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The Father Factor

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How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 5th Competency

Funding. Funding. Funding. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about recruitment and retention as being the bane of practitioners’ existence. That’s only half the story. The other half of practitioners’ bane, if you will, is funding fatherhood programs.

fundraising 

This post is the fifth and final in a weekly series in which I highlight the five core competencies you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.

Click here to read the post on the 1st competency: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization

Click here to read the post on the 2nd competency: How to Design a Best Practice Fatherhood Program

Click here to read the post on the 3rd competency: How to Think Like a Marketer

Click here to read last week’s post on the 4th competency: How to Involve Moms 

Fundraising

The key to raising funds to start and maintain a fatherhood program is identifying diverse funding sources and securing funds from those sources that, when combined, provide multiple funding streams. All too often practitioners and organizations rely on one or two funding sources, which places the program at risk when those sources dry up as most eventually do. And all too often they’re involved in “crisis fundraising” that is reactive rather than proactive.

The fifth competency in effectively engaging fathers centers around the development of a well thought out, comprehensive Fund Development Plan for your fatherhood program that involves:

  • Identifying and securing of funds for the program.
  • How to position the fatherhood program within a larger context (i.e. related issue such as child abuse prevention).

Such a plan: 

  • Focuses on activities/tactics for raising funds.
  • Answers:
    • How you will identify funding sources?
    • How you will secure funds from sources?
    • Who will help identify and secure funds?
  • Limits crisis fundraising by:
    • Identifying opportunities to meet current program needs.
    • Identifying opportunities to meet future program needs.

To create an effective plan, you need to learn how to research, select, and engage (initially and ongoing) individual donors and other funding sources (e.g. family foundations). 

FEC Session 5: How to Develop a Funding Plan for a Fatherhood Program

This session helps you think through how you will fund your fatherhood program, and covers the importance of a Fund Development Plan. You will learn about the nuances of raising funds from individuals and foundations, as well as how to profile, research, select, and engage different types of funders/funding streams. Thinking through your funding options will help you prepare to launch a successful, sustainable fatherhood program.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

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Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

Do you have a funding plan for your fatherhood program?

Does your plan include current needs and anticipate future needs?

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic]

NFI stretches your dollars through our capacity-building approach.

Every child deserves a 24/7 Dad. From free fatherhood resources to fatherhood products, programs and trainings, your donation supports our mission.

In fact, our free fatherhood resources now out number the products and resources we sell in our store. Today, we have 105 free resources that can be downloaded, read, watched, and reviewed. For instance, our free resource The Ultimate Guide to Connecting with Your Child has been downloaded almost 5,000 times! That's 5,000 fathers that are now armed with questions they can ask their child to generate meaningful conversations.

Just as we exist to create more involved dads, we serve fatherhood programs and organizations. Your donation also helps us create free resources for fatherhood leaders and organizations. Basically, you can think of us as a Cisco Systems or IBM of the family-strengthening arena. Just like IBM helps other businesses and governments build their technology infrastructures, we help other organizations and governments build their family-strengthening infrastructures.

Let's look at the problem of father absence, what NFI does to remedy this problem, and just how much your support truly matters...

How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

The Root

How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

One out of three American children live without their dad. That’s 24 million children, enough to populate New York City three times! These children are in every community, including your own. You can help these children by ensuring your dollars have maximum impact on child well-being.

How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org new york city nyc

NFI Connects Fathers and Children

How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

  • We are the go-to source for thousands of organizations to obtain effective fatherhood training, programs, and other resources.
  • We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization relying on contributions from individuals and foundations to improve child well-being and prevent father absence.
  • NFI builds the capacities of those organizations to offer programs and services for dads, moms, and families.

NFI's Partners Include:

6-military-icon How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org
Military > 
All branches of the U.S. Military, National Guard, and Reserve Units

 

corrections prison jail How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.orgCorrections > State, county, and private prisons/jails; Federal Bureau of Prisons; and state, county, and local reentry programs.

 

8-agency-icon How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org state local county government agency

State and Local/County Agencies > Health and Human Services; maternal and child health and welfare programs; and child abuse prevention organizations.

 

9-community-based-icon How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.orgCommunity-Based Organizations > Community action agencies; head start and healthy start programs; grassroots fatherhood and family service organizations; and schools.

We track our success and impact through: U.S. Census data; program and project evaluations; number of resources distributed and organizations trained; and case studies, stories of impact and testimonials.

NFI’s Impact:

More than 7 Million NFI RESOURCES have been distributed to dads and momsNFI programs are used in all 50 states, Washington D.C, and U.S. Territories. 

NFI has trained more than…

  • 6,300 Organizations In-Person
  • 14,100 Staff In-Person
  • 15,000 Staff Online
10-NFI-impact-7-million How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

 

A child raised with a dad is:

  • 4X less likely to live in poverty
  • 2X more likely to graduate high school
  • 7X less likely to become or get someone pregnant as a teen
  • 2X less likely to have emotional or behavioral problems
  • 7X less likely to be incarcerated as an adult
11-child-raised-with-dad-image stats fatherless home stats research How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

NFI stretches your dollar through our national network that reaches into your backyard.

Fathers matter. Your support matters.

Begin making a difference for children everywhere. 
Donate today. Visit fatherhood.org/donate

12-NFI-donate-today-cta How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

Click here or anywhere on the infographic to enlarge, download or share.

Stretch-Your-Dollars-For-Children-with-NFI How to Stretch Your Dollars for Children [Infographic] donate to fatherhood.org

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 4th Competency

Mom and dad don’t get along. Maybe they hate each other. Perhaps there is, unfortunately, a history of abuse in the relationship. Mom might not even realize that she restricts dad’s access to his children. Do any of these descriptions ring true in your work with fathers, mothers, families?

stressed-mom

This post is the fourth in a weekly series in which I highlight the five core competencies you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.

Click here to read the post on the 1st competency: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization

Click here to read the post on the 2nd competency: How to Design a Best Practice Fatherhood Program

Click here to read last week’s post on the 3rd competency: How to Think Like a Marketer 

Involving Moms in Promoting Father Involvement

Our country has a remarkable structure that addresses the health and well-being of women, mothers, and children. While there are certainly issues with that structure and areas for improvement, there’s no debate about the lack of a structure that addresses the well-being of men and fathers. 

Unfortunately, fathers are most often the parent left out of the parenting equation when organizations implement parenting and family-strengthening programs. To be fair, fathers are often reluctant to avail themselves of these programs; nevertheless, organizations typically don’t make a concerted effort to reach them. Consequently, “parent” is a code word for “mom” from many fathers’ perspective. Organizations fail to speak directly to the needs and wants of fathers.

