In October the federal government sent an information memorandum (IM) to state- and tribal-level agencies and programs overseen by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) that called for proactive father engagement.
The purpose of the IM was to:
“…strongly encourage all human service agencies including child welfare agencies, courts, offices of child support enforcement, offices of public assistance, offices of child care, Head Start programs and family and youth services programs to work together across governments to jointly create and maintain an environment that prioritizes father engagement as a critical factor in strengthening families and adopt approaches to enhance paternal involvement in all family support and child welfare related programs.”
Furthermore, the IM emphasized:
“…the importance of meaningful father engagement in all Administration for Children and Families (ACF) programs to better serve children and families. The memorandum highlights research findings that demonstrate the value of father involvement in the lives of children and families, and identifies promising practices to promote and sustain meaningful father engagement, regardless of a father’s physical location or custodial participation. ACF and its offices speak in unison in strongly encouraging all agencies to work together to ensure that meaningful father engagement is a central aspect of the work done across family serving state and county agencies.”
When this IM came to my attention, I got chills—the good kind, that is. I got chills not because this call from the federal government is anything new. After all, ACF has led the government’s nearly two-decade charge that has encouraged federal agencies and programs to more proactively engage dads. Indeed, ACF is the seat of the government’s effort that has funded hundreds of fatherhood programs since 2006.
I got chills because of how strongly the government reaffirmed that commitment in the IM’s conclusion:
“United as a system to strengthen, build and support families across the country, ACF reaffirms the integral part fathers play in the lives of their children, their families, and their communities.”
I also got chills because this 16-page document included:
- The benefits of engaging dads, such as the benefits of involved dads on child well-being.
- The importance of creating a service approach that is father friendly.
- Why it’s important to engage dads in all ACF programs.
- History of ACF programs’ commitment to engage dads.
- Resources that can help ACF programs engage dads.
This reaffirmation should encourage all of us committed to serving parents, children, and families. The future of father engagement at the federal level is bright. Indeed, ACF recently launched an effort to create a new strategic plan on father engagement that might very well deepen their commitment.
Although I don’t know exactly what the future will hold in regard to this ACF commitment, I certainly know that National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) will continue to provide everything that its programs and our direct-service partners across the country need to proactively and effectively engage dads. From our free Father Friendly Check-Up™—a resource highlighted in the IM—to our evidence-based fatherhood programs to our planning and assessment services, NFI stands ready to assist with creating the father-friendly culture and programming required for proactive father engagement.
Is your organization funded by or otherwise partner with ACF programs?
Did you know the history of ACF’s commitment to engage dads?