“I never had my dad or nobody tell me they were proud of me until this program..." —William Jones, recent graduate of NFI's InsideOut Dad, the skill-building program for incarcerated fathers.
At National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we often speak of our two approaches to engaging society about fatherhood. 1) Top-down: through communications campaigns and social media and 2) Bottom-up: our "boots on the ground" -- our work with community-based organizations and other civic partners to train and equip leaders to better serve the fathers in their communities.
One such example is our work in jails and prisons. The Richmond Times-Dispatch recently featured a program that's impacting the capital city of Virginia. The city jail uses our InsideOut Dad material that helps prisoners to be better dads. Read the following story; it shows what we really do.
“The goal is to get everybody to communicate with their kids, to relearn some parenting skills you never knew you had,” Fries said. At the completion ceremony, the men shared how the program affected them. Below are excerpts from the news article:
- Ronnell Glasgow, 26, said he grew up without his father in his life and was repeating that pattern with his own children, daughters ages 7 and 9.
- Glasgow is behind bars at the Richmond City Jail, but even when he was out he said he thought giving them material things was enough.
- Just weeks into a fatherhood skills training program at the jail, Glasgow said he had reached out to his own emotionally distant father and was communicating more with his daughters, who he said are no longer shy around him.
- “I understand the importance of not having a father,” Glasgow said, adding that with his own father he was “building a relationship as a father and a man.”
- One man described having a 15-minute telephone conversation with his daughter, who he rarely spoke to before.
- Another described overcoming fear of rejection and reaching out to an adult daughter and his surprise at her welcoming response.
- Another talked about writing to his 6-year-old son and getting a reply.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that one recent graduate said after the program, “Being there for my kids is better than any gift,” said William Jones, 22, father of four children. Jones is in jail on a probation violation and plans to enter an addiction-treatment program when he is released.
A new 12-week session of InsideOut Dad at the Richmond City jail starts tomorrow (Tuesday). What's the prison nearest you doing to teach fathers the skills they need to be better dads?
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Image: [Daniel Sangjib Min/TIMES-DISPATCH] Dennis Fries (left) an instructor for the InsideOut Dad program, gets a hug from William Jones, a participant in the class who wants better relationships with his four children.
NFI's Vince DiCaro was interviewed today on Fox News Live about our new Dads Club™ and our partnership with Dove® Men+Care™.
Jonathan Hunt of the "On the Hunt" program discussed how NFI's partnership with Dove® Men+Care™ will strengthen fatherhood by helping fathers be better dads.
Learn how you can connect with other dads and share parenting tips today!
New Club Will Be Place for Fathers Who Care for What Matters to Support Each Other and the Cause of Responsible Fatherhood
In a national press release posted this morning, National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove® Men+Care™ have partnered to launch the Dads Club™, a membership club where dads can come together to support each other and bolster efforts to strengthen fatherhood.
Today’s dads are finding that social media and the Internet are providing unprecedented opportunities to network, share stories, and support each other in their fathering journeys. However, there is no “hub” where fathers can come together to not only help each other become better dads, but to also make a meaningful contribution to the cause of strengthening the institution of fatherhood in America.
A corporate-nonprofit partnership is an ideal mechanism to meet this need, and Dove® Men+Care™ and National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) are the ideal partners. NFI has worked since 1994 to strengthen the institution of fatherhood through public education campaigns, research, and the distribution of fatherhood skill-building materials to individuals and organizations around the country. Dove® Men+Care™ has demonstrated a true commitment to creating a more positive and inspirational image of men and fathers through its “Real Moments” campaign (www.dovemencare.com)
“NFI is delighted to have a committed partner like Dove® Men+Care™ to not only help us provide a safe place for dads to help each other, but to become a partner in our work to ensure that every child has an involved, responsible, and committed father,” said Vincent DiCaro, NFI’s vice president of development and communication.
Members of the new Dads Club™ will receive various benefits upon joining, including:
- samples of Dove® Men+Care™ products
- Exclusive monthly e-newsletter with expert fathering advice or funny stories and encouragement for dads plus special messages from Dove® Men+Care™
- a co-logoed Dads Club™ t-shirt
- a Dads Club™ photo magnet
- and a copy of NFI’s “Dad’s Pocket Guide”
“Dove® Men+Care™ is proud to partner with National Fatherhood Initiative to launch Dads Club™ in our continued effort to help men care for what matters most,” said Rob Candelino, vice president marketing for Unilever Skincare. “Research shows that men today are prioritizing taking care of their families, and as a dad, I understand the importance of having dedicated resources and tools on which men can rely as they continue to embrace fatherhood. This program is one important way Dove® Men+Care™ aims to support the dedicated, caring, dad community.”
