Young Fathers An Analysis of Risk Behaviors and Service Needs by shwarma


									Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Vol. 19, No. 6, December 2002 ( 2002)

Young Fathers: An Analysis of
Risk Behaviors and Service Needs

Maxine L. Weinman, L.M.S.W.-A.C.P., Dr.PH.,
Peggy B. Smith, Ph.D., and
Ruth S. Buzi, L.M.S.W.-A.C.P.
ABSTRACT: One hundred and twenty eight young fathers participated in an
assessment of risk behaviors and service needs prior to entering a program
for young fathers. Of this group, 73% were unemployed, 69% were school
drop-outs, almost 40% had substance abuse problems, close to 30% had com-
mitted a felony, and less than half had declared paternity for their children.
The majority of these young fathers desired employment services and educa-
tional/vocational training. Despite their risk behaviors, young fathers did not
want substance abuse counseling, child support services, or help in obtaining
a GED. There appears to be a discrepancy between the problems and needs,
and the services which these young fathers requested. Many young fathers
believed employment would be a panacea to all their problems. These findings
suggest that more attention should be given to examining these issues in pro-
grams targeting young fathers. Services such as preventive health and mental
health should be considered prior to the final goals of employment and estab-
lishment of paternity.

KEY WORDS: Teenage Fathers; Risk Behaviors; Service Needs.


About 2% to 7% of young men become fathers during adolescence, with
higher rates among inner city and minority youth (Stouthamer-
Loeber & Wei, 1998). Many studies have found that adolescent father-
   This research was supported in part by a grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental
Health and the Texas Department of Health.
   Maxine L. Weinman is Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social Work Univer-
sity of Houston. Peggy B. Smith is Professor and Director, and Ruth S. Buzi is Research
Associate at the Population Program Baylor College of Medicine. Address correspon-
dence to Maxine L. Weinman, L.M.S.W.-A.C.P., Dr.PH, Graduate School of Social Work,
University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun, Houston, TX 77204-4492; e-mail: MWEpstein

                                         437        2002 Human Sciences Press, Inc.

hood is associated with multiple risk factors. For example, Guagli-
ardo, Huang, and D’Angelo (1999) found that among a group of 399
male adolescents at an outpatient clinic, 24.2% reported a pregnancy
history. The young men who reported a pregnancy history were 14
times more likely to report multiple sex partners in the last year, 5
times more likely to report a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) his-
tory, 3 times more likely to test positive for drugs, and 2.5 times more
likely to be inconsistent or nonusers of condoms compared to young
men without a history of pregnancy. In the longitudinal Pittsburgh
Youth Study, the pregnancy rate among 506 inner city adolescent
males from a public school was 12.3% (Stouthamer-Loeber & Wei,
1998). These young fathers were twice as likely to be classified as
serious delinquents. Being delinquent and a young father were both
related to early sexual experience, drug exposure, cruelty and antiso-
cial behavior. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 4159 students in
grades 9–12 in 59 randomly selected public high schools in Massachu-
setts indicated that of the 824 sexually active males, 12% had been
involved in a pregnancy and males who were involved in a pregnancy
had other problem behaviors such as substance use, violence, multiple
sex partners, and fighting. The data from the National Longitudinal
Survey of Youth (NLSY) (Nock, 1998) and data from the National Lon-
gitudinal Survey of Labor Market Experience-Youth Cohort (Pirog-
Good, 1996) found that teen fathers were more likely to live with sin-
gle parents in impoverished backgrounds, were more likely to become
involved in drugs and crime at earlier ages, and were more likely to
experience school failure and low wages. Studies also found that over
20% of incarcerated offenders were teenage fathers (McLaughlin,
Reiner, Reams & Joost, 1999; Nesmith, Klerman, Oh & Feinstein,
   The long-term commitment of young fathers to parenthood and to
the relationship with the child’s mother may not be present (Cox &
Bithoney, 1995). Cochran’s (1997) review of the literature suggested
that the joint effects of poverty, crime, and low educational attainment
coupled with risk behaviors tend to be one of the major reasons teen
fathers do not provide support for their children. Studies have identi-
fied other factors that influence the involvement of these young fa-
thers in their children’s life. For example, a study among 307 Latino
adolescent and adult men, of which 207 impregnated one or more
teens, found that their own parental background and male role models
mediated their involvement with their children (Goodyear, New-
comb, & Allison, 2000). The study hypothesized that constructs, such

