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The Father Factor


NFI Supplies U.S. Military With Fatherhood Resources

nfiGreat news! NFI has completed the delivery of over 140,000 fatherhood skill-building resources to 47 Air National Guard Airman and Family Readiness Programs and 71 Army New Parent Support Programs across the United States and around the world.

In the Air National Guard, the resources -- which include guides, classroom-based programs, and brochures -- will be used to support and train Air National Guard dads, thereby strengthening and improving the resilience of Air National Guard Families. In the Army, the resources will be used by Army New Parent Support Program Home Visitors to educate and train new and expectant Army dads, resulting in stronger and more resilient Army families.

At a time when thousands of military fathers are returning from long overseas deployments, it is critical that our nation’s military fathers receive the education and inspiration they need to embrace their roles as fathers and to build their relationship and parenting skills.

Tim Red, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, father, and NFI’s Senior Program Support Consultant for the Military, said, “Building resilience in our military families and communities has become a top priority, and there is no better place to start than with building the skills and confidence of our nation’s military dads. Having been there myself, I know firsthand the difference an involved, responsible, and committed father can make in the lives of military children and families.”

Through FatherSOURCE, the Fatherhood Resource Center, NFI has provided a wide variety of skill-building materials to the Air National Guard and Army, including NFI’s flagship 24/7 Dad® curriculum, a classroom-based program designed to help fathers build their communication, fathering, and relationship skills. Other resources include NFI’s Deployed Fathers and Families Guide™, which helps military dads prepare for, endure, and return from deployment. Several of NFI’s fathering skills brochures were also delivered, including “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad” and military-focused brochures such as “10 Ways to Stay Involved with Your Children During Deployment” and “Welcome Home Dad!”, which helps military fathers successfully transition from deployment to every day life with their families.

The Air National Guard will support dads and families with the resources at sites in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The Army will support dads and families with the resources at sites in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Korea, Japan, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Since launching its Deployed Fathers and Families program in 2001, National Fatherhood Initiative has become the nation’s leading provider of fatherhood-specific resources to the U.S. Military. NFI has delivered nearly 650,000 resources to all five branches of the military on bases all over the world, and has been listed on Military OneSource, the Department of Defense’s support service for military families.

For more information on Military Fatherhood Programming, please contact Tim Red at

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Do Fathers Have a Role in Gun Control?

This is a guest post by Jason Bruce. If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

toypistol smallAre boys obsessed with weapons? Is your home a toy gun-free home? I’ll be first to admit that I’m a toy-weapon tolerant dad. I allow my son to play with toy guns and swords. Boys naturally like to play with toy weapons and there’s nothing wrong with acting out make-believe combat with toy guns and swords.

I grew up without toy weapons at home. My solution was to make my own weapons. I made cardboard machine guns and grenade launchers like a young Sylvester Stallone in Rambo. I made Samurai swords out of tree branches and any L-shape object became a hand gun including my baby sister’s Barbie dolls.

Many parents forbid their children from playing with toys guns. Many view toy weapons as corruptors of children, exposing them to aggressive and violent behaviors and reinforcing gender stereotypes.

The tragic event in Newtown, CT put the debate on gun control in the spotlight again and many parents followed suit imposing their own toy gun control and zero-tolerance policies in their households. But is this the right response to the issue of violence? Should parents keep their sons away from toy weapons and impose a weapon-free zone at home? Should zero-tolerance policies be extended to playgrounds, schools and other public venues?

Boys naturally gravitate toward weaponry not because of their desire to kill or hurt another human being but because of their desire to be heroes. Boys have a natural willingness to do great things, be adventurous and to be rescuers. They need to feel like heroic warriors and toy weapons help bring out their imagination and act out their fantasies. It is one way boys are molded to be mature courageous men.

Play is play and violence is violence. What’s essential is that fathers educate their sons to understand and differentiate the two in their playtime. Their make-believe games are opportunities to teach boys to distinguish between what’s right and wrong and what’s good and evil. Penny Holland, author of "We Don't Play with Guns Here," says toy weapons were "part of...making sense of the world (imitating) timeless themes of the struggle between good and evil."

Parents should recognize and respect what young boys are dreaming to be and experiencing in their play. Fathers were once young boys too and played fierce battles with evil monsters and alien invaders. We usually grow up wanting to be heroes.

Sometimes I wish my son would simply pretend he’s a magician or a race car driver; but right now he wants to be a gun-trotting Pirate and Captain America. All a weapons-tolerant dad like me can do is to play along with my imaginary laser gun and light saber and model to him the right and honorable way to save the day.

Do you let your child play with toy weapons? Why or why not?

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Jason is a blogger and social media specialist for the Colson Center. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two kids. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonBruce) and visit his blog The Living Rice.

photo credit: AbrilSicairos

One Father (and Community) at a Time

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). If you are interested in writing for us, send us an email.

