The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Do you think a program with this name could have success working with dads?
Whether you have a WIC program as part of your agency or you partner with WIC, engaging dads in those programs is a challenge. But it’s far from impossible.
I recently facilitated a webinar for staff in local WIC programs sponsored by the Food and Nutrition Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds WIC nationwide. During the webinar (called How to Engage More Dads in Your WIC Program), I asked this poll question: “Our WIC program is intentional about reaching out to dads (or dads to be).” I provided five options, ranging from “all the time” to “never.” The results were:
- 9 percent answered “all the time”
- 22 percent answered “sometimes”
- 19 percent answered “we need help”
- 44 percent answered “not really”
- 6 percent answered “never”
That means 69 percent responded with either “we need help,” “not really,” or “never.” Only 31 percent engaged dads!
The good news is that fatherhood efforts like Dedicated Dads, the Shelby County Health Department Fatherhood Initiative, and the Fresno EOC Fatherhood Program successfully engage dads as part of their own WIC program or in partnership with a WIC program. They’ve found ways to engage dads who fall into two categories:
- Dads of the children already enrolled in their WIC programs; and
- Single dads who have children that are eligible to receive food packages, nutrition education, and health referrals for their children the same way the mother would.
These fatherhood programs have used strategies from Engaging Men & Dads at WIC: A Tool Kit, which is a free, online resource based on a programmatic review of fatherhood involvement efforts in early childhood programs. It includes a collection of many tangible steps a WIC site can take to become more inclusive of dads and covers the following topics:
- Engage and train WIC staff on inclusion of dads
- Communicate directly with dads
- Encourage moms to include dads
- Include dads in evaluation efforts
- Provide service referrals to dads and build community partnerships
- Make the environment friendly to dads
- Help dads to support moms and breastfeeding
- Focus on ways dads can bond with baby
- Provide dads with opportunities for peer groups or counseling
In addition to that tool kit, the Fresno EOC Fatherhood Program uses NFI’s 24/7 Dad® as a key strategy to engage dads in small groups. Watch this video to learn more about the great work they’re doing with dads.
If you want to engage more dads in WIC programs, I encourage you to:
- View the How to Engage More Dads in Your WIC Program webinar
- Learn more about the three WIC fatherhood programs
- Download and review the Engaging Men & Dads at WIC: A Tool Kit
These three resources will set you on a path to engaging dads in your own agency’s or community’s WIC program.
Have you used these or any other resources to engage dads in a WIC program?
If so, how did it help?