as childhood experiences among males, are related to teenage preg-
nancy as well as gender role beliefs. Additionally, Furstenberg and
Weiss (2000) found in a study among 110 males from the Baltimore
Parenthood Study that a strong stable presence of biological fathers
in their histories affected the timing of their own family formation.
Furthermore, if their own fathers lived with them there was a stronger
likelihood of living with their own children. The stable presence of a
father in their own home is a positive developmental milestone in
which fathers are models and mentors for societal expectations and
transmission of values from one generation to the next. Christmon
(1990) also found in a group of 43 unwed fathers that their willingness
to assume parental support for their children was related to their own
self-image and role expectations.
   Focus group research has been useful in identifying social role ex-
pectations as well as familial issues among young fathers. For exam-
ple, Allen and Doherty (1996), in their study of the perceptions of 10
young fathers, found that these males are difficult to reach, are
guarded in their responses, and are hard to locate. When interviewed,
they expressed concern about their children but also acknowledged
that they themselves were too young to father children and had insuf-
ficient role models to help them make the transition to adulthood.
They cited the difficulty of seeing their children because of a poor rela-
tionship with the baby’s mothers. Dallas and Chen’s (1998) school-
based focus group study among 5 low-income African American ado-
lescent fathers identified a number of barriers. The major themes that
emerged were fatherhood transitions, competencies of fatherhood,
role-set relationships, social norms of fatherhood, and father-child
contact. Major difficulties included limited sources of income, lack of
parenting experiences, abandonment by their own fathers, and fatalis-
tic views. Adolescents considered paternity an important role but did
not feel ready to fulfill it. Many did not have the negotiation skills to
deal with the birthmothers who denied access to their children.
   Rhein et al. (1997) in a focus group of teen fathers, found the teen
mothers as well as the maternal and paternal grandparents heavily
influenced teen father’s involvement with their children. Teen fathers
were less involved with their children in terms of financial support,
playing, visiting and taking the child to clinic visits than the teens’
mothers or her parents. Interestingly, teen fathers were twice as likely
as teen mothers to cite maternal resistance as a barrier to their partic-
ipation in child rearing. Conversely, teen mothers were twice as likely
as teen fathers to cite paternal disinterest as a barrier. The authors

point out that mothers may equate lack of financial support with dis-
   A growing number of research studies point to the importance of
fatherhood involvement in protecting children from the adverse effects
of poverty, school problems, life long problems of substance abuse, re-
peated cycles of pregnancy, and crime (Argys, Peters, Brooks-Gunn, &
Smith, 1998; Lerman & Sorensen, 2000; Rhein et al., 1997). Moreover,
the 1996 welfare reform has emphasized the roles unwed fathers have
in being responsible parents (Rangarajan & Gleason, 1998). However,
young fathers have not received the types of services that unwed
mothers have (Rangarajan & Gleason, 1998). Although various types
of programs have been developed to address the special concerns of
fathers, most programs are based on four assumptions: (1) if the pro-
grams are offered the fathers will attend; (2) the services will meet
the needs of the participants; (3) once young men enroll in a program
they will use the services that are available; and (4) the services will
be beneficial for recipients and will produce positive outcomes (Lane &
Clay, 2000). Most demonstration projects have attempted to address
positive outcomes by providing at minimum jobs or job training, sex
education, counseling and peer support, incentives for child support,
and encouragement of fathers to take an interest in their children.
The importance of employment issues has been emphasized in most
programs because of the relationship between earnings, involvement
with children, and the likelihood of marriage. Kost (1997) examined
the results of educational employment and psychosocial support for
young fathers, and found that completers of the program (less than
50% of the sample) tended to have more schooling, be previously em-
ployed, and participate in program activities. He notes that young fa-
thers’ need for emotional support usually exceeds what programs can
offer, and that staff noted feelings of depression and hopelessness
among fathers. Many current researchers also point out that pro-
grams tend to emphasize one or two areas, such as employment or sex
education (Lane & Clay, 2000), or focus research on a few variables
without a theoretical framework.
   There is wide recognition in the literature that young fathers ap-
pear to have associated risk behaviors such as low employment, school
problems, susceptibility to violence and crime, and multiple sexual
partners. Although young fathers appear to be willing to participate
in programs, their level of participation has been problematic. It is
still not clear whether the components of the programs correspond to

