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How to Inject Father Engagement into A Statewide Agency

Posted by Erik Vecere

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Feb 1, 2022

Statewide father engagement efforts have a profound impact on communities

Statewide agencies have an incredible opportunity to increase father engagement through funding, technical assistance, and policy change that impacts their networks of local offices and local partners (e.g. organizations they fund).

In order for these large-scale networks to be successful, they must overcome challenges unique to their setting.

Here are a few of those challenges and ways National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) has helped address them.

Standardizing Programs and Measurement of Outcomes

One challenge is how to standardize a program across diverse social service organizations throughout a state and measure outcomes.

NFI’s 24/7 Dad® curriculum solves this challenge in three ways:

  • 24/7 Dad® is built on nine principles1, or fundamental truths, that cut across social, racial, and geographic characteristics. These principles enable organizations to use 24/7 Dad® with all types of fathers (e.g. teen, new and expectant, divorced, married, military, non-custodial, urban, suburban, rural, etc.).
  • The 24/7 Dad® curriculum includes the Fathering Survey™, a pre- and post-assessment tool that is calibrated specifically for the program. It provides quantitative outcomes on how the program impacts a father’s attitudes, knowledge, and skills related to his role as a father. When statewide initiatives encourage the use of the same assessment, it enables them to measure consistent outcomes while increasing statistical significance with larger population sizes.
  • Organizations can delivery 24/7 Dad® in a variety of ways. 24/7 Dad® has 12 sessions that can be delivered once per week, several times per week, or even over two weekends. This flexibility enables organizations in diverse settings to offer it in a way that fits with their delivery models.

24/7 Dad® has been implemented by statewide agencies such as the New Jersey Department of Social Services, the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood.

Gathering Large Amounts of Data

In order to manage large amounts of data, state agencies have used NFI’s Father Readiness Network Assessment™. These agencies include the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Maryland Department of Health, and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. This comprehensive assessment helps state agencies measure their network’s level of father engagement at the micro or macro levels.

The Father Friendly Check-Up™ (FFCU) is the tool NFI uses to assess each network—the individual organizations that comprise it and the collective network. It consists of the following four assessment categories:

  • Leadership Development – The attitudes, beliefs, and values held by the organization’s employees—the culture of the organization—and their impact on the delivery of services and programs.
  • Organizational Development – The “nuts and bolts” of an organization that carries out its mission through organizational capacity as reflected in areas such as: 1) policies and procedures; 2) processes; and 3) physical environment.
  • Program Development – The services and programs an organization offers, how it engages staff in offering them, and how it promotes and markets them.
  • Community Engagement – The ability of an organization to engage its community in the delivery of services and programs.

The key to managing the vast amount of data is through NFI’s distribution of the FFCU. Staff from each organization complete the assessment online, allowing NFI staff to compile the scores into a report, summarize the results, and provide recommendations to the state agency. Moreover, state agencies can have the same organizations take the assessment later and compare the scores to see if their father-friendliness improved.

Creating An Action Plan That Takes Statewide Complexities into Account

Let’s face it, state agencies have a lot of procedures and regulations to navigate when allocating resources. Creating a fatherhood initiative through a statewide network requires a lot of planning, buy-in, and connecting dots. This is why agencies that include the Iowa Department of Human Services, Wyoming Children’s Trust Fund, Healthy Families Florida, and the Tennessee Department of Human Services have had NFI conduct the Father Engagement Experience™ (FEE).

The FEE is an invigorating, interactive strategic planning session that uses NFI’s design process to determine the main focus of the session and what the state agency will accomplish. NFI staff use storyboards, Pure Form Thinking (e.g. not mixing use of the left and right sides of the brain), and multi-voting tactics to help design strategies. At the conclusion of the FEE, NFI provides a customized Father Engagement Game Plan™ with tasks and deadlines assigned to individuals.

Most state agencies use a combination of NFI’s resources and technical assistance. Healthy Families Florida, for example, conducted the FEE first, and incorporated the FRNA as part of their Father Engagement Game Plan™. The Georgia Department of Public Health conducted the FRNA, then implemented 24/7 Dad® later.

An injection of father-focused efforts into state agencies reaches exponentially more fathers than individual organizations can reach on their own and have a profound impact on the communities throughout a state. NFI has all the ingredients you need to make it happen!

For more information on how NFI can help inject father-focused efforts into your state agencies, contact Erik Vecere, NFI’s Chief Program Officer, at evecere@fatherhood.org. 

If you work for a state agency, what are you doing to help organizations across the state—such as those your agency funds—to increase their father-friendliness?

If you don’t work for a state agency, what can you do to educate staff who do?

1 The nine principles are: 1) Fathering/parenting is a process that leads to the development of a product; 2) People learn on two levels: cognitive and affective; 3) Experiential learning that leads to self-discovery is the key to learning; 4) Nurturing fathers are born out of nurturing men; 5) Positive self-worth plays a significant role in becoming a nurturing father; 6) Fathering is a family affair; 7) Fathering is a role; 8) Nurturing oneself is an important aspect of nurturing children; and 9) Change is evolutionary, not revolutionary.


he Benefits of Fatherhood Programs in Community-Based Organizations

Topics: community mobilization, state fatherhood initiative, Featured, General Fatherhood Program Resources, NFI-Specific Programs & Resources, State & Local Agencies

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