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The Father Factor

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When “Inclusion” Results in a Total Lack of Fairness for Dads

Words like empowerment and inclusion get thrown around a lot today. But do we really know what they mean? Do these principles in fact have any intrinsic value, or are they just the flavors of the week?

The problem with attributing value to ambiguous concepts like “empowerment” (which Daniel Pink defines as “a slightly more civilized form of control”) is that when you run into conflicts, there is no real standard by which to resolve those conflicts. This post-modern dilemma is playing itself out in a big, public way over at Time Warner, where CNN (a Time Warner company) journalist Joshua Levs has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge against his employer. 

Joshua and his wife just welcomed their third child into the world, and when he went to his employer seeking the 10 weeks of paid leave that new parents get, he found out that all new parents except biological fathers are entitled to this time off. You read that right – every kind of new parent working for Time Warner is entitled to 10 weeks of paid leave, except biological fathers. Adoptive mothers and fathers, biological mothers, and all mothers and fathers whose children were born through surrogacy; they all get 10 weeks of paid leave. But if you are in Joshua’s shoes, where his own wife gave birth to his own child, he only gets two weeks.

Time Warner, in its efforts to be “inclusive,” and to “empower” new parents with a policy of “equality” has created a situation that exposes a much more serious problem – it is completely unfair. Moreover, in Joshua’s view, given his EEOC charge, it is discriminatory.

While we at NFI do not know all of the legal details about the EEOC charge, we can say that we agree with Joshua Levs. His company is clearly treating him unfairly. And from a broader “fatherhood perspective,” Time Warner’s actions are symptomatic of much a deeper cultural issue that has been plaguing our culture for decades, the devaluing of fatherhood and marriage.

It seems every group has a movement or a program behind it, except married, biological fathers. Guys like me, who have sacrificed much to get and stay married to the mothers of our children, seem to be the ones who get the least support in the public square. We are the “suckers” who seemingly made the mistake of setting aside our own interests by going home every night to our wife and children so that we can be there for them for life.

We hear it all the time at NFI, but one of the most common refrains I hear is that “you don’t have to be married to your children’s mother to be a good dad!” Well, sure; most of our community-based programs help unmarried fathers connect to their kids. But the reason every civilization across all of world history has created the institution of marriage is because it enables men to be the best dads they can be. Since when are we so comfortable with settling for second best when it comes to our children? Have we lowered our standards that much?

As for Mr. Levs’ situation, one can’t help but be befuddled by the hubris of Time Warner to create and then enforce such a policy. In Mr. Levs’ own words, in his public statement about the situation, he said, “The company gave no explanation in rejecting my request last week, saying only that it was ‘unable’ to grant it. That’s obviously false. Time Warner is able to, but chose not to. The moment it did that, this issue stopped being a possible oversight that the company could have resolved quietly. It became an active, deliberate decision to discriminate.”

I am at a loss to figure out why Time Warner would do this, other than to go back to our mass cultural confusion, where we value too many other things more highly than the importance of father involvement.

But that only explains part of it. Other fathers at Time Warner are not getting the same lousy treatment as Joshua. So, could something more sinister be at work here?

For one thing, Time Warner’s policy is not actually about child well being. In Joshua’s statement, he mentions that certain forms of discrimination are legal because they are directed at groups that are not “protected classes.” Apparently, children are not a protected class, because if improving child well being was the purpose of Time Warner’s policies, they would extend the most generous policies, or at least the same ones, to the types of parents who are most likely to have children -- biological parents. Despite “advances,” the vast majority of children are still brought into the world as a result of a man and woman having sex with each other. So, Time Warner’s “inclusive” policy only touches a small minority of new parents.

Furthermore, as I mentioned above, our culture has gone out of its way to devalue married fatherhood for decades. Time Warner’s actions sound like yet another attempt to move our culture away from tradition and towards some new way of doing things. I am not sure what that “new way” is, but decades of social science research indicate that it is probably a bad idea, because children living with their two, married, biological parents do better across every measure of child well being than children in any other family structure. Shouldn’t that, therefore, be the structure that we encourage and promote? Wouldn’t that be fair to our nation’s children?

But there is the problem! It is not fairness we actually care about. We care more about ethereal concepts like “inclusion” and “empowerment,” which change with our culture’s whims. It is not even child well being we really care about; it is making sure “protected classes” are kept happy.

We at NFI hope Joshua Levs, and all of the biological fathers at Time Warner, get what is coming to them, which is simply what every other type of parent gets. And, furthermore, we are hopeful that Joshua’s actions resonate throughout our culture so that fathers all over the country get the same truly fair treatment they deserve, and more importantly, that their children deserve.