Now that the presidential election is over, pundits have taken stock of what the candidates did well and didn’t do well that led to victory and defeat, respectively. A lot of it is standard stuff—who made gaffes, did well or not so well with specific demographic groups, etc. Others, however, provide unconventional wisdom that gets folks to think differently. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, provided such wisdom in a recent blog post.

american flagJim’s position as the head of, arguably, the most successful polling company in history places him in a position of authority regarding elections. Of this recent election he says, “Throughout this year’s long election season, I was often asked: ‘Who will be better for jobs and the economy, President Obama or Governor Romney?’ My reply most surely disappointed partisans from both sides: The president of the United States doesn’t make as much difference in terms of creating economic energy as you’d think, according to Gallup data.” Jim says that local leadership in cities is much more important to economic and job growth. He uses examples of similar cities with vastly different unemployment rates and economic growth to make his point. The differences, he notes, rest on the qualities of the leaders in those cities.

So what, then, is the role of national leaders? To provide an environment that helps local leaders to create good economies and jobs. This fact isn’t lost on many national leaders. The problem is that they have different ideas about how to create that environment, and those differences often lead to a dangerous game of chicken as the looming fiscal cliff illustrates, but I digress.

As the nation’s preeminent fatherhood organization, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) understands and embraces its role in creating an environment that helps local leaders in all sectors of society to increase the involvement of fathers in the lives of children, and the benefits that involvement brings to communities and our nation. How do we do it? With a laser-like focus on our 3E strategy—educate, equip, and engage.

We educate all Americans, especially fathers, about the important role of fathers through public awareness campaigns, research, and other resources. We equip fathers and develop leaders at the national, state, and local levels with the tools (e.g. curricula, training, and technical assistance) they need to create a culture, programs, and services that encourage father involvement. We engage every sector of society through strategic alliances and partnerships. This strategy guides our day-to-day decisions and reflects our commitment to children, father, families, and our nation.

Critical to NFI’s success is that we’re not static. Our strategy has evolved as the needs of fathers and local leaders have changed. NFI began as a public advocacy organization in 1994. The main thrust of our early years was to meet with national politicians on both sides of the aisle to argue for father-friendly legislation, convene local fatherhood practitioners via national summits on fatherhood so they could learn from each other, and partner with the Ad Council to launch a PSA campaign that garnered more than $600 million in donated placements. As awareness of fathers’ importance increased so too did the need among fathers and community-based organizations for high-quality, research-based tools that help fathers become more involved. In 2000 we started to add resources (e.g. curricula), training, and technical assistance to meet that need. Since then NFI has developed more than 100 unique resources, distributed more than 6.1 million of them, and trained more than 12,000 practitioners from more than 5,600 organizations.

As we near the end of our second decade of existence, we continue to evolve in new and exciting ways, but with our eyes fixated as always on meeting the needs of fathers and the organizations that serve them. That’s our commitment to every father, mother, child, and community. Jim Clifton of Gallup says, "Whether the country makes a historic comeback or slowly goes broke, it will do so one city at a time." At NFI, we agree with Clifton; and we also think our country's comeback has something to do with fathers.

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photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Shaping the Kind of Fathers Children Need

rolandwarrencloseup resized 600The White House recently honored a select group of people who are doing tremendous work in the field of fatherhood. NFI President Roland C. Warren was recognized for his work as a Champion of Change in this field. Written by Warren, this post originally appeared on The White House blog.

My own life and the “life” of the organization I lead have taken similar paths. Let’s start with me. When I was about 7 years old, my parents split up. For a long time, I was frustrated and confused about my feelings for my dad, who became distant and ultimately disconnected from my daily life. I am nearly 50 years old now, and I still carry a wound - a hole in my soul in the shape of my dad. But, there were lots of wounded souls out there who were yearning for their father’s love and attention.                  

I finally realized that my personal crisis of growing up without my dad was actually a national crisis. And I was deeply inspired to do something about it. Then, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) came into my life.

From the moment I heard about the organization in the late 1990s, I knew I wanted to be involved, and by 2001, I was serving as the new president. I felt incredibly blessed that I had been given the opportunity to take my desire to change the world, born of my own personal struggle, and turn it into real action.

I had moved from inspiration to action.

For its first 7 years of existence, NFI played a critical role in putting fatherhood on the national radar screen through research, national public service announcements, media appearances, and advocacy. When I came on board, I wanted that work to continue, but I also wanted to ensure that when a father came to realize that he needed to be a better dad, that he would have somewhere to turn. I wanted to ensure that when an organization – a prison, a hospital, a military base, a church, a Head Start, a YMCA – came to the realization that it had to serve the fathers in its community, that it would have somewhere to turn, too.

Since then, NFI has distributed over 6.1 million fatherhood skill-building materials to fathers and organizations around the country. We have trained nearly 12,000 fatherhood facilitators from over 5,500 organizations on how to deliver high-quality fatherhood programming into their communities. We have worked with all five branches of the military, with prisons in every state, and with community-based organizations, such as Head Starts, YMCAs, Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities. We also have supported countless smaller community-serving organizations, helping them create and execute plans to educate and equip the fathers in their neighborhoods.

On the fatherhood issue, National Fatherhood Initiative has moved the nation from inspiration to implementation.

We have helped turn the growing awareness of the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood into growing action to give men the skills they need to be the kinds of fathers their children need them to be.

All these years later, I still have moments when I am that lonely boy waiting for my dad. But that pain is now happiness when I think about all the fathers who we have helped connect or reconnect with their children. This important work is changing lives, but more needs to be done. We don’t have a fatherless child to spare.

Roland  C. Warren serves as the President of the National Fatherhood Initiative. This content originally appeared on The White House blog.

Watch The White House Champions of Change event here:

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

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