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The Father Factor

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How to Help Fathers Navigate the Child Support System

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

So how can you help them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men in Class

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

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

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

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

 

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

Preparing Teens for Fatherhood with Boyz2Dads

The following is a guest post by Shawn O'Keefe, Youth Programs Specialist for Newport News Department of Human Services. If you would like to guest blog for us, email here.

As a Youth Program Specialist, it is my job to provide prevention, education, leadership, and youth development programming and opportunities to young people in the middle and high school age range.boyz2dads blog pic

One of the curricula I researched was the Boyz2Dads™ program, which I have been using now for the last three years. I like the Boyz2Dads™ program for many reasons:

  • It has a pregnancy prevention component focused on young boys instead of girls
  • It is computer based
  • It allows for discussion about the roles/responsibilities of fathers, as well as the characteristics that make good fathers

I have had the opportunity to implement the program several different ways and in various venues. I have facilitated the program in a high school, at a Boys and Girls Club, a middle school summer enrichment program, and inside the city’s Juvenile Detention Facility. Through trial and error, I have found that the best practices for the most effective implementation of Boyz2Dads is for the group to be limited to no more than 10-15 participants; individual access to a computer; headphones for each participant; and scheduling the program in six 45 minute to one hour sessions once per week.

Interestingly, I have had the most success with the young men in the city’s Juvenile Detention Facility, which was really a big surprise. I thought of any of the young men I was working with that this group would think the program was “whack” or “corny” or just a waste of time. I have found quite the opposite. These young men don’t want to wait for me to come back the following week to complete the next level-they want to complete all six levels that day! They say, “The graphics aren’t as good as the Playstation or XBOX games, but the levels are interesting” and they love the discussion afterwards. That’s right…a group of 10-15 teen boys that I sometimes have a hard time getting to shut up!

As a single father of two sons, it is a joy for me to see these young men I work with start to redefine what it means to be a dad and a man.  You hear them say things such as, “When I’m a dad, I’m gonna make sure my kids know I love them,” or, “I used to think it was gay for a man to kiss another man, but if you really love your dad or son, there’s nothing wrong with kissing them,” and, “My kids might not get everything they want, but I’m going to be there for them and spend time with them.” 

One of our funding sources was impressed with the work I was doing with the young men and the Boyz2Dads program. He had been reading my reports and wanted to know exactly how and what I was doing. After speaking to my Supervisor and her telling him that I have impacted 170 young men who have all shown an increase in the knowledge of the impact fathers have on their children and families and what characteristics make a good father, he asked, “How would you like some more money so you can offer some more fatherhood programs?” 

WHAT!??! More money to make more of an impact!? You know we said, "YES"!

Photo credit here.

4 Factors for Successful Father Involvement

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Are you looking to help the fathers you work with be more involved in their children's lives? Michael Lamb, who has conducted research on father involvement for many years, identified four factors that influence the level of a father's involvement. They are: social supports, skills and self-confidence, institutional/cultural factors, and motivation. 

Your organization can have a direct impact on the first three factors by using father-specific curricula, such as our 24/7 Dad™ program, to help dads build strong peer mentoring supports, improve their fathering skills, and give them the confidence in their ability to be a good dad. You can improve the institutional/cultural factors for dads by becoming a father-friendly organization in your community. A great way to do that is to assess your father-friendliness by using the Father-Friendly Check-Up™.

By addressing these first three factors in an intentional way, your organization will ultimately have a direct impact on each father's motivation to be an involved, responsible, and committed dad.
 
 

The Father Factor Blog: News, tips, and tools for dads and those helping dads.

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