Steps for Building Community Fatherhood Programs

A new report reveals that states spend very little money on father involvement. Most of the funding comes from the federal level through Responsible Fatherhood grants (39 organizations in 19 states), child support initiatives, and TANF funds (.5% of total TANF dollars). The paucity of funding for father involvement is a huge barrier to integrating and sustaining fatherhood programs.

There are some strategies to increase funding for father involvement and you can read them in the full report available at http://www.frpn.org/asset/frpn-research-brief-state-approaches-including-fathers-in-programs-and-policies-dealing.

Given the current lack of funding for father involvement at the federal and state levels, it makes more sense to focus on the community level. Here are some steps for implementing low- cost father involvement programs in your community:
1. Get everyone together. Convene a Fatherhood Summit Meeting by inviting participants in organizations and parenting groups that are already active in your community. Head Start has emphasized father involvement for years and is thus one of the best places to find fathers to participate. Ask a local newspaper, radio, or TV station to sponsor this Summit and be sure to invite elected officials.
2. Form a Fatherhood Advisory Council from the emerging leaders of the Fatherhood Summit. Include representatives from as many community groups as possible such as early childhood programs, K–12 schools, colleges/universities, businesses, service organizations, churches, health care programs, and father support groups. Seek funding from these organizations and also from businesses targeted to males such as sports, home repair, and building trades.
3. Begin programs where the most vulnerable families are found and at the earliest stages of fatherhood. Hospitals are a great starting place. Inquire if the local hospital(s) would be willing to provide the Purple Crying program, Conscious Fathering or another program for expectant fathers, and referrals to father support groups.
4. Start several father support groups and be sure to include moms to the greatest extent possible. Also include fathers who are good role models. Use male/female pairs to lead the groups. Seek funding from local foundations, businesses, fraternal, and service organizations. Budget $1,500-$3,000 per group for curricula, incentives, and refreshments. Collaborate with local social services agencies to provide case management services for vulnerable fathers and their families.
5. Train community service providers and child welfare workers on father involvement. It’s critical that all those who work with fathers receive training. This training will reduce the “us vs. them” mentality and results in workers becoming advocates for father involvement programs. Seek funding from the organizations that will participate in the training, perhaps supplemented by local businesses. Plan for an initial training cost of $2,000–$3,000. Curricula to train workers are available here: http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement/basic-training-package
6. Providing events at schools linked to popular local sports will attract fathers to attend. Start a Watch D.O.G.S. program in elementary schools. Schools may be able to provide funding for these events through their Title 1 programs. Budget $500 per event and another $500 to establish the Watch D.O.G.S. program. Information available at http://dadsofgreatstudents.com/index.php/default/
7. Plan to evaluate every program offered. One simple no-cost method is to provide feedback forms to fathers who participate by asking them what knowledge they gained, a rating for the overall event, program, etc. and what they liked best and least about it. You cannot build support for father-involvement programs or sustainability without evaluation. Programs must demonstrate effectiveness in order to attract any source of funding and feedback from participants is a no-cost way to begin.
8. Work with local colleges and universities to develop father involvement curricula for students and for ongoing education in the community. Everyone who works with fathers should have the opportunity to receive training on father involvement both before and after earning a degree. Colleges and universities can also assist with program evaluation.
9. Always view father involvement as a shared community responsibility. The more that the responsibility and tasks are shared, the more progress and longer lasting results will be seen.

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

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