely alone with guys, and b) have their friends around to help them “vet” guys. There is nothing like having your peers give you an objective evaluation of a guy who may be more trouble than he is worth. 
  • Avoid unknowns: Good dads discourage their daughters from dating guys they don’t know. If a guy and a girl are interested in dating each other and they don’t know each other (e.g., don’t go to the same school or church, etc.), then it is likely they simply want to date each other based on looks alone. This is probably not a good recipe for those earliest years of dating. 
  • Don’t obsess over dating: Good dads encourage their daughters to pursue lots of different interest in their teenage years. They help their daughters focus on academics, friends, sports, and other interests, so that dating (or not) doesn’t take over their lives.

So, when it comes to the question of how to “safely reject” a guy, it can be as simple as following the same basic rules you follow in all other human interactions. Be respectful. Don’t humiliate people. And, if dads are following the above steps, it is likely that their daughters are confident, assertive young women who are surrounded by good friends and supportive parents. These are notoriously good insulators against violence. 

Finally, it is critical that dads work with their sons to help them navigate the world of dating, too. It is clear that Elliot Rodger had no idea how to interact with members of the opposite sex. Good dads ensure that their sons are confident, respectful, and hold the best interests of others above their own. They teach their sons that girls are worthy of love, not lust, and model this behavior in their own lives.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. As someone who works in “fatherhood,” it would seem I see fatherhood everywhere in the case of the Santa Barbara murders. But it appears that in every aspect of this horrible incident, there are lessons good dads can take away to ensure that they are raising sons and daughters who will be less likely to be the perpetrators or victims of such crimes. 

We dads certainly can’t control everything, but we can give our children what they need the most: ourselves.

What's one thing you're teaching your son or daughter about dating?

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