Fatherhood programs can’t make the same mistake—that is, leave moms out of the equation when it comes to implementing a fatherhood program. But wait, you might say: What do moms have to do with implementing a fatherhood program? A lot. 

Mothers are often the gatekeepers when it comes to fathers’ access to their children. Mothers can facilitate or hinder fathers’ involvement, particularly when fathers are non-residential or non-custodial. Even when mothers and fathers are romantically involved and living in the same home, mothers can unconsciously and unnecessarily restrict fathers’ access to their children.

That’s why it’s vital that you learn how to go the extra mile and build the fourth competency in effectively engaging fathers in Session 4 of the Father Engagement Certificate training: How to Work with Moms to Encourage Father Involvement.

This session covers the “why” and “how” to involving moms in encouraging father involvement. Learn about the “Five Aspects of Family Life” associated with father involvement, and how to use “intensity levels” to assess how you should approach involving moms. Also learn why training female staff to more effectively engage fathers is so important, and about a free resource from NFI that will help you train female staff to more effectively engage fathers.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

FEC_training_logo

Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

How much do you know about the impact of mothers in ability of the fathers you serve to be as involved as possible in the lives of their children?

Do you know the typical behaviors associated with “restrictive gatekeeping?”

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

3 Things You Should Do > Because You're Being Watched

I know. Creepy title right? It's true though, if you're a dad, you're being watched! Great news, huh? Maybe you recall, years ago, Charles Barkley said, "I am not a role model." Guess what, he is and so are you, whether you want to be or not. At NFI, we often say "a father plays a unique and irreplaceable role in his child's life." What does that mean? What's so unique and irreplaceable about you, dad? I'm here to tell you, in case no one else does, that you are unique and irreplaceable. And being unique and irreplaceable is a great responsibility. And with great responsibility comes great sacrifice...

role-model-fodada

Do you recall the five traits of the 24/7 Dad? Just in case, here's the recap:

  1. The 24/7 Dad is Self-Aware: The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. Read more about The Importance of the Self-Aware Father.
  2. The 24/7 Dad Cares For Self: The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. Read more about The Oxygen Mask Rule of Fatherhood.
  3. The 24/7 Dad Understands Fathering Skills: The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. 
  4. The 24/7 Dad Understands Parenting Skills:  The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children.
  5. The 24/7 Dad Understands Relationship Skills: The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community.

We're unpacking each of these traits. We started with The Importance of the Self-Aware Father. Last time we talked about The Oxygen Mask Rule of Fatherhood and how a dad must take care of himself if he wants to take care of others. Here's the great news...these five traits have a guarantee: master each of them and you are a 24/7 Dad. Let's talk about trait three, a dad and his role in the family.

The 24/7 Dad Understands Fathering Skills

The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. He knows he is a model for his sons on how to be a good man/father and for his daughters on what they should look for in a husband and father for their children.

He knows he should be involved in the daily life of his children; from waking them in the morning to attending parent-teacher conferences, helping with homework, and tucking them in bed at night.

Consider some tasks in your home:

  • Who dresses the kids?
  • Who gets them ready for school?
  • Who packs lunch?
  • Who cooks dinner every night?
  • Who attends parent-teacher conferences and other events?
  • Who volunteers at school?
  • Who supports their sports and other interests/activities?
  • Who helps with homework?
  • Who reads to them (or with them depending on the age!)?
  • Who tucks them in at night?

Of course the daily schedules of work factor into this equation; however, if your answer to EVERY one of these questions on a DAILY basis is “mom,” then we have a problem. Being dad isn't a license to provide a paycheck and sit down. We say in our fatherhood training programs that a 24/7 Dad "uses his knowledge of the unique skills he and his wife/the mother of his children brings to raising his children." Either we live like dad makes a difference or we don't. But, the truth is, whether you're a good dad or a bad dad, you are making a difference—for good or ill. You are modeling something to your child every moment.

Said a different way, if you weren’t in the family, would anyone notice based on the daily initiative you take? Okay, I'm done with my rant. There is hope. After all, it's Father's Day week and we are about the business of raising up and encouraging fathers to step up to the plate.  

Here are three things to encourage you in your role as leader in your family. You are vital. Now, go live like it!

1. Know Your Child's Interests.
As a dad, and I know more than anyone, it's easy to get wrapped up in your own interests and not consider others' interests. But we're done with that old life, right? Say you have a daughter who likes American Girl dolls? Well, you think American Girl dolls are stupied. This is a conundrum. But not anymore, now that you're a 24/7 Dad, you care about American Girl stuff. Stick with me here. You're now the resident American Girl expert in the room. You know the difference between Addy and Josefina because your daughter does. Don't ask me how I know this.

What's that? You have a son and the American Girl example doesn't resonate with you? Does he play with Lego's? Well, you're a master builder. End of story. Everything is awesome in your house because YOU are your child's dad!

Ask your children about their favorite things. Need help? We created The Ultimate Guide for Connecting with Your Child for this exact purpose. Be intentional about creating daily time, maybe at dinner, to let your kids not only talk about their favorite things but come up with a list of things they would enjoy doing.

Set a reminder on your phone if you have to, we have the 24/7 Dad® To Go app for that you know, but be sure to have unhurried time to connect with your child. This doesn't have to be a long time. I sometimes have a day or so where it's just me and the kids. But in most cases, I don't have hours to devote daily to staring into my daughters' eyes. But, daily, if even for a few minutes, there should be time to listen and let them know you value them.

2. Know Your Schedule.  
Consider stopping unnecessary routines and starting better ones. The point here is to reflect on your daily or weekly routine and see where changes can be made. Are you constantly working late? Is there something you can change during the day to get home earlier? I know this is a simple example. But the point here is to stop and think about how you can best manage your time.

Do you have enough energy for the day? If not, consider steps to feel better. You shouldn't always feel tired or hurried. The folks I know who are constantly "too busy" are usually the folks who are doing the least during a day because they aren't in control of their day. It's a difficult balance and some days are better than others. But, you can learn to better manage your schedule so you don't carry around regrets.  

3. Know Your Family's Schedule. 
I tend to realize there's an event on the evening of said event. And it's not because I haven't been told about it. It's because I was told months ago and didn't add it to my calendar and have since forgotten about it. As a leader in your home, create appointments with yourself on your calendar to remind you about checking in periodically. It's too easy to get busy and often consider EVERYTHING as IMPORTANT when in reality, not everything is important.

We need to be clear about our roles in the family if we are going to live together in peaceful harmony as a family. The wife and child must understand dad's role and the dad must understand his worth and how he is "unique and irreplaceable." Show me a man who understands his role in the family and I'll show you a father who carries himself with a higher purpose. I'll show you a 24/7 Dad. Basically, the 24/7 Dad lives like someone is watching...because someone is.

The 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Father?” 

My friend Don Jackson knows what being a 24/7 Dad means. He wrote Being a 24/7 Dad over at his blog Daddy Newbie. Don gets dadding—all of it: 

Don't get me wrong...my son can be trying at times, but it is all part of the total package. If all I had were days when he listened, when I didn't have to repeat myself 100 times, when he didn't try to push the limits fo what he can and can't do, where he took naps and was never cranky, when he didn't spill something right after I told him to be careful, when he didn't change his mind 43 times from the frig to the table on what he wanted for a snack-all of these things are what, to me, make being a dad 24/7 so great...we need to be reminded that being a dad isn't always puppy dogs and mud puddles. I love that it keeps me on my toes, making me bob and weave.  


You can read Don's full post Being a 24/7 Dad and be sure to like him on Facebook.


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Please go here to buy the shirt! Then, share pics of yourself or the dad in your life using #247Dad on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Fatherhood leaders > Wear this unique t-shirt to show how proud you are to be a leader. Give it to dads who attend your program or as a graduation gift.

Dads, Moms, & Children > Wear this shirt to show your passion for fatherhood and inspire those around you to live as responsible fathers. Or, give as a gift to a dad you know.

Question > What's being a 24/7 Dad mean to you?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 3rd Competency

Is marketing the same thing as outreach? Is marketing the same thing as promotion? Is marketing the same thing as sales? How should an organization market a program or service differently to fathers compared to mothers? Those are tough questions to answer, which is why understanding how to think like a marketer is so vital to effectively engaging fathers.

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This post is the third in a weekly series in which I highlight the five core competencies you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.

Click here to read the post on the 1st competency: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization, and here to read last week’s post on the 2nd competency: How to Design a Best Practice Fatherhood Program.

Thinking Like a Marketer 

Recruitment and retention are the bane of many practitioners’ existence. I can’t tell you how many folks have approached me over the years with tales of woe when it comes to recruiting fathers to enroll in a program and to maintain their participation after enrollment. 

Unfortunately, successful recruitment and retention are not simply a matter of cutting and pasting tactics that have worked for other programs. While you can certainly borrow some tactics that might work in your situation, every program must learn on its own what works to effectively recruit fathers and maintain their participation. What will work for your program will likely be a combination of what has worked elsewhere and what’s unique for your fathers in your setting. You also have to understand the difference between how to get fathers to enroll in a program and how to get them to stay after enrollment.

For those reasons and others, learning how to think like a marketer is the third competency to effectively engaging fathers. Marketing a fatherhood program involves:

  • Learning how to think logically and creatively.
  • Learning key behavior-change theories and their role in motivating fathers.
  • Learning how the “marketing mix” impacts the design of a marketing campaign.
  • Understanding the role today’s technology plays in reaching and keeping fathers engaged.
  • Understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • Understanding that marketing requires time and patience to do correctly.

That’s why Session 3 of the Father Engagement Certificate helps you learn How to Think Like a Marketer When Marketing a Fatherhood Program. It covers important behavior-change theories and how they contribute to marketing a fatherhood program, the role of the marketing mix in marketing a fatherhood program (the 7Ps of marketing a fatherhood program), and the role of technology in promoting a fatherhood program.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

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Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

Do you know how to think like a marketer?

How easy or difficult is it for your program to recruit fathers and maintain their participation?

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Study Lays Evidence Base for 24/7 Dad®

An ongoing study in Hawai‘i using an experimental design has found that NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program develops pro-fathering knowledge and attitudes and the five characteristics of the 24/7 Dad. It also improves behaviors expected of today’s contemporary fathers, the quality of father-child relationships, and fathers’ co-parenting, thus improving fathers’ relationships with the mothers of their children. This study lays the evidence base for the program.

Study Lays Evidence Base for 24/7 Dad® university of hawaii center on the familyA research team at the Center on the Family at the University of Hawai‘i led by Dr. Selva Lewin-Bizan evaluated the program by randomly assigning fathers to treatment and control groups. Fathers in the treatment group participated in 24/7 Dad® while fathers in the control group did not. Random assignment is considered the “gold standard” of research design because it reduces selection bias, thus the likelihood that outcomes are due to chance rather than the intervention.

In addition to this research design, what makes this study so important is the research team found the program improved not only fathers’ pro-fathering knowledge and attitudes, it improved father involvement, the quality of the father-child relationship, and the quality of the father-mother relationship, as measured by improvements in co-parenting. Affecting knowledge and attitudes is important, because they are antecedents of behavior, but positively affecting them doesn’t necessarily lead to behavior change. This study found behavior change within the two most important relationships of fathers that are the primary focus of the program. 

And that’s not all. The program also affected fathers’ happiness in being a parent. Fathers reported being happier as a parent after completing the program. Moreover, the improvements in father involvement and co-parenting were held over time. 

Dr. Lewin-Bizan employed several evaluation tools with fathers in both groups to compare the impact of the program. These tools included the pre- and post-survey that is part of the 24/7 Dad® program (measures pro-fathering knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy related to the five characteristics of the 24/7 Dad) and several previously validated instruments that measure fathers’ involvement with their children, fathers’ self perception of their parenting role, co-parenting, and fathers’ degree of happiness in being a parent. Her team administered all of the instruments before and immediately after the program ended, and administered the father involvement and co-parenting instruments at a six-week follow up. 

This study adds to a number of studies on the positive impact and effectiveness of 24/7 Dad® in a variety of settings and with racially and ethnically diverse fathers of all ages. To download this study and others, click here.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 2nd Competency

Quickly…name three best practices in designing effective fatherhood programs. Cat got your tongue? If so, you’re not alone. Answering that question is about as hard as scoring a 2400 on the SAT.

fatherhood_program_best_practices

This post is the second in a weekly series in which I highlight the five core competencies you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.

Click here to read last week’s post on the 1st competency: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization

Best Practices

The second competency in effectively engaging fathers is the ability to design a fatherhood program (or service) based on the practices that have the most impact on program success. These practices—commonly referred to as “best practices”—provide the foundation or structure for effectively engaging fathers regardless of your experience serving fathers, the kinds of fathers you serve, or the setting in which you serve them. 

What, exactly, are best practices? Simply put, they’re successful, community-invented efforts (culturally relevant) worth emulating. They tell you:

  • Exactly what needs to be done differently.
  • What’s working and how you can do more of it.

Furthermore:

  • They’re identified through observation.
  • They provide direction, hope, and motivation around change.
  • They address root causes and challenge conventional wisdom.
  • They avoid “analysis paralysis” by taking focus off “the problem” and putting it on “the solution.”
  • They create positive, short- and long-term change.