The good news is that much of the response to Mr. Levs’ charge has been positive. You can help the cause simply by making supportive comments right here on this blog, on NFI’s Facebook page, or by visiting Mr. Levs’ Facebook or Twitter page and voicing your support for him.

Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin Partners with NFI to Strengthen Fatherhood

Two-year project aims to increase father involvement and reduce the possibility of father absence in the lives of children in the 9th District of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

nfi logo

In a press release today from PRWeb, Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin (D)-District 9 and the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) have partnered to create a multi-sector initiative to strengthen fatherhood in southern Prince George’s County.

Using its Community Mobilization Approach™, NFI will work with Council Member Franklin and County leaders to engage 11 sectors in District 9, with a goal of increasing the involvement of fathers and father-figures in the lives of Prince George’s County children. The 11 sectors are government, faith-based, social service, education, health, law enforcement, philanthropic, community activist, civic, business, and media.

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods,” said Council Member Franklin. “The District 9 Fatherhood Initiative is an opportunity for a true public-private partnership to achieve this important goal. With NFI’s outstanding expertise and research-based methods, we will be better able to measurably improve the lives of children and families in southern Prince George’s County.”

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods.” —Council Member Franklin

NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ (CMA) consists of three phases:

  1. a needs and assets assessment of the community’s ability to promote responsible fatherhood; 
  2. a Leadership Summit on Fatherhood attended by community leaders; and 
  3. implementing an action plan for a fatherhood initiative that uses NFI resources and solutions generated by the district.

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families,” said NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere. “It will also provide the structure for Prince George’s County Government to lead a mobilization effort and establish model direct-service providers in different sectors to serve as benchmarks on how to involve more fathers in the lives of their children.”

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families.” —NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere

Over the course of the next two years, NFI will lead the residents of District 9 through the three phases with in-person training, technical assistance, web-based support, events, and other initiatives. At the conclusion of this set of activities, leaders and organizations will be identified in District 9 to comprise a Fatherhood Advisory Committee (FAC) and a plan to guide the FAC in continuing to mobilize the district.

As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 6.3 million resources, and has trained over 12,900 practitioners on how to deliver programming to dads. NFI is the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 2,400 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

Prince George’s County is a diverse community of nearly 900,000 residents located in Maryland, adjacent to Washington, DC. District 9 comprises the southeastern third of Prince George’s County’s land mass, including much of the Rural Tier and the communities of Accokeek, Aquasco, Baden, Brandywine, portions of Camp Springs, Cheltenham, Clinton, Croom, Eagle Harbor, portions of Fort Washington, Piscataway, and portions of Upper Marlboro, as well as Joint Base Andrews. Council Member Mel Franklin has represented District 9 since his election to a four-year term in November 2010. Council Member Franklin chairs the County Council’s Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee. He is married. He and his wife have two children.

Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin Partners with NFI to Strengthen Fatherhood

Two-year project aims to increase father involvement and reduce the possibility of father absence in the lives of children in the 9th District of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

In a press release today from PRWeb, Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin (D)-District 9 and the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) have partnered to create a multi-sector initiative to strengthen fatherhood in southern Prince George’s County.

nfi logo

Using its Community Mobilization Approach™, NFI will work with Council Member Franklin and County leaders to engage 11 sectors in District 9, with a goal of increasing the involvement of fathers and father-figures in the lives of Prince George’s County children. The 11 sectors are government, faith-based, social service, education, health, law enforcement, philanthropic, community activist, civic, business, and media.

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods,” said Council Member Franklin. “The District 9 Fatherhood Initiative is an opportunity for a true public-private partnership to achieve this important goal. With NFI’s outstanding expertise and research-based methods, we will be better able to measurably improve the lives of children and families in southern Prince George’s County.”

“Responsible fatherhood directly impacts quality of life issues in Prince George’s County. We must take action to promote and support strong fathers in our households and neighborhoods.” —Council Member Franklin

NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ (CMA) consists of three phases:

  1. a needs and assets assessment of the community’s ability to promote responsible fatherhood; 
  2. a Leadership Summit on Fatherhood attended by community leaders; and 
  3. implementing an action plan for a fatherhood initiative that uses NFI resources and solutions generated by the district.

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families,” said NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere. “It will also provide the structure for Prince George’s County Government to lead a mobilization effort and establish model direct-service providers in different sectors to serve as benchmarks on how to involve more fathers in the lives of their children.”

