I received an email from Stephan Hicks with My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) in Richmond City, VA asking for help with the pre- and post-assessment tool for our 24:7 Dad® program. NFI always encourages measurement of the program because it not only allows you to assess how the dads are understanding the program concepts, it can help the facilitator focus on specific approaches or areas to facilitate more effectively. And, well, funders look for results too!
When I spoke with Stephan, his passion for fatherhood work was evident as he shared that he’s been in the same place as many of the dads he serves, so he can empathize with them. He wants to help them understand that their past ‘mistakes’ do not have to shape their destiny. From his own experience, he knows that dads can in fact change the trajectory of their lives, and the lives of their children. I quickly saw that my “support call “with him would turn into an interview about his success, which I would love to share with you here!
To provide some background, MBK was established in 2009 and started a fatherhood program in 2013 using various other programs before finding NFI’s 24:7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad® programs. Stephan said with confidence, “Us joining the National Fatherhood Initiative® was the wisest and best business decision I’ve made because not only do my facilitators love it, the curriculum we used before did not contain a workbook, so we had a difficult time trying to measure engagement without a tool.” (24:7 Dad® provides a Fathering Handbook and pre- and post-survey/assessment with the program kit.)
He continued, “I’m really very satisfied, especially because the program is research-based, which is very important when seeking funding. I love it and the proof is in the pudding – last week we graduated another 20 men!” Stephan advised that they have a 90% retention rate!
Especially inspiring was that MBK was about to shut their doors when Covid-19 hit, because in his words, “No group contact? Well, what are we gonna do?” But the pandemic actually opened their eyes and they expanded their outreach by adapting to virtual program delivery. To their surprise, not only were they able to reach Richmond dads, they’ve now served dads from 9 states and counting! (AL, CA, GA, LA, MD, MS, PA, TX, and WA)!!!
Further adding to MBK’s success, the Richmond Health department sees father absence as a health crisis, so they’ve put initiatives into place that support father involvement efforts. MBK has a contract in Henrico County that funds them and sends referrals from social services like Child Support Enforcement, Juvenile Court, and even from some criminal cases. They also contract with the Richmond City Jail where they deliver InsideOut Dad®.
I was surprised at first to hear from Stephan that, “Some in the community have a problem me”, because he challenges the amount of funding that goes into women’s and children’s outreach programs. He often points out that if there was more focus on outreach to men/fathers, it would/could solve many of the women and children’s issues. (And he’s right—research shows that involved fathers benefit women and children in many ways. For more on this, see our Father Facts 8 publication.)
Our call then turned to some of the strategies that Stephan has used to achieve success in working with fathers in general, and with the 24:7 Dad® program more specifically:
- Maintain the fidelity of the program as indicated in the 24:7 Dad® Fidelity Guide including using the Fathering Handbooks, keeping the class size at 10-12 dads, and measuring impact with the survey.
- Conduct the pre-survey with the dad at the intake meeting. This can help with:
- Identifying literacy issues so the facilitator can be prepared to effectively facilitate the program with that dad/dads.
- Identify the areas/topics dads score lower on, then prepare to emphasize the session and activities that address that topic.
- The program is funded and free to the dads. However, to encourage regular attendance at the scheduled times, a make-up session costs the dad $25.
- Once registered, MBK provides the dads with a backpack containing their MBK brochure, a Birth Father Registry (for VA), a poster, brochures and tip cards from NFI, and of course, their 24:7 Dad® Fathering Handbook.
More generally, Stephan/MBK looks at 24:7 Dad® as a platform to help the dads talk about their issues and struggles, which then allows them to find specific resources to help the dads. They think of the 24:7 Dad® program as an “in-reach” as dads go through a process of self-discovery and reflection, and the resources and support are the “outreach” provided by MBK.
Some last words from Stephan:
- Learn from your mistakes: Stephan had no dad, dropped out of school at 17, was incarcerated, took drugs, had health issues, and has been divorced.
- During intake, the dads meet Stephan in his office and see what he was able to achieve in spite of those mistakes (see his office wall in the picture)
- Be authentic: Stephan’s mistakes lend to his credibility and the impact of the program.
- Depend on faith, family, and connect with the community for success.
Since I last talked to Stephan in April, he will have graduated another 30 men from his 24:7 Dad® program. I look forward to hearing more about My Brother’s Keeper work in the future, they are for sure a “Keeper”!
- For more information about My Brother’s Keeper, click HERE.
- For more information on delivering programs virtually, click HERE.
- Click these links for more information about 24:7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad®.
NFI has some great training options for effectively facilitating or recruiting and retaining dads in our new Father Engagement Academy.