But it’s not just enough to learn these practices and how to apply them. It’s also vital that you know the “blind spots” that hinder organizations in effectively serving fathers. You need to know what they are and which ones are most relevant to your organization so you can avoid being blindsided by them. 

Thus, Session 2 of the Father Engagement Certificate covers Program Design Using 7 Best Practices. This session provides you with a simple, flexible approach based on seven best practices to design an exceptional, unique, community-based fatherhood program. Learn about blind spots that hinder organizations in creating effective fatherhood programs, resources NFI has designed to help organizations leverage and unlock the power of the best practices, as well as other best practices that might be right under your nose.

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

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Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

What does your organization do really well in serving fathers that you should do more often?

What are the biggest hurdles your organization must leap to become as successful as possible in serving fathers?

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Dads Graduate Fatherhood Pilot Program in McNairy Co Jail, Selmer, Tenn [Video]

It's that time of year, the time for graduation speeches and shaking hands for a job well done. As students across the nation are receiving certificates for their accomplishments, here are gentlemen getting a different certificate for walking the line. Reporting from Selmer, Tennessee, ABC WBBJ Eye Witness News 7 Journalist Katie Shambo shows a graduate program of a different kind—but filled with even more sense of accomplishment and purpose.

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You can read the original post Dads Graduate from Pilot Program in McNairy Co Jail. Coverage and excerpts from the original story follows in this post.

It's Wednesday morning, and the McNairy County Jail is holding its first graduation for its fatherhood pilot program. "The sheriff said that I don't have to come back and that really stuck with me," inmate and InsideOut Dad® graduate Joseph Lands, says. Shambo reports, Lands has been working toward this day since September.

"The sheriff said that I don't have
to come back and that really stuck with me."
—Joseph Lands (InsideOut Dad® graduate)


"It means the world. I mean without a second chance we'd be dead in the water we wouldn't have a leg to stand on and this gives us an opportunity to be a better person to be a productive member of society," says Land.

Shambo says Lands is one of five inmates who make up the McNairy County Jail's first graduating class of the Inside Out Dad® program. As NFI readers know, the program was established to help incarcerated fathers with fatherhood and parenting skills along with other resources and opportunities that will help them when they're released.

"It's a curriculum to help them be better fathers, to help them be better husbands, to help them be better leaders of their families and be better in the workforce," director Jimmy Bell said. Each year 700,000 people are released from jails and prisons and within three years more than two-thirds of them are back behind bars.

"It's a curriculum [InsideOut Dad®]
to help them be better fathers,
to help them be better husbands,
to help them be better leaders of their families
and be better in the workforce."
—Jimmy Bell, 
Director


For some, jail is a time to rethink, refocus and make the necessary steps not to re-offend and that's what the Inside Out Dad® program is designed to do. "Knowing that people care it helps out a lot. I mean it makes you want to strive to be a better person it's a good thing," Lands said.

Shambo points out that Lands has a 10-year-old daughter. Lands has been in and out of jail six times, but with his new skills and resources, "this will be my last," he says.

Director Jimmy Bell says that "in addition to helping the men be better dads they are now prepared to support their families." "They all have a resume now," says Bell, "They also now have a desire to leave a life of crime behind."

"They all have a resume now...
they also now have a desire
to leave a life of crime behind."
—Jimmy Bell, Director


Shambo reports 
The Southwest Human Resource Agency plans to implement the program in seven more West Tennessee County jails by July 1. In McNairy County, they will also begin a similar program for women in July.

Watch the video that follows about the first fatherhood program in McNairy County, Selmer, Tennessee. Learn about how these men are set to walk a different path—a path leading back to their families. Make no mistake about it, there may not be institutional columns or caps and gowns in this video, but among the prison bars and orange jail suits, these men are no longer called by their inmate number. They are called by their new names...24/7 Dads.


Can't view the video? Watch the full video and interview about the Inside Out Dad® Program in this Tennessee Pilot Program here.

Visit us for more information on the Inside Out Dad® Program or register for our upcoming webinar training for InsideOut Dad® happening June 25th. Get the official 24/7 Dad® t-shirt for you or the group you lead here

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

How to Effectively Engage Fathers: The 1st Competency

Many practitioners and organizations “leap before they look” when engaging fathers, as they often don’t take the time to consider the competencies they need to effectively engage fathers. As a result, they step off a cliff and into an abyss, and soon wonder why working with fathers is such a challenge.

blindfold-businessman-loop-before-leapingDuring the next five weeks, I’ll highlight the five core competencies (one per week) you need to effectively engage fathers, and how you can develop each competency with NFI’s Father Engagement Certificate(FEC), an affordable on demand training that will help you develop those competencies.  

Creating a Father-Friendly Organization 

The first competency in effectively engaging fathers is often the most overlooked: the ability to create a father-friendly organization. The fact that it’s often overlooked is unfortunate because it lays the foundation for the other competencies and success in engaging fathers.

What does it mean to be father friendly? It means that serving fathers is integrated into the fabric of an organization’s culture. Specifically:

  • The leaders and other stakeholders have “bought into” and provide emotional and material (e.g. financial) support to serving fathers.
  • The policies and procedures of the organization—the nuts and bolts that guide staff behavior—are inclusive of fathers, encourage staff to engage fathers, and hold staff accountable when they don’t effectively engage them.
  • The programs and services include fathers as a distinct audience to serve and include content relevant to fathers’ needs and wants as men and parents.
  • The organization engages the community in promoting its service to fathers (e.g. via referrals from other organizations) and to generate support (e.g. financial and political) for its father engagement efforts.

The trap many practitioners fall into is thinking their organization is father friendly simply because they have a fatherhood program or serve fathers as part of a larger program (e.g. general parenting or family-strengthening program). They don’t understand that it’s not enough to simply add a program, service, or other effort aimed at fathers. It’s vital to adopt a holistic approach in creating an organization that, at its very core, understands the importance of serving fathers and acts on that understanding.

That’s why Session 1 in our Father Engagement Certificate training teaches you How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization from a holistic perspective, with a focus on four areas for improvement that create an organizational culture that supports exceptional fatherhood programs and services. Learn the 8 Pillars of Leadership and no-cost and low-cost tactics to help your organization become father friendly, and also about The Father Friendly Check-Up: the most widely used tool in the nation that helps organizations become father friendly. The session also includes case studies of how other organizations have successfully used this tool.

How father friendly is your organization?

Can you name the four areas of focus in creating a father-friendly organization?

Don’t delay. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement Certificate

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The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

The Oxygen Mask Rule of Fatherhood

"Seatbacks and tray tables should be in their upright and locked position and carry-on luggage stowed in the overhead locker or underneath a seat prior to takeoff." You've no doubt heard this announcement if you've taken a flight. But before this, and hopefully you haven't missed it, is the oxygen mask rule of flight safety. 

