Tips from Veteran Practitioners
- Recognize that many young or low-income men have been let down by adults in their lives. Often they test the staff at support programs to determine if they are “for real.” Staff need to be sincere, approachable, and nonjudgmental.
- Encourage staff to be strong role models or mentors who display attributes the young men are trying to achieve. Young fathers often get “hooked” on support programs because a certain staff member provides support and encouragement.20
- Develop relationships with community agencies that can assist with housing, substance abuse, and legal issues. Young fathers will sometimes need additional support in accessing these services.
- Challenge young fathers to share their new knowledge and skills through peer education or a speakers’ bureau. Participants can be empowered by sharing information about their experiences and the lessons they have learned in the program. Peer networking can help young men find jobs and prevent premature parenthood if young fathers counsel others to delay parenthood until they are ready to support a child.
- Connect with young fathers as early as possible, preferably before the child’s birth. Prenatal education classes with the mother or classes with other expectant fathers can provide information and skills to prepare young dads to support the mother and child. Encourage young fathers to be present and actively support the mother during the birth.
- Assist fathers in getting family support. Young men are often blamed for an unplanned pregnancy by the mother’s parents and even by their own parents.
- Help fathers understand and appreciate the feelings of others.
- Advise them to be patient and show the grandparents their commitment to being an involved father.
- Look for opportunities to connect with the grandparents and help them understand the importance of fathers in the lives of their grandchildren. Such opportunities may be created through home visiting programs, Early Head Start programs, prenatal classes, or teen mothers’ support programs.