“NFI’s Community Mobilization Approach™ will help District 9 create new fatherhood champions within the 11 sectors, while leveraging the great work that existing programs are already doing for fathers and families.” —NFI Vice President of Program Support Erik Vecere

Over the course of the next two years, NFI will lead the residents of District 9 through the three phases with in-person training, technical assistance, web-based support, events, and other initiatives. At the conclusion of this set of activities, leaders and organizations will be identified in District 9 to comprise a Fatherhood Advisory Committee (FAC) and a plan to guide the FAC in continuing to mobilize the district.

As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 6.3 million resources, and has trained over 12,900 practitioners on how to deliver programming to dads. NFI is the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 2,400 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

Prince George’s County is a diverse community of nearly 900,000 residents located in Maryland, adjacent to Washington, DC. District 9 comprises the southeastern third of Prince George’s County’s land mass, including much of the Rural Tier and the communities of Accokeek, Aquasco, Baden, Brandywine, portions of Camp Springs, Cheltenham, Clinton, Croom, Eagle Harbor, portions of Fort Washington, Piscataway, and portions of Upper Marlboro, as well as Joint Base Andrews. Council Member Mel Franklin has represented District 9 since his election to a four-year term in November 2010. Council Member Franklin chairs the County Council’s Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee. He is married. He and his wife have two children.

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor. 

NFI on C-SPAN's Washington Journal

NFI's Vincent DiCaro was interviewed on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this weekend and talked about the goal and mission of the NFI and the public policy issues we promote to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers. 

While the video embedded below is almost 40 minutes, the first five minutes will help viewers understand the vital work NFI is doing to strengthen fatherhood in America.


Can't view the video? Visit here.


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NFI Presents 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ to RPC Patrick Mondragon

RPC Mondragon Chosen From Among Hundreds of Nominees to Receive Prestigious Annual Award for an Exemplary Military Dad

At a ceremony this morning at the Third Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) presented the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ to RPC Patrick Mondragon, US Navy.

rpc mondragon navyMondragon, a husband and father of two, had to act as a solo parent during his wife’s recent life-threatening health complications. During that time, he cared for his wife and children while continuing to fulfill his military duties. In a display of amazing work-family balance, he recorded over 20 videos of himself reading stories to his children so that they could see and hear him while he was onboard the USS Bunker Hill and forward deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In addition to caring for his own family, he dedicates himself to supporting other military families. As a religious program specialist on his base, he counsels dads and families on handling the challenges of military life. He was also the United through Reading Program Coordinator on the USS Bunker Hill, helping hundreds of dads stay connected to their children while deployed.

One of RPC Mondragon’s fellow sailors said, “I am not surprised that RPC Mondragon was selected. He is absolutely the father, man, sailor, RPC of the year, every year, in my book. I wish him and his family the best and I am so proud to serve along side of Patrick in the sea services.”

Earlier this year, NFI received hundreds of nominations for the Military Fatherhood Award™ from the wives, children, friends, and colleagues of our nation’s military dads, and then narrowed them down to four exemplary finalists, including RPC Mondragon.

The four finalists’ families then submitted home videos of why they thought their dad should be the recipient of the award. From mid-April to mid-May, the public was able to choose the recipient of the award by visiting National Fatherhood Initiative’s Facebook page and casting their votes for their favorite of the four finalists.

In RPC Mondragon’s video, his wife, Violet, said, “Patrick is so deserving of this award, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified for the Military Fatherhood Award™.”

The three other finalists were Maj. Kevin Billups, U.S. Air Force; Ssgt Charlie Linville, U.S. Marine Corps; and Ssgt Jorge Roman, U.S. Army.

nfi logo

Each year, the Military Fatherhood Award™ is given to a military dad who displays an ongoing commitment and dedication to his children, makes extraordinary efforts to father from a distance when deployed, successfully balances military and family life, and makes an effort to mentor other military fathers and/or military children who are separated from their fathers.

Several past Military Fatherhood Award™ recipients have been officially recognized by the White House. The 2012 awardee, 1st Lieutenant William Edwards of the U.S. Army, had lunch with President Obama and received his award at a “Champions of Change” event at the White House on June 13, 2012.

In addition to the award, NFI supports the U.S. Military as its #1 provider of fatherhood-specific resources. NFI has distributed nearly 300,000 fatherhood skill-building materials to bases all over the world for all five branches, and has trained family support services on how to deliver our numerous fatherhood curricula and programs.

The sponsors of the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ are Huggies®, Nissan USA, Acumen Solutions, Inc, Sandy Cove Ministries, and Boy Scouts of America.

