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The Father Factor

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How To Start A Fatherhood Initiative

This is a guest blog written by NFI Sr. Program Support Consultant, Ave Mulhern. If you would like to blog for us, please send an email.

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In my role at NFI as a Senior Program Support Consultant, I talk to people from across the U.S. regarding the topic of fatherhood. Sometimes it is a dad looking for ways to connect with his child, and many times it's an organization looking for our great resources or trainings; in general, I speak to impassioned people who simply see the need to engage fathers in their community, and specifically, to educate the community on the impact father absence is having.

And very often, no matter what their role or background, they just don’t know how or where to start a Fatherhood Initiative.

To begin, I point them to the father absence Statistics section on our website www.fatherhood.org.  There, they can sharpen their understanding of the impact of father absence on common societal issues and concerns such as Poverty, Education, Emotional/Behavioral Problems, Teen Pregnancy, Childhood Obesity, and more. This helps individuals and organizations "make the case" for a fatherhood inititive, whether it be to a boss, a community organization, or even a town Mayor.

Many are astounded to see that this kind of data shows a direct connection between father absence and the issues communities and children face each and every day.

For example, the Father Factor in Maternal & Child Health area shows: Babies with a father’s name on the birth certificate are 4 times more likely to live past 1 year of age.  Source: Alio, A.P., Mbah, A.K., Kornosky, J.L., Marty, P.J. & Salihu, H.M. "The Impact of Paternal Involvement on Feto-Infant Morbidity among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics". Matern Child Health J. 2010; 14(5): 735-41.

And the Father Factor in Teen Pregnancy shows: Adolescent girls who reported higher levels of relationship quality with their fathers were less likely to have sex before age 16, compared with adolescent girls who reported lower levels of father-daughter relationship quality. Source: Ikramullah, E., Manlove, J., Cui, C., & Moore, K. A. (2009). Parents matter: The role of parents in teens’ decisions about sex. Washington, D.C.: Child Trends.

Then, for those looking to provide specific research on both the cost of father absence and the benefits of father involvement, I recommend Father Facts 6, a comprehensive survey of the last 5 years of Census Bureau data and social science research. This collection of data gives a clear picture of the causes and consequences of father absence, and provides the reader with the data needed to make the case for father involvement!  

NFI also has a great tool for those who want to start working with fathers in their community but are not sure how… A Guide to Strengthening Fatherhood in Your Community™ provides helpful and practical information on how to start your own organization, start serving fathers from an existing organization, offer fatherhood programming in your community, raise funds, and mobilize your community around the issue of father absence. This is the most comprehensive resource available for those interested in promoting father involvement locally.

And from here, some next steps: 

Finding Your Way - Guides for Fathers in Child Protection Cases

You work with a variety of Dads. And they've got questions or issues that they need help addressing. And sometimes they're issues you or your staff aren't sure how to answer. Or, frankly, it's just not your area of expertise. 

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That's why National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) is not only committed to providing you with our own research-based, high-quality resources -- we’re also committed to providing you with supplementary resources that we’ve partnered with other organizations to create, including resources that you can integrate with NFI’s programs (such as NFI’s 24/7 Dad®, Doctor Dad®, or InsideOut Dad®.) 

From 2006-2011, NFI partnered with the American Humane Society and the Center for Children and the Law at the American Bar Association to establish the National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System (QIC-NRF). Wow! That was a mouthful…but it was a tremendously valuable project that NFI was proud to be a part of.

This 5-year project (funded by the Children’s Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) sought to identify models that child welfare organizations and professionals could use to improve their engagement of non-resident fathers whose children were or had been involved in child welfare systems. And this is where you benefit.

The QIC-NRF produced several excellent resources. One of these, titled “Finding Your Way: Guides for Fathers in Child Protection Cases,” is a collection of 6 FREE guides (each in English and Spanish) for non-resident fathers involved in child protection cases (child welfare cases) that you can download for FREE from NFI’s website. These colorful, easy-to-understand guides are extremely useful for any organization that works with non-resident fathers and especially those who run NFI’s or other fatherhood programs.

The 6 Finding Your Way Guides are:

  • Guide 1: Your Rights and Responsibilities -  Includes fathers’ rights in child welfare court cases, how to exercise and protect those rights, and fathers’ responsibilities inside and outside the courtroom.
  • Guide 2: How to Work with Your Lawyer -Includes how fathers should talk to their lawyers and interact with them, what to bring when meeting with a lawyer, and what to expect from a lawyer.
  • Guide 3: Your Role in Court -  Includes how fathers should act in court, what to do before, during, and after court, and how to prepare arguments. This guide includes three sub-guides—3.1, 3.2, and 3.3—that cover the court process, who will be in court, and common court terms.
  • Guide 4: Your Role Outside Court - Includes case meetings fathers should attend, why they should attend those meetings, and how to prepare for those meetings.
  • Guide 5: When You Owe Child Support - Includes why paying child support is important, how a child welfare case relates to child support, and when fathers must pay child support.
  • Guide 6: If You Are or Have Been in Prison - Includes fathers’ rights as a prisoner and ex-prisoner, and how fathers can protect their rights while in prison and outside prison.

How should you use them? Well, we're glad you asked.

  • We highly recommend that you distribute these guides to the fathers you serve (e.g. via case management or via display in a waiting area).
  • If you run a fatherhood program (such as NFI’s 24/7 Dad®, Doctor Dad®, or InsideOut Dad® programs), keep copies on hand to provide to fathers when they ask questions—which they undoubtedly will—about the subject matter covered in the guides.
  • You can also provide copies to staff to increase their knowledge about how to help fathers who need guidance on how to navigate child welfare systems. And if your organization is connected with other organizations that serve non-resident fathers, please tell them about this great free resource from NFI.   

We hope these guides are helpful to both you and the fathers you serve!

NFI's Community Mobilization Approach Workshop

This is a guest blog from NFI Senior Program Support Consultant, Ave Mulhern

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Capacity-building is the way in which organizations build up their staff and organizational capacity to successfully run programs.

When is comes to training and serving fathers in your community, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) wants your fatherhood program to be the best it can be, and reach as many dads as possible. That's why capacity-building is so important and will help your fatherhood program succeed, thrive, and effectively serve fathers.

To that end, please join us for NFI's Community Mobilization Approach Workshop in Germantown, MD on January 30, 2012 where you will learn how your organization can create lasting change in your community by working to engage all sectors of society to increase the number of children who grow up with involved, responsible fathers. 

Hear from Ave Mulhern, NFI's Sr. Program Support Consultant, about NFI's work with numerous organizations in the over the years to successfully mobilize communities around responsible fatherhood. 

During this workshop you will learn about: 

• How to raise up new fatherhood champions that represent all sectors of your community

• A needs and assets assessment process you can use to jumpstart a community-wide fatherhood initiative 

• Other cities, counties, and states that have successfully implemented the Community Mobilization Approach

We look forward to you dedicating your time with us!

Click Here to Learn More and Register for Our Upcoming Capacity Building Workshop>>

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