This rule applies to fatherhood too. No, we're not talking about the dad who's only out for number one. We're talking about being a dad who's ready to serve his family because his needs are met. Let's unpack this rule a little more... 

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Maybe you didn't pay attention on your last flight, the typical safety instructions for the oxygen mask go like so... 

  • Oxygen Mask Rule #1 > the passenger should always fit his or her own mask before helping children, the disabled, or persons requiring assistance. (Read: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. THEN YOU'LL BE ABLE TO HELP OTHERS.)
  • Oxygen Mask Rule #2 > Even though oxygen will be flowing to the mask, the plastic bag may not inflate. (Read: KEEP TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF EVEN IF YOU DON'T THINK IT'S WORKING.)

Let’s get reacquainted with the five traits of the 24/7 Dad:

  1. The 24/7 Dad is Self-Aware: The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. Read more about The Importance of the Self-Aware Father.
  2. The 24/7 Dad Cares For Self: The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself.
  3. The 24/7 Dad Understands Fathering Skills: The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. 
  4. The 24/7 Dad Understands Parenting Skills:  The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children.
  5. The 24/7 Dad Understands Relationship Skills: The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community.

When I say "24/7 Dad" I'm talking about an involved, responsible and committed father. I'm talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He knows what it means to be a man. He understands he'ss a model for his sons on how to be a good man. If he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children. Basically, he has the 10 Ways To Be a Better Dad memorized.

Everything about being a great dad is tied to one or more of the five characteristics of a 24/7 Dad. We started unpacking each of these five traits, starting with The Importance of the Self-Aware Father. We'll keep unpacking until we've covered all five traits. The great news is that these five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad! Let's talk about trait two, caring for yourself.

1) Take care of yourself. So you can take care of others.

You have to place the plastic oxygen mask on your mouth first. You won't be around long enough to help others if you can't breath. Likewise, the 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. What does taking care of yourself look like? To start, here are a few ideas...

  • you get annual physicals
  • you eat right
  • you exercise
  • you're a life-long learner
  • you have a strong connection to your family and community
  • you pick friends who support your healthy choices.

The 24/7 Dad models for his children that he respects and likes himself because he makes good choices. This may seem weird to read because we don't talk about this much in our culture. It can seem like you're better off caring for others so much that your health is drained...as if that's the proper way to live. But that's just not the truth.

The hero who isn't healthy, isn't a hero for long. When’s the last time you were at the doctor? If your answer to this question is “I go to the doctor every decade whether I need to or not!” you may want to consider modeling a different standard to your son or daughter.

The 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself? 

2) Keep taking care of yourself, even it it doesn't seem to be working.

The plastic oxygen bag may not inflate after you put it on. But, as I understand it from my google search, this line in airplane safety is required in the United States because someone fatally removed their mask thinking it was not working. Don't do this...on a plane or in life.

As a dad, you may not think you need to take care of yourself. Some of this may seem unnecessary until it's necessary. But, we need to be in the business of prevention instead of treatment. What's the saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"? 

When things are running smoothly, you may not see the importance of consistently caring for yourself. But, you can't miss this point. Even if you think you can go a long time without caring for yourself, you can't! We must be vigilant to care for ourselves. 

There's a healthy balance where you are cared for (read: no one else has to care for you!) and this frees you up to care for folks around you. You have your physical, mental, emotional house order (and consistently in check). Ask yourself these questions to get started:

  • Do I have a doctor? Do I know his name? Have I seen him for a check-up within the last year? How is my overall physical health? Do I even know what this means?!
  • What's my diet consist of daily? Am I giving the proper nutrition to think and be active? 
  • Do I exercise daily or at least weekly? Have I created options for being physically active? What are my biggest personal challenges? Am I ignoring them or dealing with them? What's my goal? Am I working toward that end?
  • Would my family say I'm a constant learner? Do I read? What do I read daily? Am I learning new things? Which of these things can I share with my children?

From physical health to emotional health, and everything in between, the 24/7 Dad is the well-adjusted dad. He understands he is responsible for his decisions and ultimately his actions. The 24/7 Dad also knows his ability to be with his children is affected by the choices he makes.

The 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself?

Richie knows what being a 24/7 Dad means. He wrote What Being a 24/7 Dad Means to Me? recently over at his St. Louis Dad blog. Richie's number one way to be a 24/7 Dad is to: 

Have patience and laugh. Kids can be extremely demanding and can be so annoying...Just be patient with them. They don’t know that asking for water fifty times in a row is driving you bananas. So just relax, calm down, and keep your cool. The last thing your kids need to see is you getting angry. Just brush it off and laugh. Kids are very entertaining, just pay a little attention and you will see exactly what I mean..  


You can read Richie's full post What Being a 24/7 Dad Means to Me? and learn his top-five ways to be a 24/7 Dad.  

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Fatherhood leaders > Wear this unique t-shirt to show how proud you are to be a leader. Give it to dads who attend your program or as a graduation gift.

Dads, Moms, & Children > Wear this shirt to show your passion for fatherhood and inspire those around you to live as responsible fathers. Or, give as a gift to a dad you know.

Question > What's being a 24/7 Dad mean to you?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Research to Application: Keystone Habits

In the first installment of this Research to Application series (Cues, Triggers, and Nudges), we introduced you to research from Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit1 and how organizations and practitioners can use this research to improve the effectiveness of a service, workshop, or program for fathers. In discussing the role of cues, we described the research Duhigg highlights on the power of habits and the role they play in our lives.

This installment focuses on another important aspect of the research Duhigg highlights: the concept of keystone habits.

keystone-habits

These are the habits that matter more than others in changing unhealthy behaviors or developing healthy ones. As you can imagine, keystone habits are very important as they relate to father absence and encouraging father involvement… more on that soon.

But let’s begin by sharing one of Duhigg’s diverse examples of keystone habits and their importance in triggering a cascade of change: integrating exercise.

As Duhigg points out, research shows that when people start habitually exercising, they usually:

  • Eat better
  • Smoke less
  • Become more productive at work
  • Show more patience
  • Feel less stressed
  • Use their credit cards less often

Yes. They even become more financially responsible, at least in a specific way.

That kind of change might seem odd until you realize that exercise has a spillover or cascade effect that triggers other healthy habits because it makes other habits easier. Think of the power of exercise as the first domino in a domino structure that, when pushed into the next domino, triggers all the other dominos to fall one by one. Similarly, the power of exercise is not only in its ability to help people lose weight and become more fit; its power is also in its ability to start widespread, positive change in people’s lives—even in areas that seem unrelated to physical fitness.

