Strengthening Families™ is a research-informed approach to increase family strengths, enhance child development, and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. It is based on engaging families, programs, and communities in building five protective factors:
- Parental resilience
- Social connections
- Knowledge of parenting and child development
- Concrete support in times of need
- Social and emotional competence of children
Using the Strengthening Families™ framework, more than 30 states are shifting policy and practice to help programs working with children and families focus on protective factors. States apply the Strengthening Families approach in early childhood, child welfare, child abuse prevention, and other child and family serving systems.
The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) leads the charge in the spread of the framework across the country. CSSP acknowledges that more work needs to be done by those who use the framework to intentionally engage fathers to draw on fathers’ strengths in building the factors and meet their needs.
As a consequence, National Fatherhood Initiative® collaborated with CSSP to create a brief (part of CSSP’s Making the Link series of briefs) that maps how NFI’s resources help build each of the protective factors. CSSP will distribute the brief to states and others that use the framework. (Click here to view and download the brief from the Free Resources section of NFI’s website.)
This post is the first in a five-part series that highlights each of the factors and how NFI’s resources can help those who use the framework to build the factors in their community through more effective engagement of fathers.
Each post includes more detail on each factor than in the brief.
Parental resilience is defined by CSSP as “The ability to manage and bounce back from all types of challenges that emerge in every family’s life. It means finding ways to solve problems, building and sustaining trusting relationships including relationships with your own child, and knowing how to seek help when necessary.”
Key to building this resilience is addressing parents’ individual developmental history, psychological resources, and capacity to empathize with self and others. Programs and resources that rely on Attachment Theory create the pro-social connections necessary to develop parental resilience. Because so many parents who abuse and neglect children were abused and neglected themselves, they became parents void of quality intimate relationships with their own parents or caregivers. These parents find it difficult to develop positive attachments to their own children.
Father-specific resources address this factor because fathers who abuse and neglect their children, or who are at risk to abuse and neglect, have unique developmental needs compared to mothers. They moved through a different developmental trajectory. Because many of these fathers lacked involved fathers or positive male role models, they did not develop positive attachments to their fathers and other men. They also did not develop pro-fathering attitudes and values, chief among them attitudes and values associated with healthy masculinity. Masculinity is the primary framework upon which the male psyche is constructed.
All of NFI’s father-involvement programs use Attachment Theory as part of their multi-theoretical framework. Programs like 24/7 Dad® and InsideOut Dad® create positive attachments between fathers, their children, and other adults (e.g. the mothers of their children) by teaching fathers how to effectively nurture themselves (e.g. through sessions on greater care of their own physical and mental health) and others (e.g. through sessions on child development and communication) in ways that fathers understand.
These programs lay the foundation for a future of healthy attachment with children when used with expectant fathers. Doctor Dad®, for example, increases fathers’ self-efficacy in basic healthcare and safety of infants and toddlers. As a result, it increases fathers’ ability to bond with their children through greater involvement in their children’s care.
Moreover, because facilitators deliver these programs in a group setting, fathers create pro-social connections/attachments with caring facilitators and other fathers. These bonds deepen as the programs progress to completion. They also learn to empathize with others through the mutual sharing of emotionally and spiritually intimate stories and experiences.
Look next week for the second post in this series.
How resilient are the dads you serve?
How easily to they bounce back from setbacks?
Click here to view and download the brief from NFI's Free Resources section.
Are you a dad looking for help? Please visit our Fatherhood Program Locator™ and enter your city and state on the map to find programs and resources in your community.