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25 Tips for Being a Great Dad

The following is a post from RPC Patrick Mondragon, US Navy, recipient of NFI's 2013 Military Fatherhood Award. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

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  1. Try to eat dinner together as a family as often as possible. I always try to make sure that I’m home by dinner and we all eat together, almost always. There are occasions where I’ll have to work late, but we try not to make that a norm. And when we eat dinner, we turn off the television and spend good quality time talking about our days.
  2. Take at least one day off from work each month. Use this day to take and pick up your kids from school. You can also use the time while your kids are in school as a date-day for you and your wife. See a movie, have lunch together, go shopping, etc.
  3. Take at least one family vacation each year. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but more deliberate. Be faithful about this.
  4. Spend one-on-one time with your kids. Have a Father-Son day, or Father-Daughter day. Try to get each child one-on-one though. This allows you to learn more about your children, allows them to open up to you, and makes them feel special.
  5. Turn chores into family time. Let your kids help you wash your car, take them on errand trips to go pick up your dry cleaning or get groceries. Involve them in the process. 
  6. Get Outdoors. Do fun things outdoors. Take the family camping, go swimming, play sports or go for a bike ride.
  7. Make sure you deposit enough into the “family bank account.” I’m not talking about money, although that helps too. What I’m talking about is the emotional bank account. We all know that being in the military means deployments and time away from our families. This is what I call making a “withdrawal” because it takes away from the family. These withdrawals are often unavoidable and there is nothing we can do about them. We can, however, make plenty of deposits so that we don’t end up in the negative. By deposits, I mean spending quality time with the family, telling them you love them, leaving them sticky notes, taking your kids to school, spending quality time with your spouse. You never want to be in the negative, but rather the positive.
  8. Make time for your spouse. This is so important because if you and your spouse are not in sync and are not truly happy, your children will definitely notice. Don’t think you can keep it from them, they notice everything! They are so observant. It’s important to make investments for your spouse as well, and get quality time with your husband/wife. Have a mini vacation, attend a marriage enrichment retreat together, go away for the weekend and arrange for someone you know and trust to watch your children. This will pay dividends in your marriage and will keep the love alive.
  9. Give plenty of encouragement to your children. Assure them they are doing well, compliment them when they do something right, reward them when they deserve it. Make them feel special, appreciated and important. This also builds their sense of security and confidence.
  10. Laugh often. Tell funny jokes, tickle your kids, play fun games or sports. Don’t be so serious all the time. Of course, there is a time and place for everything, but by having a sense of humor and laughing often, you help your kids feel secure. This also helps them develop many things like sense of humor, gift of gab, public speaking and more.  
  11. Take your kids to work. Try this at least once. Let them visually see where you work and what you do. Give them a tour of your base, including your office. Introduce them to fellow employees. This helps your children understand what exactly it is that mommy or daddy does during the day.  
  12. Be involved. Know when your daughter has a report due, how they did at tennis practice, which of their friends made them upset or hurt their feelings that day, how they like their teacher, etc. Be active in their school.  
  13. Attend Important Events. Examples would be your kids Open House night, school field trip, back to school picnic, award ceremonies where they are recognized, first day of school, speech or spelling contest, school sport championships or big games. The list could go on, but I think you get the idea.  
  14. Read a bedtime story to your kids. Now I understand that there is a time limit for this, and you probably won’t be reading them bedtime stories after they are 11 or 12 years old. But when they are young this is so important. For one, it’s great bonding time. For two, it makes them feel special. Three, it’s a great way to end the evening and four, it develops their reading skills and can make them enjoy reading. As your kids grow older, instead of reading them books, you can spend 5-10 minutes talking with them before they go to bed. Lay in bed with them for a bit. Ask them about their day.     
  15. Learn together. Take your kids to museums, historical landmarks, nature centers, zoos and more. Make it a point to learn one or two new facts about something you didn’t know before.   