Through the partners’ Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, web properties, a members-only e-newsletter, and use of the hashtag #dadsclub, Dads Club™ members will have various spaces in which to come together as fathers, receive advice, and support the cause. Over time, NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ will engage notable dads to become inspirational figures for fathers and ambassadors for the cause of strengthening fatherhood. Dads Club™ membership will be available for a one-time $35 contribution to NFI, a portion of which will be a tax-deductible, charitable donation to support NFI’s work. This one-time contribution entitles dads to a lifetime membership in the Dads Club™. Fathers can join at http://www.fatherhood.org/dadsclub.
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This is a guest post by Claire M. Fraser, PhD. Claire is a Professor of Medicine and Director, Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine. If you are interested in guest blogging, send us an email.
As a successful professional woman who has risen to the top of the ranks in the male-dominated field of academic science, I have been on the receiving end of many questions in the past couple of weeks asking my opinion about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to women to “lean in” more in the workplace - to speak up, to self-promote, and to move outside a perceived comfort zone in order to climb the professional ladder.
“Leaning in” has been essential to my career success, and for many years I did it reluctantly, feeling like I was a fraud whenever I dared to express my thoughts and opinions. Today, I encourage my junior female faculty members to “lean in” every chance they get, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may feel. This is not an option – it is essential if we are to realize our full career potential.
While this seems like straightforward advice, we should also consider what it means to “lean in” outside of the workplace. I was fortunate to hear Vince DiCaro’s Fox News interview on March 28, in which he encouraged moms to “lean in” to fatherhood. This is indeed good advice.
From my own experience, and in speaking with many colleagues over the past 20 years, I have come to believe that a healthy work-life balance - which taps into the best that we and our partners have to offer to ourselves, each other, and our families - must be a goal. From what I‘ve observed, professional women often take on an enormous burden when they try to do it all at work and at home, and end up feeling that they do nothing well. I’ve had many tearful conversations with talented and accomplished young women in academia who think that they must assume the lion’s share of responsibility for their children because this is what’s expected of them as women, while at the same time they know that they must secure as many grants and publish as many research papers as their male colleagues in order to be successful.
I’ve also had a more limited number of conversations with male colleagues who would like nothing more than to spend additional time with their children, but fear that their value as a parent is not fully appreciated by their wives or partners, and their reputation as a hard-working, committed professional will suffer if they work anything less than a 60-hour week.
Just as women have demanded equal consideration in the workplace, it is time to make sure that men are afforded equal consideration in areas that have traditionally been “owned” by women. Collectively, we must do more to frame discussions about work-life balance in terms of a broader, gender-inclusive context.
Seeking a more balanced life is not just a women’s issue. Balance is good for all of us, most of all our children, who will then hopefully grow up to be committed and caring members of society.
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This is a guest post by Angela Patton. Angela is Founder of Camp Diva, which organizes "Date with Dad"; a father-daughter dance connecting fathers to their daughters while in prison. Follow Angela on Facebook and Twitter. If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.
I was searching the internet one day for images of fathers and daughters dancing and came across a picture of a father and daughter at a dance that looked like it was from the 60s. It reminded me of something I knew all too well…father-daughter dances are nothing new. They’ve been going on for decades, centuries even. I remember attending one with my own father when I was a little girl. So I asked myself, what makes our (Camp Diva’s) dance so different? What’s so special about the Date with Dad Dinner and Dance?
1) How it began?
One day, I was having a conversation with my girls in Camp Diva. One shared how smothered she felt by her father’s attention, while another shared how much she wished her father, who she hadn’t heard from in years, would pay her any attention at all. This led to a deeper discussion about their various ‘daddy issues.’ And while they all had different relationships with their fathers, they all wanted better ones. So I asked them how they thought they could help themselves, and other girls, develop healthy relationships with their fathers. The reply: “a dance!” So the “Date with Dad Dinner & Dance” began with the girls doing much of the planning. They spoke. We listened. In the end, we gave them what they said they wanted…quality time with their fathers.
2) We Have Fill-In Dads!
A single mother in Rhode Island complained her daughter was prevented from attending a father-daughter dance. Well, not to worry, Date with Dad has Fill-In Dads! Among the 20 who attended our first Date with Dad in 2008 was a girl whose father was deceased. After helping to set up for the event, the husband of one of our volunteers saw the girl, walked over to her, and asked her to dance. He ended up hanging out with her for the entire evening. Both had a great time, and he volunteered to come back the following year—starting a tradition of “Fill-In Dads” at the Date with Dad. Not having a father or father-figure doesn’t exclude girls from attending.