The power of keystone habits explains why being an involved father is so powerful. Father involvement is a keystone habit. (Actually, a set of habits that form a keystone habit.) That’s why father involvement affects so many areas of fathers’ lives and the lives of children, mothers, and families, and even the environment in communities. When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, it triggers positive behavior in other aspects of fathers’ lives (e.g. they engage in healthier behavior), children’s lives (e.g. they are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs), and mothers’ lives (e.g. they are healthier during their pregnancies). It’s also why it positively affects our society (e.g. lower levels of poverty and child abuse and more educational success for children). It’s why more resources must be focused on addressing the crisis of father absence. 

Ideas on Application

When it comes to working with fathers individually or in groups, you can use the power of keystone habits to help fathers identify the habits (behaviors) unique to them that: 1) trigger a lack of father involvement, and 2) will trigger greater father involvement. (You can also use keystone habits to look for clues that will improve father-mother relationships.) It’s likely that a single habit will contribute to a lack of father involvement or trigger more father involvement (moreover, it’s likely to be a group of habits.) Nevertheless, one or two of those habits might be more important than the others, thus revealing an area(s) of focus for immediate change.

To apply the power of keystone habits, use the following process, which you can customize to fit your setting (e.g. group, one-on-one case management, etc.):

Step 1: Develop a comprehensive list of frequent/regular activities/behaviors.

  • Identify the “universe” of frequent/regular activities/behaviors that fathers currently engage in.
  • Ask fathers to write or tell you (and you record) their activities/behaviors during a typical week. Consider using the structure of roles in which to group activities, such as father, husband/partner, worker/employee, friend, etc. You could start by asking fathers the roles they have, and then ask them to list the activities they engage in each week to perform those roles.
  • After fathers develop their weekly activities, ask if they perform activities less frequently (e.g. monthly), but that they do consistently, to ensure you get a comprehensive list.

Step 2: Identify existing keystone habits that promote father absence.

  • Look for keystone habits that encourage or lead to father absence. Focus on habits that are within his control.
  • Ask of each father: What do you do with such frequency that it prevents you from being present? After you identify those habits, ask: How can you eliminate them? Work with fathers to develop tactics to eliminate these poor habits. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Step 3: Identify existing and potential keystone habits that promote father involvement.

  • Look for keystone habits that encourage or lead to father involvement.Again, focus on habits that are within his control.
  • Ask of each father: What do you do that gets you involved and that you could do with more frequency? Add to that list habits for fathers to consider integrating into their lives. You can come with a list to discuss or start developing a list with fathers from scratch. Identify habits within fathers’ control, they can do frequently (e.g. several times a week or once a week), and that provide “small wins.”

Step 4: Focus on small wins.

  • After fathers develop their list of potential keystone habits that promote father involvement, narrow that list down by focusing on habits that fathers can do easily and frequently before tackling habits that are harder to accomplish and that, even if easy to accomplish, they can’t do as frequently.
  • Why is this focus so important? Because it creates small wins that fathers experience often/repeatedly. While they might seem minor in the broad scheme of things, they build a foundation of confidence, especially in fathers who haven’t been successful at being involved.

Step 5: Reinforce/praise the small wins.

  • When fathers achieve small wins, praise fathers. This praise will help keystone habits snowball into the other habits of involvement the habits will affect. In other words, praise helps tip the keystone habits—the first dominoes—into the other habits. Watch them fall one by one!

Depending on your situation and how much time you have to work with fathers, it might not be possible to focus on keystone habits that both encourage and discourage father involvement at the same time. At the very least, address keystone habits that encourage father involvement. 

Application Tools

For users of NFI’s 24/7 Dad® A.M and P.M programs, the My 24/7 Dad® Checklist new to the 3rd Editions is an ideal tool for fathers to use to apply keystone habits. In fact, these should be the most important checklist items. 

In addition, NFI’s 24/7 Dad® To Go Android application (app) is an ideal tool that allows fathers to create to-do lists, and would be a great place for fathers to integrate keystone habits (download the app for free from the Google Play Store.) Having a checklist provides fathers with clear direction around what they should do on a regular basis to be involved. They can modify and add to their items (habits) as they become more involved, and want to tackle more challenging (but important) habits of an involved, responsible, committed father. 

Regardless of how you apply keystone habits, approach your effort as an experiment. Keep track of what works with fathers in general and with specific kinds of fathers (e.g. custodial and non-custodial) so that you can apply what works in future work with fathers one-on-one or in groups, and avoid what doesn’t work.

Resources

As you consider using keystone habits to improve retention and fathers’ involvement in the lives of their children, review the following resources:

Don’t forget to look for more posts and reference guides in this series!

1) Research to Application > Cues, Triggers, and Nudges

2) Research to Application > Framing and the "No Choice Option"

3) Research to Application > Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

4) Research to Application > The Power of The "Deviant Dad"

Click here for the full PDF of the this post. 

1) Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York, NY: Random House.

About the "Research to Application" Series

As the nation’s #1 provider of fatherhood skill-building programs and resources, NFI provides guidance for practitioners and organizations on how they might be able to use to use the latest research on human behavior to enhance the effectiveness of their work with fathers. NFI provides this guidance in a series of blog posts called Research to Application: Guidance for Practitioners and Programs.

The series offers a platform for generating dialogue among NFI, organizations, and practitioners on ways that research can be applied to addressing pain points in serving fathers. This post is the fifth one in the series. It provides ideas on how you might integrate research on keystone habits. Integrating this research could make it easier for you to help fathers to identify the most significant barriers that keep them from being as involved in their children’s lives as they’d like to be. It could also help fathers develop the habits of good fathering above and beyond reliance on the resources (e.g. programs/curricula) you might currently use.

If you implement any of the ideas in this post, or develop and implement your own ideas, please share them with us at info@fatherhood.org. We’ll use your experiences to update this guide so it is even more useful.

Get Your Father Engagement Certificate™ from the Nation’s Leader

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has always been dedicated to providing resources, training, and technical assistance on how to effectively engage fathers. That’s why I’m so pumped to announce that we’ve taken that dedication further with the launch of our Father Engagement CertificateTM (FEC), an affordable on demand training that focuses on the 5 core competencies you need to make an even bigger difference in the lives of children, fathers, mothers, and families.

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What’s Great About It? 

The FEC is:

  • On demand. Learn and earn at your own pace. Get trained and earn the FEC as quickly as you need, or take as much time as you like.
  • Convenient. Always available. No travel, no hassle.
  • Affordable. Enough said.
  • Fully automated. Get started whenever you want. The entire process from purchase to receiving your certificate is fully automated. No need to email or call staff or wait for staff to get back to you. (Although we’re here if you need us!)
  • Valuable to You. Develops 5 core competencies. Increases your effectiveness. Builds further credibility within and outside your organization. You will receive an official certificate to display and an electronic badge you can place on your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other social media profiles/accounts.
  • Valuable to Your Organization/Program. Builds organization and program effectiveness. Includes practical advice and guidance that addresses critical pain points (challenges) in serving fathers. Builds credibility with funders. Your organization can promote that it has staff with FECs from the nation’s fatherhood leader.