  16. Make videos for your kids. This is mainly for when you dads are deployed. Make a few recordings even before you leave on deployment. For example, if you know that you are going to be deployed over Christmas, or Easter, or your kids birthday, make a video recording for this special event ahead of time, and then you can have your wife play it for your kids at the appropriate time. Buy special books to match the occasion and you can read those books to them. Take advantage of the United Through Reading program while you are deployed. If you really want to get the full-circle effect, have your wife videotape the kids watching your video, and then send that back to you. Then you can see their reactions to your recordings. We did this when I was deployed on the ship, and it was so rewarding.  
  17. Tell your family you love them. Do this often! And don’t stop there by just telling them, SHOW THEM as well!  
  18. Randomly buy something for them. This is fun and they will love it. It doesn’t have to be something expensive. My son Adam loves paper airplanes and things that fly through the air. The other day while taking them to the Flying Leatherneck Museum at MCAS Miramar, I saw these cool flyers where you spin them in the air and watch them fly. They were only $3 each, so I got one for each child. My daughter loves flavored chapstick, so sometimes I’ll go to the store and pick out a few new fun flavors for her, like Dr. Pepper, or Orange Cream. She loves that. She also loves to write, so while at the Dollar Store, I found a journal and some cool pens, and brought those back for her. She loved that as well.   
  19. Read the "Five Love Languages" and "Five Love Languages for Kids".  These books are a great investment and help you learn the “language” of both your spouse and your kids. Everybody has a different love language.  What is your kids love language? As a matter of fact, most military Chaplains order these books, or can order them through the command supply system, and then you won’t even have to pay for them. I know that we keep several copies of this great book at my command.  
  20. Make fun traditions for your family. A few years back, I started this cool Christmas tradition in my family that was never done when I was little.  We call it the 25 days of Christmas activities. I make a Christmas activity calendar and have my kids help me. We pick out something to do every day from December 1st all the way up to Christmas Day. I like to incorporate activities and sight-seeing. Some of our favorites are making marshmallow snowmen, something I call the pillow surprise where I place a little present under their pillow, watch a Christmas movie with popcorn, hot cocoa by the fire, drive around looking at Christmas lights, listen to Christmas music while decorating the tree and more. This is so fun and our family really enjoys it. Another fun tradition we have is to have breakfast for dinner at least once per month. We will make waffles, bacon, pancakes with whip cream and all their favorite toppings, etc. Also, usually once a month we will let the kids each pick out what they want for dinner that night and will make it for them. My daughter loves sushi, so I’ll buy her some sushi. My son loves macaroni and cheese so I’ll make that for him.   
  21. Play board games. These are great family-time things. My kids love monopoly. We like to make popcorn or have cookies and milk while we sit around the living room. We’ll have like a mini indoor picnic while we play. I’ll even get out my iPhone and put on music so we can jam out while playing. They love to do this. Recently, we bought the Monopoly City WII game. That’s really fun.  
  22. Practice your faith. That old saying “A family that prays together, stays together” is still true today. Teach your kids how to pray, say grace before a meal, teach them about the bible. I realize this may not be for everyone, but for those who have a faith, practice it. What better way to build values in your children which they in turn will model for their future families some day.  
  23. Teach/Model Etiquette. I always make it a point to open the car door for my wife so that my kids can see what a gentleman should do. I also open the car door for my daughter Olivia, and then I tell her that a real man/gentlemen should do the same for her as well. I teach my son Adam by asking him to help me open the doors for my wife and daughter when we go to restaurants or to stores. Then both of them learn. We practice etiquette by asking one another politely to "please pass the salt or napkins". We have them each put their own plates in the sink, they ask to be excused from the table and they make sure that everyone has a napkin before we eat.   
  24. Let your kids plan out their day. Some weekends I’ll have both of my kids make a list of the top three things they want to do that day. Then we will compile the list, and start from the top. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive either. For example, the other weekend when we did this: my son Adam’s top three things were to draw together, play monopoly and go for a bike ride. My daughter Olivia’s was to play tag, watch a movie with popcorn and make homemade pizza for dinner. It was a busy but fun-packed day and we did all of those things. While I did this with the kids, my wife was able to go out and get a mani/pedi and have some nice “alone” time. This gave her a much-needed break and everyone had a good day. Then at the end, we all came together for dinner.   
  25. Plan surprise events. This is a great way to switch things up. Fortunately, we live in San Diego where there are tons of things to do and places to go. Every once in awhile, we will surprise our kids by taking them somewhere fun. When they wake up in the morning, we’ll tell them “hurry up and get ready, we are going to Sea World.” They get so excited and it makes for such a fun day.   

