There’s a lot of emphasis these days on implementing fatherhood programs with fidelity. Indeed, many funders of fatherhood programs insist upon it. That’s because implementing a fatherhood program with fidelity can make all the difference in its effectiveness.
On the other hand, customizing (adapting) a fatherhood program to meet the needs and wants of a specific type of dad can also make that program more effective.* That’s a lesson applied by the BLACK Wellness & Prosperity Center in Fresno, CA. Dedicated to being “a catalyst to improve well-being and prosperity in the Black community,” this center implements efforts to improve outcomes in maternal and child health, among other priorities that improve the lives of Black people throughout the state.
One of the center’s recent efforts was to address a lack of engagement of Black dads during their partners’ pregnancies through the development and evaluation of:
“… a doula-informed fatherhood workshop that incorporates doula support strategies during the perinatal period into an existing evidence-based fatherhood curriculum to emphasize the importance of paternal involvement beginning at conception…doula support services provide emotional, physical, and educational support to birthing people before, during, and after pregnancy.”
Despite research on the importance of father involvement during the perinatal period to positive maternal and child health outcomes, there’s a stark lack of intentional and proactive efforts to involve dads during a time that sets the stage for healthy child development and positive parenting.**
In recognizing this importance, the center used human-centered design to further inform the use of 24:7 Dad® by placing it into an intervention designed with the input of Black dads. This input included an assessment of Black dads on their role during pregnancy and receptivity to programs that would support that role. It also included dads co-designing a support program, a 12-week virtual workshop called “Black Fatherhood Legacy” anchored by 24:7 Dad®.
To customize the 24:7 Dad® curriculum, the center held a series of co-design sessions with dads. The sessions focused on:
- Prioritizing the most pertinent curriculum content
- Discussing relevant pregnancy support strategies that could be integrated into the curriculum
- Gathering feedback on a structure and format that would be most accessible to Black dads
An adaptation of the curriculum that included:
- Short video segments of Fresno-based Black dads sharing positive memories with their dads; for pregnancy-related sessions, they included a video of a Fresno-based couple
- Invited experts for information and question and answer sessions on specific topics, such as pregnancy, mental health, discipline, and communication
- Re-ordering some topics for discussion later in the program once trust among the group was established
- Session topics on discipline considering cultural aspects in the Black community that might differ from norms in other communities
- Discussions on the "ideal father" encompassing a process for developing a shared definition of "non-negotiables" or core traits that men thought were essential
To gauge the impact of these and other adaptations of the curriculum, the center used a pre-post program evaluation that showed Black Fatherhood Legacy increased dads’ parenting knowledge and self-efficacy. Moreover, they found the workshop:
- Created a safe space to discuss the intersections of race in Black dads’ experiences as men and fathers
- Created a safe space for building social capital via networks and relationships that helped address societal stigmas around Black fatherhood
- Might, because of its name, single out Black fatherhood instead of normalizing it as any other parenting experience; considerations for keeping or changing the name should come from an open discussion with dads from the community
- Should consider offering shorter virtual session options for dads with barriers to attending 2 to 2.5-hour virtual sessions (e.g., dads with multiple jobs or who are students)
- Benefitted from the inclusion of invited experts, given that Black families face challenges with equitable access to information, or culturally-informed resources
Whether or not you use 24:7 Dad®, I encourage you to download and share the center’s report on their customization of it. The human-centered design of the workshop, other curriculum adaptations, and additional findings can inform the customization of any fatherhood program or other intervention!
Have you thought about the value of customizing your fatherhood program?
Did you know NFI designed its programs based on cross-cultural traits of positive fathering, thus laying the foundation for effective program customization?
* This is one reason why, when we train on our programs, National Fatherhood Initiative® emphasizes the value of customizing our programs’ curricula.
** For studies on the impact of father involvement during the perinatal period, see NFI’s Father Facts publication.