Who Should Earn It?

The FEC is ideal for:

  • Individuals who currently work with, or desire to work with, fathers and families in communities. It’s ideal for fatherhood practitioners and staff in community organizations, social service agencies, churches, prisons/jails, military bases, and more… basically, anywhere there are fathers receiving services or participating in programs.
  • Anyone working with fathers on a volunteer, mentor, or consulting basis.
  • Anyone who has started, or wants to start, a fatherhood initiative in his or her community.

Which Father Engagement Topics are Covered?

You will learn strategies and tactics not previously released to the public. These are strategies and tactics taught to a select group of nearly 125 fatherhood and family service organizations during NFI's 5-year federally-funded National Responsible Fatherhood Certification College. NFI invested a significant amount of time and funding to develop and hone the curriculum for the college. The FEC distills the most vital content from that curriculum. An evaluation of these organizations showed that they used the same content contained in the FEC to increase their organization’s capacity in the short term and long term to effectively engage fathers. (It also helped them acquire additional funding!)

The topics include:

  1. Foundational: How to Create a Father-Friendly Organization
  2. Program Design: 7 Best Practices in Designing a Fatherhood Program
  3. Recruitment & Retention: How to Think Like a Marketer When Marketing a Fatherhood Program
  4. Involving Moms: How to Work with Moms to Encourage Father Involvement
  5. Fundraising: How to Develop a Funding Plan for a Fatherhood Program

Click here to learn even more about the FEC including the content of each training session.

What If I Want Multiple Staff in My Organization to Earn an FEC?

That’s easy. Purchase as many FEC trainings as you need. Our fully automated process does the rest!

What If I Want Multiple Staff in Several Organizations to Earn an FEC?

That’s easy, too. Let’s say you’re with a local, state, or federal agency that has grantees or partners who can benefit from acquiring FECs for their staffs. Or, perhaps, you’re part of a city, county, or state fatherhood or family strengthening initiative that includes multiple organizations as members or partners who could use FECs? Just contact us and we’ll coordinate everything for you for the cost of the certificates you need and an additional, reasonable coordination fee.

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How Do I Get Started?

That’s the easiest part. Click here to start the process of earning your Father Engagement CertificateTM. (If you need to pay by purchase order [PO], email us.)

Click Here to Start Your Father Engagement Training

Upcoming Webinar from FRPN June 2nd: Finding a Partner & Conducting a Successful Evaluation

On Tuesday, June 2 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. EST, the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) will host the second learning community webinar for researchers and fatherhood practitioners. Find more information in this post.

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If you read this 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 dads. 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. 

Here's a quick refresher about the FRPN...

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.

The FRPN will host a webinar on Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships called "Finding a Partner and Conducting a Successful Evaluation: Researcher and Practitioner Experiences" 

Key topics to be discussed during the webinar will include:

  • Resources to help find a fatherhood program or research partner.
  • Qualities fatherhood programs look for in a research partner and the qualities researchers look for in a fatherhood program.
  • The roles and responsibilities of researchers and practitioners in conducting fatherhood program evaluations.
  • How programs and researchers divide the duties required of fatherhood program evaluations.
  • Past evaluation experiences of researchers and fatherhood program staff


The webinar will feature two evaluation researcher/practitioner teams:

  • Home Visiting for Fathers Project: Jennifer Bellamy, MSW, University of Denver School of Social Work and Sandra Morales-Mirque, project coordinator, Dads Matter, University of Chicago. This researcher/practitioner team is one of the four currently funded FRPN projects.
  • Compadre y Compadre Project: Mathew Smith, president/director, MLS Health Services, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia and Yvette Sanchez, chief program officer, The Children’s Shelter, San Antonio, Texas.

To register for this webinar, please email Rebecca Kaufman, MSW, senior research coordinator for the FRPN, at Rebecca.kaufman@temple.edu.

Note: The “New Pathways for Fathers and Families” grant applications recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance, require local evaluations. This webinar will help you learn how to create effective researcher/practitioner partnerships to apply for this funding.

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

2 Basic Traits Key to Lasting Relationships

Whenever I speak on the importance of father involvement, conduct a training institute on one of our programs, or conduct a capacity-building workshop, I make it a point to drive home the fact that the most important relationship in a child's life is the one between the child's parents. It's the blueprint that a child uses as a model for his or her own relationships. 

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That's why improving the father-mother relationship is a vital part of our fathering programs, and why we provide programs and resources for moms, such as Understanding Dad™, that help mothers improve that relationship for the sake of their children. It's also why I scan the research for insights into how NFI can help you, if you're a dad or mom, or your organization to help individuals and couples understand the importance of this relationship and help them improve it.

The husband and wife team of John and Julie Gottman brings together two of the country's leading experts on what makes relationships successful. Together they run The Gottman Institute and have researched for four decades what makes relationships between couples work. One of their recent, fascinating discoveries is the influence that "bids" between couples have on their chances of success (i.e. a happy, long lasting relationship). (For more on this research, read this article in the Wall Street Journal from which I drew to write this post.)

A bid involves one half of a couple making an attempt to connect with the other half -- not unlike when a government agency or company issues a bid for work in an attempt to connect with a vendor to perform that work. In the case of couples, a bid can involve asking a partner a question, making an affectionate gesture toward a partner (e.g. attempting a hug or kiss), or simply making a statement. Regardless of the action, the partner who makes the bid hopes the other partner will respond, ideally in a positive, supportive manner.

The "bidee" (my word, not the Gottmans') can respond in one of two basic ways. The bidee can turn toward the "bidder" (again, my word) and respond with interest or turn away (i.e. not acknowledge/ignore the bid or respond in a hostile manner). Depending on the nature of the bid, either reaction might seem minor in the broad scheme of a relationship, especially when bids are examined in isolation. But because relationships involve frequent bids -- sometimes several times a day -- how couples handle them can provide a hint about the health of relationships. In other words, they reflect patterns of communication in relationships, good or bad. If, for example, a husband typically doesn't acknowledge bids from his wife, that pattern of communication is harmful. Why? Because when the wife makes a bid, she's doing so because she thinks it's important, which is why she expects a positive, supportive response.  

