Why do fathers come to fatherhood programs? After talking with many responsible fatherhood program practitioners and the diverse fathers they serve, the answer to that is usually ongoing challenges with child support obligations, a lack of opportunities to spend time with their children (often because of co-parenting relationship problems), or numerous issues with finding and maintaining stable employment. Many of the fathers have admitted that finding and maintaining stable employment that pays a living wage is often the initial and a very big step to solving issues related to child support and visitation.
So how does a typical program help fathers find jobs and achieve economic stability in our 21st century economy? There’s not a simple answer to that, but here are five general tips that I’ve picked up in the course of conversations and observation over the last 28 years of working with fatherhood programs:
1. Listen first. Listen to the men you work with. Start from a strengths-based perspective to know what their interests, skills, and challenges are before you try to place them with an employer.
2. Get personal. Help them talk about their personal story, which often leads to reflection on their relationship with their own father and assertion of the type of father they want to be for their children.
3. Claim ownership. Encourage fathers to recognize and “own” factors that may have prevented them from maintaining steady employment at a living wage.
4. Acknowledge the difficulty. Acknowledge the difficulties involved in finding work, particularly if someone doesn’t have education or training that matches available jobs, has recently returned to the community from time in jail, or the available jobs are hard to access with available public transportation.
5. Work with community partners. Develop partnerships with agencies that can provide job training and help overcome barriers to employment. Cultivating relationships with local employers and encouraging them to hire program graduates is key to making it somewhat easier for individuals to start in a safe environment. Working with local child support offices is important to ensure that child support orders are set and modified based on current income and employment. Responsible fatherhood programs can be a key access point for clients and for employers, child support, and others; they can serve as a bridge between fathers and the community.
This list only scratches the surface of what it takes for fatherhood programs to successfully connect fathers to jobs and find ways to improve their economic situation. In our next webinar, Employment and Economic Stability Services for Fathers, on January 20th we will look more in depth at this topic and hear the insights of an experienced researcher (Dan Bloom of MDRC) and two seasoned practitioners (Halbert Sullivan, Fathers’ Support Center, and Carl Chadband, Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action, Inc.). Register here.
I’m looking forward to this conversation with Dan, Halbert, and Carl on January 20th. I hope you can join us!
Nigel Vann, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
- Framing the Future of Economic Security Evaluation Research for the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network. 2014. Dan Bloom, et al.
- Within Reach: Strategies for Improving Family Economic Stability Toolkit
- This free online toolkit provides in-depth advice on how organizations can organize their services and strengthen partnerships to help low-income program participants improve their economic stability. The toolkit was developed for Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs by the Office of Family Assistance and their technical assistance team.
- NRFC April 2012 Webinar: Achieving Economic Stability: Strategies for Successfully Connecting Dads to Jobs
- On Fatherhood.Gov: For Your Fathers: Economic Stability/Employment