Well, that was my list of “Tips” for being a great dad, and how to maximize time with your family whenever you can. I hope you enjoyed reading these. Even more, my hope is that you might incorporate some of these things into your family routine. Take care and “GO GET EM DADS!

What would you add to this list?

President Obama Talks Fatherhood in Morehouse College Speech

"Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important." —Barack Obama, President

President Barack Obama recently delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College and talked personally about fatherhood and family.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College

Here are excerpts from President Obama's speech: 

  • ...I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home -- where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.
     
  • It’s hard work that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice. And I promise you, Michelle will tell you I’m not perfect. She’s got a long list of my imperfections. Even now, I’m still practicing, I'm still learning, still getting corrected in terms of how to be a fine husband and a good father. But I will tell you this: Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility.
  • I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave, I will not be thinking the Nobel Prize I received. I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters. I'll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I'll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved. And I'll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.

Watch President Obama's full address and read President Obama's commencement speech transcript.

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Image credit: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Precipitous Drop in Teen Birth Rates & What it Means for Dads

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Last week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released astounding data on the precipitous decline in the teen birth rate. The birth rate for teens 15-19 years of age fell 25 percent from 2007-2011 to an all-time low. The most significant drop, 34 percent, occurred among Hispanic teens.  

medium 5549214174Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notes in the Huffington Post that this is an acceleration of the decline we’ve witnessed for more than two decades. Dr. Koh points to a number of key factors that have led to this decline that include stronger pregnancy-prevention efforts (e.g. most notably those spearheaded by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy), teens choosing to delay sex (i.e. abstinence), and contraceptive use among sexually-active teens. The good news from NFI’s perspective is that this decline helps prevent father absence in the lives of children and the range of poor outcomes that these children experience, on average.  

As I reflected on these data and read Dr. Koh’s article, I couldn’t help but wonder why, despite this long-term trend, we see rates of unwed childbearing at an all-time high. The reason is that, more than ever, women in their twenties are having children out-of-wedlock. As I pointed out in an earlier post, nearly half of all births to twentysomethings (48 percent) occur outside of marriage. Coupled with the increase in age among women marrying for the first time exceeding the age at which they give birth to their first child, fathers should be very concerned about the prospects of our grandchildren growing up without involved, responsible, committed fathers in their lives.  

So what are fathers to make of all this good and not-so-good news? One thing for certain is that fathers can breathe a little easier knowing that their teens are less likely to become pregnant or get someone pregnant than when they (fathers) were teenagers. (Can you hear a big “Whew!” coming from this father of two teenage daughters?) But none of us should be under any illusion that there aren’t the same temptations for teens today to have sex than when we were in their shoes. In other words, don’t let any grass grow under your feet as you consider when to send your daughters or sons the message to not have sex until, ideally, they are married.  

What these data reinforce for every father is that the job of a father never ceases. When it comes to ensuring that our grandchildren grow up in homes with involved, responsible, committed fathers—regardless of whether we have daughters or sons—our work extends beyond adolescence and into our children’s twenties. We can’t breathe easy when we realize that so many children in our country are still at risk of growing up without involved, responsible, and committed fathers in their lives because of trends to which many Americans are oblivious. 

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photo credit: imagineerz

NFI Honors Military Dads! Vote Before Midnight May 17th!

NFI's Vince DiCaro talks about how you can pick the winner of the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award. Vote for your favorite finalist before Friday, May 17!

 Can't view the video? Visit Fox News Live for full video

Vince DiCaro was interviewed yesterday on Fox News Live and discussed our 2013 Military Fatherhood Award Finalists. As Vince points out, we have four amazing finalists: 

mondragonChief Petty Officer Patrick Mondragon, U.S. Navy.

  • Currently serving at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California
  • Father of two kids, daughter age 9 and son age 8

His wife became very ill recently. He became a sole parent for their children. He took care of his wife and children all while serving our country. Get parenting tips from CPO Mondragon here.
 

romanStaff Sergeant Jorge Roman, U.S. Army.

  • Currently serving at Fort Stewart, Georgia
  • Father of two daughters, ages 9 and 8, and expecting another

He is a first-generation immigrant. His parents worked hard to see their son build a life here and he is a great example of service. Get parenting tips from SSgt Roman here



 

linvilleStaff Sergeant Charlie Linville, U.S. Marine Corps.

  • Currently serving at Balboa Naval Medical Center Wounded Warrior Battalion in San Diego, CA
  • Father of two daughters, ages 5 and 2

He's a wounded warrier. Within 36 hours of having his leg amputated, we was cheering his daughter on at her karate class. Get parenting tips from SSgt Linville here.

billupsMajor Kevin Billups, U.S. Air Force.

  • Currently serving at Tyndale AFB, FL
  • Father of three children

He recorded himself reading to his children so that when he was deployed his children would know how much he loved them. Get parenting tips from Major Billups here


Pick your favorite finalist and vote before tomorrow at midnight!

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Campaign Ends Today: Help NFI Support Military Families

military family resized 600There are 1.8 million children and families of military dads are affected by the unique stress of military life, particularly during deployment. Help us support them!

If you can help NFI achieve its target of $1,000 we can provide fatherhood resources to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune!

The dads of military kids will benefit from National Fatherhood Initiative's unique educational materials for dads - to help them stay involved with their kids, and be there for them, even while deployed. 


Unfortunately, research shows that the kids of military dads can experience similar unfortunate outcomes as children in father-absent homes - such as doing poorly in school, emotional/social issues, maltreatment, and more. Your support means a military child gets the dad they need to be prosperous and successful.

Watch this video for more information on our work with military families: 

  • Approximately 593,000 active-duty service members and nearly 300,000 U.S. reservists are dads.
  • 150,000 military fathers are currently deployed, with deployments ranging from 30 days to 15 months.