what they view as their service needs and the extent to which risk
behaviors prevent them from taking advantage of programs.
   The present study was undertaken to examine the following ques-
tions: 1) What are the risk behaviors of a group of inner-city young
fathers who will be participating in a program for young fathers? 2)
What do they perceive as their service needs? 3) Is there a relationship
between their risk behaviors and the services they request?



The target population consisted of inner city young males who resided
in a metropolitan city in the Southwest part of the United States. A
convenience sample was composed of young fathers who were inter-
ested in enrolling in a community-based male involvement program.
The male involvement program was funded by the Office of Population
Affairs/Office of Family Planning (OPA/OFP). In 1997, this office be-
gan an initiative to involve community-based health and social service
organizations in developing, implementing, and testing approaches for
delivering family planning/reproductive health education and services
to men. In FY 1999, a total of $4.7 million was awarded to 24 commu-
nity-based organizations for these projects. The OPA/OFP projects are
intended to integrate family planning service and education into pro-
grams where young males are already receiving other health, educa-
tion, and social services (Office of Population Affairs Office of Family
Planning, 2000). The program includes an assessment of participants’
current health behaviors, their service needs, and an assessment of
their relationship with their child(ren). Each father who is enrolled in
the program is assigned a case manager who is responsible for coordi-
nating the services needed, and providing linkages and monitoring of
requested services.


The assessment included demographic information and questions as-
sociated with health behaviors, paternity and child support, employ-
ment and education, and parenting behaviors. Participants were also
given a list of nine services and were asked to indicate the services

that they need. Open-ended questions asked participants to describe
their expectations from the program as well as their relationships
with their children. Case managers administered the questionnaires
to young fathers upon enrollment in the program. The Institutional
Review Board of the affiliated medical school approved the protocol.
An informed consent was obtained from each participant. The case
manager maintained a confidential record of responses to be used for
the study.


A total of 128 fathers enrolled in the program. Their mean age was
21.29, S.D. = 3.13, range 15–31. Sixty-eight percent were age 22 or
younger. One hundred and six (83.5%) were African-American, 20
(15.7%) were Hispanic, and one was Caucasian. The majority, 90
(72.0%), were single. Living arrangements were diverse with the ma-
jority 53 (43.4%) living with a single parents, 20 (16.4%) living with a
girlfriend, 8 (6.6%) living with their spouse and children, 8 (6.6%) liv-
ing by themselves, 8 (6.6%) living with both parents, 11 (9.0%) living
with grandparents and 3 (2.5%) living with friends, 5 (4.1%) with sis-
ters or aunts, 3 (2.5%) with a spouse and extended family, and 3
(2.5%) with girlfriend and her parents. The primary languages spoken
by the fathers were English 118 (96.7%) and Spanish 4 (3.3%). The
primary languages spoken at home were English 110 (89.46%), Span-
ish 6 (4.9%), and both English/Spanish 7 (5.7%). Fatherhood status at
program entry was as follows: 93 (73.2%) currently had a child(ren),
22 (17.3%) reported their girlfriend was pregnant, 9 (7.1%) reported
their girlfriends was pregnant and they also have a child(ren). Three
(2.4%) reported they had no children.

Question 1: What are the risk behaviors of a group of inner-city young
fathers who will be participating in a program for young fathers?