3) We Go To Prison!
One year, one of the Camp Diva girls told the others she would not be attending the dance because her father was incarcerated. So the girls suggested bringing the dance inside the walls of the city jail! They wrote a letter to the sheriff, the sheriff said yes, and so began “A Dance of Their Own,” which gave 18 incarcerated fathers the chance to connect with their daughters outside of normal visiting hours—minus the glass wall and telephone—enabling them to hug and hold their daughters. No one is left out of the Date with Dad experience.
4) It is Open to ALL!
Traditionally, many father-daughter dances are attended by members of a certain organization, or students in a particular school, of a certain age group. But Date with Dad invites girls, and women, of every age to attend; thus, bringing together women and girls of various backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses, from different areas. Younger girls also get the chance to see older women with their fathers, modeling what they hope will be their future relationships with their own fathers. An equally diverse group of men also come together, from blue collar to professional, single and weekend dads, as well as full time/married dads. Again, the men have a chance to network and connect with each other, and share their trials and triumphs as fathers.
5) Our Partnerships
We don’t want fathers and daughters to come to the Date with Dad simply to eat, dance, and be entertained. We want to help them connect with each other, heal their relationships, and get them going in the right direction. We want to connect them with community resources to help them strengthen their relationships. To that end, we have cultivated partnerships with various organizations committed to providing that assistance. In addition, we utilize the Richmond Fatherhood Initiative’s “Inside-Out Dads” curriculum for our “Dance of Their Own.” The fathers in the city jail go through the program before and after the dance. Our partners have also fostered within us the desire and opportunity to help others to replicate our model and make changes in their communities. Our next stop: Norfolk, Virginia. It is our hope to expand nationally, as well as internationally, as the issues connected to fathers and daughters are universal.
So you see Date with Dad is not just any father-daughter dance. It’s more than a dance, more than an event. It’s an experience. It’s part of an ongoing conversation between fathers and daughters, or at least the start of one, and it is making a difference!
See Angela's TedxWomen Talk about "A Father-Daughter Dance...in Prison":
Question: How do you connect best with your child?
24 million children without biological fathers in the home. This is a stat we at NFI mention a lot. The number can be so big that it loses its meaning. However, if you take time to break most societal ills down, you find that father absence is a big part of the problem. Fix the state of fatherhood and remedy many ills in society. Education isn't immune to the father absence crisis, both in America and globally.
We recently wrote a column for CNN titled, "The Missing Piece in Education Reform—Dads". You can read our blog on it here.
Vincent DiCaro, National Fatherhood Initiative’s VP of Development and Communication, recently appeared on FoxNews Live to discuss the father-absence crisis and just how critical a fathers' role is in education.
Gregg Jarrett interviewed DiCaro on the FoxNews Live show "On the Hunt" about the state of education reform and fathers' roles.
If you can't see the video, click here.
Jarrett points out that America's children seem to be in a deficit compared to other nations and asks the question, "What's hurting education in America?"
1) Children growing up in father-absent homes
DiCaro does well to point out that "The biggest change that has taken place in education over the last generation has nothing to do with schools, but everything to do with what has happened to the family... One in three of our children are growing up without their biological father in the home."
2) Decline in marriage
Jarrett asks what's to blame for the decline of father involvement; unwed mothers or divorce or both? DiCaro makes clear that both contribute to what ends up being a situation where dad is just not there on a regular basis. DiCaro points out, "Out of wedlock childbirths have gone through the roof. We're at about 40% of all births are out of wedlock." He continues by pointing out that divorce is obviously still at a high rate. But DiCaro also mentions the "general mentality in our country that fathers don't play a unique an irreplacable role in their children's lives."
Jarrett asks about father absence and race. DiCaro makes clear that the father-absence issue is a global one. DiCaro says, "Father absence is not unique to any one community...this is a problem happening across the board." DiCaro continues, "...it isn't just in the United States, there was a global study done from Child Trends called the "World Family Map"; the report found, across the developed world, "children in two-parent homes do better in school than children in single-parent homes and this happens independent of income...this isn't about the haves versus the have-nots in terms of money, but kids who have two parents, and kids who have only one."
Jarrett asks, "do you think the important role that a dad plays in education is underestimated?"
