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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.

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. 

FYG

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!

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