This campaign ends today. Please consider giving today if you wish to help us support deployed dads and their families.

Here are four ways you can help today:

  1. Visit the Campaign Page.
  2. Donate to NFI's campaign. 
  3. Share NFI's campaign on your social media accounts.
  4. Invite your friends and contacts to support NFI's campaign.

Thank you for understanding the importance of connecting military fathers with their families. We want all kids to have an involved, responsible and committed dad—your support helps make this happen.

Help NFI Support Deployed Dads and Military Kids

  • "The hardest part...when you're gone for six months, your family grows without you...you come home to strangers. And then after you get home, if there aren't resources it makes it that much harder." —US Navy Chief Quartermaster John Lehnen.

militarydad2aa resized 600

Approximately 1.8 million children and families of military dads are affected by the unique stress of military life, particularly during deployment. Help us support them!

If you can help NFI achieve its target, together we can provide a complete Fatherhood Resource Center for a military base in need!

The dads of military kids will benefit from National Fatherhood Initiative's unique educational materials for dads - to help them stay involved with their kids, and be there for them, even while deployed. 

Unfortunately, research shows that the kids of military dads can experience similar unfortunate outcomes as children in father-absent homes - such as doing poorly in school, emotional/social issues, maltreatment, and more. Your support means a military child gets the dad they need to be prosperous and successful.

  • Approximately 593,000 active-duty service members and nearly 300,000 U.S. reservists are dads.
  • 150,000 military fathers are currently deployed, with deployments ranging from 30 days to 15 months.

NFI is running this 10-day campaign ending next Thursday April 4 to help support deployed dads and their families.

You can help. Here's how:

  1. Visit the Campaign Page and follow the instructions.
  2. Donate to NFI's campaign. 
  3. Share NFI's campaign on your social media accounts.
  4. Invite your friends and contacts to support NFI's campaign.
  5. Create a personal fundraising page for NFI's campaign.

Thank you for understanding the importance of connecting military fathers with their families. We want all kids to have an involved, responsible and committed dad—your support helps make this happen.

PA is 25th State to Standardize NFI's InsideOut Dad®

Facilities Across Pennsylvania Have Been Equipped to Deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® Program to Connect Incarcerated Fathers With Their Children

nfi logoNational Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has trained 37 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) staff members on how to deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® program to incarcerated fathers across Pennsylvania.

The training took place at a Training Academy in Elizabethtown, PA on January 15 and 16 following the decision of PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel to standardize InsideOut Dad® at the state’s 24 adult male correctional facilities and 1 boot camp facility. The training equipped treatment specialists, corrections counselors, and chaplains to deliver the classroom-based curriculum to fathers seeking to reconnect with their children. The curriculum covers topics such as family history, what it means to be a man, showing and handling feelings, co-parenting, and much more.

Michael Yudt, NFI’s Senior Director of Program Support Services, who delivered the training, said, “The training revealed a great deal of excitement among Pennsylvania Department of Corrections staff for this type of program, aimed at helping inmate dads reconnect and strengthen their relationships with their children. In fact, one facilitator plans to delay her retirement until she has a chance to run InsideOut Dad® for a year.”

Pennsylvania is the 25th U.S. state to “standardize” InsideOut Dad® -- the nation’s only evidence-based program designed specifically for working with incarcerated fathers -- across its state correctional facilities. An independent study by Rutgers University qualified InsideOut Dad® as evidence-based, proving its effectiveness in building fathers’ knowledge and confidence in being better fathers, even while incarcerated.

"When individuals come to prison, not only does the community suffer, often their children, innocent victims in the situation, pay a toll. This program addresses the need for male offenders to stand up, face their responsibilities, and truly be a man in every sense of the word. Not only do we need this program, society does, as 90% of our men will return to our communities one day," said Secretary Wetzel.

SCI-Mahanoy, a facility in Frackville, PA, has been running InsideOut Dad® and was instrumental in arranging for implementation across the entire state. As a result of the training, each of the 25 facilities aims to offer InsideOut Dad® once per quarter as a voluntary program for inmates, with state-mandated eligibility criteria in place for fathers seeking to participate in the program.

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State of the Union Address: Fatherhood on the Agenda

obama state of the union“And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one. Stronger families.  Stronger communities.  A stronger America.  It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home.” -- President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, 2/12/13

Not for the first time, President Barack Obama urged the nation to strengthen the institution of fatherhood. He also made the important connection between marriage and fatherhood; two forces that work together to strengthen families and the economy. 

