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Engaging Fathers in Home Visits

Posted by Melissa Steward

Father Friendly Check-Up LogoNFI has worked with numerous service providers and state agencies to enhance their home visitation models by integrating resources for fathers, resulting in increased father engagement in home visitation programs and ultimately, in the lives of their children and families. 

Currently, we are working with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to do extensive work engaging fathers in home visitation programs as part of their larger MIECHV grant.

What is unique about the work that NFI does in states/counties/cities is that we do not offer a “one size fits all approach.” While we have frameworks and models to guide your father engagement strategy, your community leaders/staff, etc. are involved and engaged in developing the approach that best meets your needs and area of focus.

In the state of Texas, with a focus on home visitation, NFI has or will:

  • Conduct six regional Father Friendly Check-Up™ Master Trainer trainings to all of the state’s lead agencies and their partners
  • Create a Father Readiness Tool Kit
  • Conduct a quantitative assessment of every lead agency’s father friendliness
  • Assist in creating father friendly action plans
  • Collect reports of immediate impact in the organizational culture and home visitation programs of these agencies and their partners

Recently, we heard from Darlene Thomas, HIPPY Program Coordinator at the Greater Opportunities of the Permian Basin (GOPB Inc.) (HIPPY is subcontracted by GOPB Inc., Head Start.) Darlene trains, supervises and monitors four home visitors.  Each Monday is reserved for training home visitors in the home visiting curriculum and ensuring that all props (materials used to role play curriculum) are ready. The rest of the week is spent inputting data into ETO (Efforts to Tracking Outcome, which is the HIPPY tracking system,) observing home visits, planning parent group meetings, ETO training, monitoring home visits, recruiting and much more. 

Darlene attended the recent Texas Father Engagement Training designed to increase father engagement in home visitation programs. At this training, Darlene was also trained to be a “Master Trainer” on NFI’s Father Friendly Check Up™ that allows organizations to assess their father friendliness with the goal of improving it. Darlene is now certified to train other home visitation specialists in nearby agencies to do a better job of engaging fathers in their home visitation work.

We asked Darlene: 

What were you hoping to learn at the Father Engagement Training by NFI?
Mainly I wanted to learn how to increase father participation in our HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Children). 

In what way did the Father Friendly Check Up allow you to look at your work differently? 
It helped me to see how “father unfriendly” our program was.  The training helped me to realize this, and that we have an important task of making it friendlier. One of the first things that the home visitors and I will do is change our thinking about the role of fathers in their children’s lives. The four assessment categories we learned: Leadership Development, Organizational Development, Program Development, and Community Engagement, were an excellent way for GOPB Inc., HIPPY to understand our weaknesses and strengths. However, there were very little strengths. 

What was the most valuable aspect of the training for you?
The most valuable aspect was when I realized that fathers are ignored - and they should not be. Fathers are a valuable asset to the family, and we should make every attempt to get them involved in their child/children’s lives. 

In what way were you surprised by information received during the training?
The large percentage of women who feel that dads are replaceable by them or another man.  It was also an eye opener to realize how father unfriendly my organization is. 

How will you be using/passing on the information you learned?
It is important that others be trained in father engagement. I will begin training the home visitors with whom I work. Then, I will be available to train other interested organizations throughout the community because like our organization, many do not engage fathers simply because of lack of knowledge. 

Which specific tools from NFI do you think will be helpful in your efforts to engage fathers in home visitation?
I am looking forward to using the strategic planning guide and category assessment provided by NFI to implement ways to increase father engagement in my organization.   

What are you doing now to better to engage fathers as a result of the training?
We are strategically planning our parent meetings in the evening. We recently conducted our End of Year Celebration in the evening and over 50 fathers participated! This was fantastic because only 0 - 3 fathers attended when the meetings were held in the afternoon. 

Thank you Darlene! We appreciate you sharing your experience and are hopeful that your agency and others in Texas will continue to encourage and train others on the importance of father involvement in the area of home visitation. 

If you have any questions about Darlene’s experience with NFI’s Father Engagement Project, or would like to know more about the HIPPY work, email her at darlene.thomas@gopb.org.

Get started with father engagement in your state, visit our website to learn about NFI's State, City, and County Initiatives here.

Topics: Father Friendly Checkup, state fatherhood initiative, texas fatherhood initiative, fathers in home visitation, home visitation, engaging fathers, 24/7 Dad, program success stories, fatherhood program tips

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