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Strengthening Families and The 5 Protective Factors Series: Concrete Support

Posted by Christopher A. Brown

During the past three weeks, I have blogged about a collaboration between National Fatherhood Initiative® and the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) to create a brief that raises awareness among states and others that use the Strengthening Families™ approach to increase family strengths, enhance child development, and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. 

Strengthening Families and The 5 Protective Factors Series Concrete Support.png

The approach 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

This post is the fourth 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. (Click here for the post on parental resilience, here for social connections, and here for knowledge of parenting and child development.)

Each post includes more detail on each factor than in the brief. 

Concrete Support in Times of Need

About concrete support CSSP emphasizes, “Meeting basic economic needs like food, shelter, clothing and health care is essential for families to thrive.”

Father-specific programs and resources are necessary to adequately address this factor because fathers, and men in general, are reluctant to seek help for their basic needs, much less to admit they have them. As noted in an earlier post in this series, Doctor Dad® helps fathers meet the basic health care needs necessary for their children to thrive and through teaching techniques that are particularly effective with men (e.g. hands-on learning and demonstration supported by visual aids).

CSSP points out that family poverty is the factor most strongly correlated with child abuse and neglect. Families need concrete support to prevent them from or lift them out of poverty. Research shows that father absence places children and families at greater risk of poverty. Therefore, any effort addresses this factor when that effort connects fathers with their children to prevent and intervene on father absence.

NFI recognizes, however, that meeting the basic needs of families (especially those at risk for or living in poverty) is beyond the scope of father-specific programs and resources. Therefore, NFI provides technical assistance and training to help organizations understand the basic needs faced by specific populations of fathers and the importance of integrating father-involvement efforts into the services organizations provide that help families meet their basic economic needs.

Incarcerated fathers are one of the specific populations of fathers NFI helps organizations to serve, primarily through the InsideOut Dad® program. These fathers often struggle with meeting their own and their families’ basic economic needs before and after incarceration.

In 2010, NFI completed The Connections Project, an 18-month federally-funded initiative that involved training on InsideOut Dad® and produced several resources that build the capacity of state and local corrections systems and direct-service providers to better understand the basic needs of formerly-incarcerated fathers for successful reentry into society. Among the resources NFI produced was a free guide that covered eight critical, basic needs necessary for successful reentry (e.g. housing and employment). The guide highlighted best-practice models from around the country and tips that addressed each of the needs.

CSSP goes on to say about this factor, “When families encounter a crisis such as domestic violence, mental illness or substance abuse, adequate services and supports need to be in place to provide stability, treatment and help for family members to get through the crisis.”

NFI provides crisis-focused resources like the Understanding Domestic Violence™ booster session that organizations can use as a stand-alone offering or complement to father-involvement programs. This booster session raises awareness among fathers of the signs that they, or fathers they know, might be at risk for, or engaged in, domestic violence.

Look next week for the fifth and final post in this series. 

How well do you connect dads to the concrete supports that meet their unique needs?

How well do you connect dads’ families to supports that meet the entire family’s needs?

Click here to view and download the brief from NFI's Free Resources section.

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