John has found that he can predict with 94% accuracy whether a couple will stay together based on how they respond to bids. He and Julie studied the interactions between married couples and followed up with them six years later. The couples who were no longer married only responded positively to bids (turn-toward bids) 33% of the time. Couples who were still married responded positively to bids 87% of the time. Although these couples were married, John says he can predict the success of relationships, based on bid reactions, whether a couple is married or not.

Herein lie the two traits of generosity and kindness that mark successful relationships. How someone responds to bids exists on a continuum with generosity and kindness on one end and contempt, criticism, and hostility on the other. This continuum applies not only to bids but also to the ways in which partners generally interact with one another. Successful relationships involve partners (or one of the partners) who constantly look for ways to support each other -- a kind of proactive generosity and kindness. They go out of their way to find ways to support their partner in minor and major ways. Unsuccessful couples involve partners (or one of the partners) who constantly look for what's wrong with the other partner that they can point out and criticize and who generally react to the other partner's statements and actions with contempt or outright hostility.

I'm convinced that these two traits lead to success in any relationship whether a couple is romantically involved or not. (Every relationship, personal or professional, involves bids.) We receive a lot of emails, calls, and responses to our blog posts from divorced parents struggling with the relationship with their ex-spouses. These relationships are often at the contempt, criticism, and hostility end of the spectrum, to the detriment of these parents and their children. These traits also apply to the relationships between parents and their children. We see a lot of dads who, as they enter our fathering programs, treat their own children with contempt, criticism, or hostility. Those reactions are a cancer that destroys everyone it touches.

If you're a dad, mom, or practitioner who works with dads, moms, or couples, heed this insight. Seek ways to move yourself or those you work with toward the generosity and kindness end of the continuum. While doing so might not be easy, everyone will be the better for it.

What's the level of generosity and kindness in your relationships? Are some toward one end of the continuum while others are at the other end?

What's the level of generosity and kindness in the relationships between the dads and moms you work with and between the dads and their children?

The Ultimate Guide to Connecting With Your Child

Confronting the Child Support Crisis

Nonresident fathers have been in the news lately. The death of Walter Scott in South Carolina, who ran from a police officer during a routine traffic stop rather than risk returning to prison for owing back support, has brought to light the more punitive aspects of the of child support enforcement system. In a recent Room for Debate discussion blog in The New York Times, supporters and detractors of the child support enforcement system addressed its pros and cons.

Unfortunately, child support is similar to other issues that stir our passions, but on which it is difficult, if not impossible, to find common ground. We want all parents, including nonresident fathers, to support their children. But trends in men’s earnings are working against nonresident fathers’ ability to pay what mothers and children need. 

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Since the mid-1970’s, the earnings of men without graduate degrees have stagnated or declined, except for a brief period during the economic boom of the 1990’s. These wage trends have made it especially difficult for fathers to support their families. During this same period, the federal government began to devote its considerable resources to state child support enforcement efforts.

As a result, those efforts have become more forceful over the same period during which nonresident fathers have experienced diminishing ability to pay. Automation of the child support enforcement system in 1996 had particularly harsh consequences for the lowest wage earners, fathers making $20,000 or less, in part because many of these fathers never married.

When the courts subpoena these men to determine if they are the legal fathers of children born to unmarried mothers, the fathers sometimes fail to appear. This happens because of fear, transportation problems or sometimes, because the father was doubling up with a friend or family member at his last known address, but has moved on before the subpoena arrived. 

To address these problems, the federal office of child support has recently proposed a set of rule changes designed to better align child support orders with nonresidential fathers’ ability to pay. One change would require courts to base child support orders on actual earnings, income, or assets, rather than imputed income when the father’s income is unknown.

Imputation of earnings is widespread practice that occurs when courts set child support orders for non-marital births, presently accounting for 41 percent of all births in the US. To expedite the process if the father fails to respond to a court subpoena, the courts establish paternity by default and attempt to create a child support order, without the information they need about the father’s income.

Instead, the courts impute income using a proportion of welfare and other benefits the children receive, or earnings at the father’s last-known job. If there is no record of prior earnings, the order is based on earnings at a full-time, full-year job paying minimum wage, which the courts assume any father could find.

Not surprisingly, the resulting child support order is often more than some of these fathers can afford, so they fall into arrears. Studies leading to the rule changes show that in states that use default orders and income imputation widely, fathers with earnings of $20,000 or less accounted for the majority of arrears. 

A second change, a self support reserve, would require courts to take into consideration the fathers’ subsistence needs when setting child support orders. In this way low-income fathers no longer need to choose between paying their child support and paying their rent, utilities, and transportation to work.

Several other changes would encourage states to use incarceration as a means of collecting child support as a last resort. That South Carolina was notorious for using incarceration as a first resort, inspired the 2011 Turner vs. Rogers decision by the Supreme Court, which made it clear that courts could not deny father’s their freedom, unless judges were very sure that fathers’ could afford to pay the child support they owed.

In fact this decision inspired the rule changes, which are designed to help states respond to new legal environment. Unfortunately these proposed changes, which have been the subject of work by researchers, advocates, policymakers, and child support administrators for decades, are now caught up in a political battle of wills over the limits of the executive branch.

Congressman Camp, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Hatch, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, have asked Child Support Enforcement to withdraw the proposed changes, pending Congressional action.

Curiously, these key legislators do not take issue with the substance of many of the proposed rule changes. Rather, they argue that the administration is overstepping its authority to make these changes without the approval of Congress.   

President Obama has spoken passionately about the difficulties he endured as the child of a nonresident father, and was only a teenager when the federal government began to put its considerable muscle behind state efforts to enforce child support.

Ironically, even he sees the need to make child support enforcement more accommodating in light of the limited growth in father's earnings that have occurred since that time. Congressman Camp and Senator Hatch may still get their way and block the rule changes.

This means that a teenager today may grow up without the financial support children need and deserve from their fathers. Let's hope we don't have to wait until that teenager becomes the leader of the free world. Congress and the President must focus their attention on the changes in the child support enforcement system so desperately needed now. We simply cannot wait any longer.

 
About Ronald B. Mincy

Dr. Ronald B. Mincy is the Maurice V. Russell Professor of Social Policy and Social Work Practice at the Columbia University School of Social Work and a co-principal investigator of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.

Dr. Mincy publishes extensively on family formation, child well-being, responsible fatherhood, urban poverty and the underclass, and the effects of income security policy on child and family poverty. Dr. Mincy is widely regarded as a critical catalyst for changes currently underway in the treatment of low-income fathers by U.S. welfare, child support, and family support systems. 

Dr. Mincy's undergraduate and graduate training in economics were at Harvard University and M.I.T. He and his wife of nearly 40 years, live in Harlem, New York. They have two sons, who along with Dr. Mincy's two brothers have inspired his interest in males throughout the life course and family well-being. Please find Ronald Mincy's author page for more details on his work.

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