With the COVID-19 pandemic, things have certainly been turned around in the homes of many Americans. If you haven’t noticed, Facebook and YouTube are loaded with hilarious and clever song parodies and crazy stories of how families are innovating to work from home with kids at home too, monitoring their schoolwork, etc.
For example, we recently came across this silly but sweet video which is a funny illustration of the challenges this father has undergone along with the discovery of how precious his children are to him and how important his role is.
But for Fatherhood Program Practitioners, it has maybe not been so funny. It has been a scramble with offices closed, figuring out how to meet with dads, or how you are going to proceed with a lot of unknowns and changing directives from the health field and local restrictions and rules.
For funded programs, another challenge is to keep moving ahead with time restraints on the deliverables, and attempting to maintain fidelity of the programs, yet concerns for safety of staff and the clients need to remain a priority. Yikes, it would be an understatement to say this has been difficult but, “Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict”, says Wm. Ellery Channing.
NFI responded to the challenges and conflicts that fatherhood practitioners are facing with some great tips and ideas on “How to Deliver NFI Programs Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic”. And, more than before, many practitioners have joined and shared struggles and ideas on NFI’s Online Learning Community. (We have over 2700 members!) Just like those families at home, fatherhood programs and practitioners have to be more innovative than ever before!
Recently, I had a conversation with Tom Valand, Fatherhood Program Coordinator for the Fatherhood Program of Routt County in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The dads that Tom works with are more often from the county referrals like Family Court, Child Support, Probation & Parole, etc. and dads are recommended (not mandated) to take parenting or fatherhood classes. Tom looked at the Fathering in 15™ resource and because he serves in a primarily rural community, it looked like a good and flexible option. Initially he started with one dad who had a court order for a parenting class and Tom offered to meet with the dad one on one using the Fathering in 15™ resource. He continued offering it to a few individuals one on one, even meeting over the phone with printed PDF’s of the material, and then, COVID hit.
As the referrals grew even during this time, Tom found the reliability and flexibility of Fathering in 15™ even more helpful than he initially thought. He still offers it one on one when necessary, but by now, he has offered it to over 8 classes and uses the Zoom meeting platform with groups as well. To make his Zoom group meetings even better, Tom uses some options that I did not know existed in Zoom. Tom currently has a group of 7 dads meeting weekly- via Zoom. He found a feature in Zoom that allows him to break the dads up into pairs or sub-groups and sends them into ‘Zoom Rooms’ to discuss a topic for a set period of time, then has them come back to the larger group to share their input. The short-length nature of Fathering in 15™ is appealing to the men time-wise, and it has relevant topics that provide a basis for great discussion. Often Tom will add some additional information to the sessions like parenting during the pandemic, or some local information about men’s Health. Usually he covers 2-3 Fathering in 15™ topics in one session. He has seen the dad truly ‘connect’ even in this technology. He hears them asking about each other’s children, or situations, and he recently ran into two of the dads from this group—formerly strangers—out at a store together.
What’s next? I shared a recent Father Factor Blog with Tom to make him aware of some innovations to Fathering in 15™. I’m also excited to be working with Tom in a pilot project featuring NFI’s newest program, the 24/7 Dad® Key Behaviors Workshop. He sees this project as a great next step for some of these dads or as a first step for some new dads to the fatherhood program. I hope to give an update on how that goes at a later time. But in the meantime, learn more about this new workshop here and watch our recently recorded free webinar “All About 24/7 Dad Key Behaviors Workshop” with NFI President Christopher Brown.
So, if you are struggling with whether to meet or not to meet, know that whether you meet in person, or in a ‘Zoom Room’, it’s beneficial to keep equipping your dads to be the best dad that they can be despite the changes this pandemic has caused.