DiCaro says, "Absolutely. Us dads ourselves often underestimate our role. We often think, mom has that covered, she's going to the parent teacher meetings, she's helping with homework, so the kid's gonna be fine. But even if mom's doing these things, it's still critically important for dad to do them as well. You know, dads do things differently. We interact with our children differently. We play a unique and irreplaceable role in our childen's lives, and so we need to be just as hands-on with our kids' education, reading to them every day, helping them with their homework, going to the school, being there, present in the school; a man's presence in a school communicates a lot to his kids and other kids in the school as well.
Facilities Across Pennsylvania Have Been Equipped to Deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® Program to Connect Incarcerated Fathers With Their Children
National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has trained 37 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) staff members on how to deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® program to incarcerated fathers across Pennsylvania.
The training took place at a Training Academy in Elizabethtown, PA on January 15 and 16 following the decision of PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel to standardize InsideOut Dad® at the state’s 24 adult male correctional facilities and 1 boot camp facility. The training equipped treatment specialists, corrections counselors, and chaplains to deliver the classroom-based curriculum to fathers seeking to reconnect with their children. The curriculum covers topics such as family history, what it means to be a man, showing and handling feelings, co-parenting, and much more.
Michael Yudt, NFI’s Senior Director of Program Support Services, who delivered the training, said, “The training revealed a great deal of excitement among Pennsylvania Department of Corrections staff for this type of program, aimed at helping inmate dads reconnect and strengthen their relationships with their children. In fact, one facilitator plans to delay her retirement until she has a chance to run InsideOut Dad® for a year.”
Pennsylvania is the 25th U.S. state to “standardize” InsideOut Dad® -- the nation’s only evidence-based program designed specifically for working with incarcerated fathers -- across its state correctional facilities. An independent study by Rutgers University qualified InsideOut Dad® as evidence-based, proving its effectiveness in building fathers’ knowledge and confidence in being better fathers, even while incarcerated.
"When individuals come to prison, not only does the community suffer, often their children, innocent victims in the situation, pay a toll. This program addresses the need for male offenders to stand up, face their responsibilities, and truly be a man in every sense of the word. Not only do we need this program, society does, as 90% of our men will return to our communities one day," said Secretary Wetzel.
SCI-Mahanoy, a facility in Frackville, PA, has been running InsideOut Dad® and was instrumental in arranging for implementation across the entire state. As a result of the training, each of the 25 facilities aims to offer InsideOut Dad® once per quarter as a voluntary program for inmates, with state-mandated eligibility criteria in place for fathers seeking to participate in the program.
Writing for CNN’s Schools of Thought blog, NFI's Christopher Brown and Vincent DiCaro reveal the missing piece of education reform. Brown and DiCaro point out that "There is no shortage of answers about how to improve our nation’s schools, including more charter schools, school vouchers, standardized testing, lower teacher-student ratios and performance-based hiring, pay and promotion of teachers. However, what we find lacking in almost every debate about education reform is the role of families - especially fathers - and the support they can and should provide to ensure children’s educational success. If parents, educators and reformers are to make a difference in improving children’s educational success, we must expand our definition of education reform."
They continue, "children in two-parent homes were more likely to stay on track in school and have higher literacy, both of which are critical to overall educational success."
Pointing to research on marriage from Pew Research Center saying barely one-half - 51% - of adults today are married, down from 72% in 1960, the article says, "The decline of marriage, the rise of divorce and the increase in out-of-wedlock births - now 40% of all births - has contributed to the reality that more than 24 million children in America live in homes absent a biological father."
Brown and DiCaro do not write only to complain, but to offer real solutions for educational improvement. They point out several real-life things fathers can do at home and in school to help their children succeed:
- Attend school and class events, or even spend a day in the classroom—your presence communicates something to your child and to their teachers.
- Read to your children every day.
- Help with school work.
- Don’t let mom do all the work.
Some believe that school is “mom’s territory,” but fathers are just as important to their children’s educations as their mothers. Brown and DiCaro add that schools can help to create father-friendly environments by:
- Including posters, reading materials and visual cues that show dads are welcome.
- Distribute parenting resources targeted to dads, as well as moms.
- Hold seminars for staff members to remind them how important it is for dads to be involved.
- Create dad-centric events, like “Dad and Donuts Day” where fathers join children at school for breakfast.
Brown and DiCaro do well to explain, "Changing parents’ and schools’ views of parental involvement are part of education reform. But most importantly, we must also address and reverse the two most disturbing trends of the past half-century - the increase in the number of children growing up in father-absent homes and the decline in marriage. These two issues are inseparable and have a direct impact on our children’s success in school."
