Helping Fathers and Families that are Parenting in a Violent World

Printer Friendly, PDF & Email
Publication Date
January 25, 2016

Ed. Note: This is a repost from the ACF Family Room Blog on December 30, 2015. View the original post.

According to a 2014 DOJ report1, 60 percent of children are exposed to violence, sometimes on a daily basis. Exposure to violence lowers soft skills and increases risky behaviors.2  

It raises the potential for being a potential perpetrator.3 Children exposed to violence are more likely to have problems in school, or developing stable and safe relationships.4 They have an increased likelihood of child welfare and juvenile justice involvement.5 Raising children under any circumstance is no easy task. Families living in communities with a lot of violence have additional challenges.

Violence inside and outside of the house add to parent’s stress. Violence can have a tremendous influence on parenting, especially the ability to provide a nurturing and safe environment. Developing and using important parenting techniques6, including access to social supports, adequate and stable home situations and steady relationships and putting into place steps for improving child well-being is key.

OFA hosted Parenting in a Violent World, a series of town halls. Each was intended to gather information on the impact of violence on raising children. Our National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) provided resources for participants. Resources addressed the physical, psychological and emotional trauma7 that may develop because of violence. Starting in June, the town halls coincided with the unrest in Baltimore, Maryland after the death of Freddy Gray while in police custody.

The NRFC received numerous inquiries from communities on what help is available for fathers with the tough task of keeping children safe. Additionally, requests included information on keeping children on a path to success. Baltimore’s town hall at the Center for Urban Families (CFUF) was an interactive forum including local parents and residents. The attendees explored the impact of family and community violence with local leaders and community representatives. A large portion of the discussion centered on ways to better serve at-risk youth and highlighted how community programs, faith-based institutions, public agencies and concerned citizens provide support.

We sponsored additional town halls in Seattle, Washington and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania because of increased focus on violence and family stability. Each town hall was well attended, including 100-plus virtual attendees on Periscope during the Seattle town hall. The town halls provided a platform for dialogue on the real consequences of violence. Town Hall participants discussed teaching children alternative ways to handle conflicts without using violence. Ideas for modeling non-violent behaviors and discussions regarding the root causes of violence were included. The NRFC intends to develop products on topics to assist parents in raising safe children.

Although parenting is not easy for any mother or father, parenting in communities with high rates of violence is more difficult. A stable, loving family is the foundation for raising healthy, happy children. Fathers play a special role related to child well-being. Even from birth, fathers affect emotional security, confidence and social connections among children. When dealing with violence, fathers play a significant part in improving safety and security. The dialogue will continue as the NRFC continues to coordinate activities to help fathers across the country “take time to be a dad today.”

Damon Waters, Family Assistance Program Specialist, Office of Family Assistance

1 Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Ormrod, R., Hamby, S., and Kracke, K. 2009. Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey. Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
2 Child Trends. (2013). Children's exposure to violence. Available at:
3 Child Trends. (2013). Children's exposure to violence. Available at:
4 Ibid
5 Ibid
6 Letiecq, B. and Koblinsky, S. 2004. Parenting in violent neighborhoods: African American fathers share strategies for keeping children safe. Journal of Family Issues, September 2004, V. 25, no. 6.
7 See: