Top Takeaways - Start

Start a Program

Top Takeaways

The following are some key considerations for starting or enhancing a fatherhood program:

  • New programs should conduct a scan of organizations and programs in the community (i.e., community mapping) to identify other groups providing similar services and to find potential partners.
  • Through program design, fatherhood organizations can set strategies to meet participant needs through services. Fatherhood program services often include case management, peer support groups, and parenting education.
  • Encouraging potential partners to visit the program location or participate in community forums can help build partner commitment and awareness of the program throughout the community.
  • A memorandum of understanding or contract is helpful for building new community relationships and strengthening existing ones.
  • Research and practice show that successful programs have key staff members with a deep passion for the work, and often have a champion who can overcome initial barriers and forge strategic alliances in the community.
  • Early planning should determine:
    • Needs the program will address.
    • Actions the program will take to directly address these needs.
    • Staffing needed.
    • Budget plan that supports the goals.
  • Reserve part of a new program’s budget for development and fundraising that can include personal outreach by fatherhood managers and writing grant proposals for government agencies and foundations.
  • Use a logic model to help develop a service plan. Include information on projected inputs, activities, outputs, and short- and long-term goals.
  • The right hiring decisions are essential. Employees should have flexibility, listening skills, life experience, ability to serve as positive role models, and sensitivity to the needs of men and fathers.
  • Fatherhood programs without a stable in-house source of funds should begin fundraising immediately, through in-person outreach to individuals and businesses as well as proposals for government and foundation funding. A program’s board of directors can be critical in fundraising efforts.
  • A commitment to outcomes and evaluation can generate robust information about the success of programming and can be the foundation of marketing to local governments, foundations, and businesses to enhance sustainability.
  • The goals of ongoing training and support include reinforcing direct service skills, helping staff members deal with difficult issues, and ensuring that they understand program policies, procedures, and strategies.
  • Reminders about the importance of applying and modeling key program concepts, such as good relationship skills, can help staff stay motivated and focused.
  • Training that includes interactive components, such as role-playing, is most effective for preparing staff for the situations they have to deal with.
  • Carrying out the same activities that participants experience encourages staff to engage in their own self-improvement process and ensures they are fully grounded in program principles, methods, and objectives.
  • Programs must nurture both new and experienced staff to prevent potential burnout in a demanding job. Using a team approach and reflective supervision are good ways to do this.
  • As part of a continuous quality improvement process, some programs conduct focus groups or participant surveys to obtain fathers’ views on staff performance and activities.