Start a Program

Start a Program


“There’s a quote [from Charles Ballard] that stuck with me…’Have no fear. This isn’t easy. It’s the hardest work you’ll ever do. You can feel very, very lonely. But walk with great courage and confidence. Know [that] what you’re doing will make a difference.’” 
— Patricia Littlejohn, South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families

This section presents planning and design steps that have been taken by successful practitioners (including needs assessment, community mapping, building and formalizing effective partnerships, and using logic models to guide the design of service delivery); staffing considerations (e.g., competencies, key roles, hiring, and training); and tips for fundraising, documentation, and sustainability.

Providing services to fathers is crucial, but does not have to mean starting a new initiative to serve men. Many fatherhood initiatives are part of larger organizations and include job training, social services, and family services. Others are small organizations focused only on fatherhood. Regardless of a program’s scope, any fatherhood effort can succeed, even in challenging funding environments, when certain strategies are used effectively.

A fatherhood program can have many priorities:

  • Helping dads learn about positive parenting.
  • Counseling men in their relationships with their children and their children’s mother.
  • Supporting men to become more self-sufficient in supporting their families.

Many fatherhood programs began as demonstration or grant-funded programs, some started as individual or grassroots efforts, and others embedded fatherhood into an existing organization. The first two approaches have produced some programs that still exist. The most successful programs typically are those embedded in successful organizations with effective leadership and the ability to cover part of the fatherhood budget through general funds. Those with the most success in “staying the course” also have top administrators who support the program and actively advocate for continued funding and growth.

No matter how a fatherhood program is structured, the process of launching a new program is not easy. But lessons learned from research and practice reveal five key elements that make the process easier and help ensure positive outcomes:

  • Staff with a passion for the work who are effective, well trained, and well supported.
  • A champion who believes in the program’s potential, can overcome internal barriers, and has the authority to speak for the organization with community partners.
  • Support from top administrators.
  • Effective community partnerships.
  • Consistent documentation and evaluation focused on intended outcomes.