The President’s timely comments ride on the heels of new research from the Pew Research Center (which we cited in a CNN.com op-ed on Monday) that shows that marriage is in decline, creating an enormous cultural and economic gap between those who marry and those who don’t. Thus, the President hit the nail on the head in tying the vibrancy of the middle class to the health of marriage.

The President has consistently voiced his support for responsible fatherhood, having formed the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Task Force in 2007, of which former NFI president, Roland C. Warren, was part. NFI and Roland helped create this report on how the federal government can address fatherhood issues.

For NFI’s part, we are inspired to hear the leader of the free world choose to take time out of his most important speech to voice his support for fatherhood and marriage. Twenty four million children grow up in biological father-absent homes today, and we don’t have a fatherless child to spare!

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photo credit: white house

The Missing Piece in Education Reform—Dads

classroom, education, fatherhoodWriting for CNN’s Schools of Thought blog, NFI's Christopher Brown and Vincent DiCaro reveal the missing piece of education reform. Brown and DiCaro point out that "There is no shortage of answers about how to improve our nation’s schools, including more charter schools, school vouchers, standardized testing, lower teacher-student ratios and performance-based hiring, pay and promotion of teachers. However, what we find lacking in almost every debate about education reform is the role of families - especially fathers - and the support they can and should provide to ensure children’s educational success. If parents, educators and reformers are to make a difference in improving children’s educational success, we must expand our definition of education reform."

They continue, "children in two-parent homes were more likely to stay on track in school and have higher literacy, both of which are critical to overall educational success." 

Pointing to research on marriage from Pew Research Center saying barely one-half - 51% - of adults today are married, down from 72% in 1960, the article says, "The decline of marriage, the rise of divorce and the increase in out-of-wedlock births - now 40% of all births - has contributed to the reality that more than 24 million children in America live in homes absent a biological father."

Brown and DiCaro do not write only to complain, but to offer real solutions for educational improvement. They point out several real-life things fathers can do at home and in school to help their children succeed:

  • Attend school and class events, or even spend a day in the classroom—your presence communicates something to your child and to their teachers. 
  • Read to your children every day. 
  • Help with school work. 
  • Don’t let mom do all the work. 
Some believe that school is “mom’s territory,” but fathers are just as important to their children’s educations as their mothers. Brown and DiCaro add that schools can help to create father-friendly environments by:
  • Including posters, reading materials and visual cues that show dads are welcome. 
  • Distribute parenting resources targeted to dads, as well as moms. 
  • Hold seminars for staff members to remind them how important it is for dads to be involved. 
  • Create dad-centric events, like “Dad and Donuts Day” where fathers join children at school for breakfast.

Brown and DiCaro do well to explain, "Changing parents’ and schools’ views of parental involvement are part of education reform. But most importantly, we must also address and reverse the two most disturbing trends of the past half-century - the increase in the number of children growing up in father-absent homes and the decline in marriage. These two issues are inseparable and have a direct impact on our children’s success in school."

Read the full article at CNN's Schools of Thought.

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photo credit: dcJohn

Advocate for Dads in Washington, DC!

capitol building advocate for fatherhoodOne of NFI’s goals is to be a voice for fatherhood on Capitol Hill. Over the years, for example, we have helped push through funding that supports organizations seeking to equip dads.

So, while there is funding for programs providing needed services to fathers, there is a general lack of funding available for organizations to obtain the “capacity-building” training and services they need to build long-term sustainability.

What is capacity-building? It is what organizations need to be more effective in their service delivery in the present and more viable organizations in the future. Leadership development, organizational development, program development, and community engagement would all qualify as capacity-building services.

That is why we have created an initiative to inform Congress that federal fatherhood grantees should be allowed to use a portion of their funds to procure capacity-building services and training.

While service delivery is the most important use of grant funds, those services need to be delivered by effective organizations – and that is where capacity-building comes in. It will help organizations do a better job serving fathers and ultimately lead to better outcomes for children.

We have set up a page on our website where you and/or your organization can make your voice heard! The grant program for fatherhood programs will be reviewed in Congress later this year, so now is the time to ensure that future grantees will have the flexibility to use some of their grant funds for capacity-building.

Here is what we would like for you to do: 

As an individual – Use our special webpage to send your opinion directly to your members of Congress. The more voices that come on board, the more persuasive we can be!

As an organizationSign on to become an "endorsing organization" of this effort to allow federal fatherhood grantees to use a portion of their funds for capacity-building services. Your organization's name will be listed alongside National Fatherhood Initiative as a supporter or this important advocacy effort.

We will soon inform Congress and the White House of all the people and organizations that are behind this effort. 

Thank you so much in advance for helping us in this important effort. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact Vincent DiCaro, NFI’s Congressional liaison at vdicaro@fatherhood.org.

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