Read the full article at CNN's Schools of Thought.
photo credit: dcJohn
One of NFI’s goals is to be a voice for fatherhood on Capitol Hill. Over the years, for example, we have helped push through funding that supports organizations seeking to equip dads.
So, while there is funding for programs providing needed services to fathers, there is a general lack of funding available for organizations to obtain the “capacity-building” training and services they need to build long-term sustainability.
What is capacity-building? It is what organizations need to be more effective in their service delivery in the present and more viable organizations in the future. Leadership development, organizational development, program development, and community engagement would all qualify as capacity-building services.
That is why we have created an initiative to inform Congress that federal fatherhood grantees should be allowed to use a portion of their funds to procure capacity-building services and training.
While service delivery is the most important use of grant funds, those services need to be delivered by effective organizations – and that is where capacity-building comes in. It will help organizations do a better job serving fathers and ultimately lead to better outcomes for children.
We have set up a page on our website where you and/or your organization can make your voice heard! The grant program for fatherhood programs will be reviewed in Congress later this year, so now is the time to ensure that future grantees will have the flexibility to use some of their grant funds for capacity-building.
Here is what we would like for you to do:
As an individual – Use our special webpage to send your opinion directly to your members of Congress. The more voices that come on board, the more persuasive we can be!
As an organization – Sign on to become an "endorsing organization" of this effort to allow federal fatherhood grantees to use a portion of their funds for capacity-building services. Your organization's name will be listed alongside National Fatherhood Initiative as a supporter or this important advocacy effort.
We will soon inform Congress and the White House of all the people and organizations that are behind this effort.
Thank you so much in advance for helping us in this important effort. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact Vincent DiCaro, NFI’s Congressional liaison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has been awarded a contract from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJDCF) to strengthen the state’s services to fathers.
Through the provision of training and technical assistance on its flagship 24/7 Dad® program, NFI will help the state’s 175 NJDCF-funded agencies deliver standardized, high-quality services to fathers across the state. This 18-month process will give NJDCF the ability to more effectively measure the impact of fatherhood programming on pro-fathering skills, attitudes, and knowledge in New Jersey.
Each of NJDCF’s 175 service providers will send two to three staff to a two-day, NFI-run Fatherhood Program Camp. At these camps, the staff will be led through NFI’s Father Friendly Check-Up™ workshop to measure the degree to which their current services are catered towards meeting the needs of fathers.
Then they will be trained on how to deliver NFI’s 24/7 Dad® program, which will help them educate and inspire the fathers they serve with practical skills and encouragement on their importance to their families. They will also be trained on how to integrate NFI’s Understanding Domestic Violence™ workshop into the 24/7 Dad® program.
The end goal of this training program will be to create in the service providers an organizational culture that supports the effective delivery of fatherhood programming, to equip them with a research-based fatherhood skill-building program in the form of 24/7 Dad®, and to give the providers the means to effectively address the issue of domestic violence. Ultimately, this program will allow NJDCF to increase the well-being of children throughout New Jersey.
Christopher A. Brown, executive vice president of NFI said, “We are excited to partner with the state of New Jersey on this innovative program to help the state’s family service providers more effectively engage New Jersey’s fathers. Every child deserves to have a 24/7 dad, and NFI stands ready to help New Jersey reach that honorable goal.”
NFI will provide NJDCF with evaluation tools to measure the impact of this program. For example, 24/7 Dad® includes a pre- and post-survey that facilitators can use to measure the impact of the program on pro-fathering self-efficacy, attitudes, and knowledge, and ultimately allow NJDCF to conduct a statewide evaluation on the program’s impact.
Additionally, NFI will provide reports to NJDCF and each of its providers that show the pre- and post-assessment results of the Father Friendly Check-Up™ to determine whether or not the agencies have become measurably more father friendly over the course of the first year of the program.
National Fatherhood Initiative has a long history of providing comprehensive training and technical assistance on a statewide and national level. NFI has run statewide initiatives on behalf of Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia, and has been involved in consulting with and operating portions of city & county initiatives in Milwaukee, WI and New York City. In 2006, under an open competition, NFI was awarded the administration of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.
Under this federal contract, NFI provided and coordinated training and technical assistance for all of the approximately 100 fatherhood grantees of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also in 2006, NFI was awarded a grant to run the National Responsible Fatherhood Capacity-Building Initiative with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services / Administration for Children and Families / Office of Family Assistance.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the New Jersey program, or would like to engage NFI on a similar county- or state-wide fatherhood initiative, please contact Erik Vecere, NFI VP of Project Design & Consulting at email@example.com. Visit our For Organizations page for more information related to NFI's programming.