From time to time, all fathers deal with difficult issues. They might seek out other men and ask questions or, more likely, they learn from the media, learn by observing other men in their community, or struggle to get by without assistance.
Many practitioners agree that fathers do not readily come to family agencies to ask for help. But if programs anticipate situations in which they might connect with men in need, they can take advantage of opportunities to engage and recruit dads. For instance, some practitioners have referred to “points of pain” or “life transition points” as times when men may be more reachable. These “points of pain” can include:
- Substantial child support payments
- Divorce or separation
- Custody or visitation issues
- Unplanned pregnancy
By offering immediate assistance or providing an understanding ear at such times, it is possible to build a trusting relationship with a future client. On this page we suggest creative ways to connect with fathers through agencies who are often involved with fathers during these life transitions.
Tips & Best Practices
- Familiarize yourself with potential partners or referral sources. These can include child support workers, family court judges, legal aid staff, lawyers, social workers, and probation officers.
- Work with school counselors to connect with parents as their children move from on school level to another or identify children who are having problems at school.
- Help child welfare workers locate and work with non-residential fathers if there is a possibility of a child being removed from the home or other concern about the child’s situation.
- Identify fathers of children with special health care needs, perhaps through their primary healthcare provider.
PB&J Family Services in Albuquerque, NM, provides supportive services for parents in correctional facilities, children and caretakers within the community, and post-release support through home visiting, therapeutic bonding-attachment programs, weekly support groups, and a workforce development center. While fathers are in prison, they can participate in mentoring and parent-child visitation programs. Support is provided to their elementary or middle school-aged children before and after visits through the KidPACT program. After release, fathers can participate in Fathers Building Futures, an economic development initiative that trains fathers in a business of their choice while providing affordable, meaningful, and useful services to the community. These businesses include auto detailing, custom woodworking, and mobile power washing and graffiti removal.
How do I go about developing relationships with potential partnership programs?
Use the connections that are already available to you first. Getting introduced through a mutual contact increases the chances of developing fruitful partnerships. Then, attend events where you can introduce yourself in person to program directors. If all else fails, you can place cold calls to relevant organizations.
Are there additional life points when fathers might be open to joining a program?
Yes. Additional opportunities for engagement include preparing for marriage, becoming a stepfather or foster father, dealing with the loss of a relative or close friend, or raising children as a single father
What are some tips for being sensitive to fathers in difficult situations while also encouraging enrollment?
Make empathetic listening your priority; Avoid being pushy or using words tied to negative stereotypes like “deadbeat dads.”; Ask fathers how they would like you to follow up to avoid making contact in ways that could cause tension in their home or with romantic partners.