One of my pleasures at National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) is when I interview our partners and highlight their work in this blog. In some cases, their work is so impactful that I ask them to write a guest blog. After all, no one can describe a partner’s work as well as that partner!
Such is the case with the Lexington Leadership Foundation (LFF), NFI’s long-time partner in Lexington, Kentucky. They’ve used our evidence-based 24:7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad® programs for many years. They recently added our 24:7 Dad® Key Behaviors Workshop. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jared Sloan who directs LLF’s fatherhood initiative. In Part 1 of this two-part article, Jared describes their use of 24:7 Dad®. In Part 2, which we’ll publish soon, he describes their work with 24:7 Dad® Key Behaviors Workshop.
Christopher Brown, president, National Fatherhood Initiative®
Helping Dads in Lexington Navigate the “Gray Areas” of Fatherhood (Part 1)
Written by Jared Sloan, Lexington Leadership Foundation
Since 2011, Lexington Leadership Foundation Fatherhood Initiative (LLFFI) has sought to restore, equip, and deploy dads back into their homes and their children’s lives. In that time, LLFFI has given nearly 3,000 fathers or father figures the tools, strategies, and best practices to build their capacity as parents: tools to identify and appropriately manage emotions through increased self-awareness, strategies to parent effectively and father responsibly, and best practices for creating, maintaining, and sustaining healthy relationships, especially with the mother of their children. We provide those tools within a framework and sensitivity to cultural biases, family history, mental health, and personal accountability.
The Power of 24:7 Dad®
We use the A.M. version of National Fatherhood Initiative’s evidence-based 24:7 Dad® program. It’s a real, honest, and straight forward program that goes deeper than merely asking and answering questions about fatherhood. Through meaningful and relatable facilitation, it starts conversations with dads and helps unlock their true, God-given purpose—being a dad forever.
24:7 Dad® has been an integral part of our mission to provide dads with the tools necessary to overcome barriers and achieve healthy, lifelong relationships. It has provided our ministry with a steady and time-tested framework in which to discuss the heart of dads and their place and purpose in the hearts of children and families. It allows for flexibility. It opens doors to concepts embedded in fatherhood—both old and new—that leads to discovery and recovery. It invites honesty, reflection, challenge, and forgiveness. The “Warm-Up” activity that starts each session—and the way it eases the dads into the program’s content—makes it easy to adapt 24:7 Dad® to a powerful one-on-one learning format for dads who can’t participate in a group.
A key to the power of 24:7 Dad® lies in who facilitates it and where they facilitate it. LLFI is comprised of NFI-certified staff facilitators and volunteer peer facilitators who we train. They’re dads and grandads of integrity, experience, and higher-purpose. They bravely wade into the often-messy waters of relationships, poverty, addiction, trauma, anger, and depression. They guide other dads and grandads through life-changing conversations. We meet weekly with dads and granddads in a hospitable and father-friendly space to get real about the joys and trials of fatherhood. The cycle of dads serving dads leads to vulnerability, accountability, trust, and brotherhood. A recent program graduate stated, “The Fatherhood Initiative taught me how to navigate the gray areas of my life like a man and like a good dad should.” Another dad added, “I love that other men were trying to be good dads, too, and that I was learning practical steps to better myself.”
Our Pivot on Recruitment and Retention
We come alongside dads and meet them exactly where they are. We recruit dads from many longtime, local community partners that include traditional community-based services, local courts, recovery and correctional settings, churches, and career centers. We also serve dads who walk by our Center for Fathers and Families, see our sign, pause for a moment, and listen to the still small voice that leads them into our office. We believe that every dad wants to be there for their children and to be the best version of themselves.
We use a rolling-entry model that helps simplify enrollment and at once begins building trust and establishing rapport with dads.
Why do we use are a rolling-entry model?
Because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact it had on referrals, recruiting, and retention, we chose to take a calculated risk to adapt the cohort model we’d used since the fatherhood initiative’s inception into something more immediately accessible. Our previous process required closed-entry into the program and, as a result, created a waiting list. We were losing dads on the waiting list who, before they could enroll, walked away from the opportunity to participate. So, in early 2023, we pivoted (adapted) to the rolling-entry model. It eliminated the waiting list and has made it easier to recruit and retain dads, thus serving more dads in the process.
No matter how you use 24:7 Dad® or recruit and retain dads in the program, ensure you facilitate it with care and authenticity. If you treat it lightly—as a box to be merely checked off—you’ll miss the potential of a dad renewed in spirit and purpose. When you facilitate 24:7 Dad® with that advice in mind, you’ll find it provides a solid foundation for building the next generation of great dads!