Health Behaviors

Twenty-nine (23.6%) of the study sample reported they or their part-
ners always used contraceptives in the past three months, 42 (34.1%)
reported they sometimes used contraceptives and 36 (29.3%) reported
they never used contraceptives. Sixteen (13.0%) reported they were
not sexually active. When asked if they used condoms in the last three

months, 34 (27.2%) reported always, 45 (36.0%) reported sometimes,
and 32 (25.6%) reported never. Fourteen males reported they were not
sexually active. Eight (6.4%) males reported a STD in the past three
months. Sixty-one (48.0%) reported smoking cigarettes in the past
three months. Thirty-five (27.6%) reported they used drugs in the past
three months. Forty-nine (38.9%) reported drinking alcohol in the
past three months. Less than half of the sample responded to ques-
tions about the number of drugs, cigarettes or alcohol consumed.

Legal Problems

Thirty-seven (29.6%) reported they have been under legal supervision
as a result of committing a felony and 12 (9.7%) reported problems
with the law in the past three months (see Table 1).

Employment and Education

The majority, 100 (78.1%), were not currently enrolled in school. Of
the 28 in school, 19 (79.2%) were in 9th though 12th grade with 2
students in a GED program and three in college. Of those in school,
20 (71.4%) reported they passed their subjects in the previous year.
For the total sample, 77 (62.6%) reported they had repeated a grade
in school at least once. Of the 100 young men who were not currently
in school, 67 (69.1%) dropped out before they completed high school.
Thirty-two (26.4%) reported they were employed, with a mean number
of working hours per week of 25.42 S.D. = 19.89 range 6–80 hours. Of
the 28 reporting on job satisfaction, 11 (39.3%) reported they were
satisfied with their job. Of the 102 reporting employment information,
93 (91.2%) stated they were currently seeking employment.

Parenting Behaviors

Among the 104 fathers who responded to the question, 63 (60.6%) re-
ported having one child, 26 (25.0%) reported having two children, 13
(12.5%) reported having three children and 2 (1.9%) reported having
four children. The age range of their first child was 1–120 months,
with a mean of 31.05, S.D. = 28.97. Thirty-seven (48.1%) fathers
stated they had more than one child, with only 12 mentioning they all
had the same mother. The average age when these young men become
fathers was 18.85, S.D. = 2.44, range 14–27. Sixty-four (61.0%) were
present at the delivery of their child/ren. Only 43 (46.7%) stated they

                             TABLE 1

                          Problem Needs

Variable                    Response                        Reporting

Contraceptives in past     Always           29   (23.6%)       123
  3 months                 Sometimes        42   (34.1%)
                           Never            36   (29.3%)
                           Not Active       16   (13.0%)
Condom use in past         Always           34   (27.2%)       125
  3 months                 Sometimes        45   (36.0%)
                           Never            32   (25.6%)
                           Not Active       14   (11.2%)
Cigarettes in past         Yes              61   (48.0%)       127
  3 months                 No               66   (52.0%)
Drugs in the past          Yes              35   (27.6%)       125
  3 months                 No               92   (71.3%)
Alcohol in the past        Yes              49   (38.9%)       126
  3 months                 No               77   (61.1%)
Legal supervision in       Yes              37   (29.6%)
  past 3 months            No               88   (70.4%)       125
Problems with the law      Yes              12    (9.7%)       124
  past 3 months            No              112   (90.3%)

declared paternity for their children. Seventy-three (73.7%) fathers
reported they were providing some type of financial support for their
child(ren). Of the 47 who replied to the question about frequency of
support, 22 (46.8%) stated weekly, 16 (34.0%) stated occasionally, 5
(10.6%) stated monthly and 4 (8.5%) said rarely (see Table 2).

Question 2: What do young fathers perceive as their service needs?

  The young fathers were asked to check which services they wanted
to receive in the program. Nine services were offered. Fifty-three to
eighty percent of the sample completed this section. Their responses
are summarized in Table 3. The most pressing needs identified were:
           MAXINE L. WEINMAN, PEGGY B. SMITH, AND RUTH S. BUZI         445

                              TABLE 2

                          Parenting Needs

Variable                          Distribution               Reporting

Age when first
  became a father       18.85, S.D. = 2.44                       105
Number of               One child             63   (60.6%)       104
  children              Two children          26   (25.0%)
                        Three children        13   (12.5%)
                        Four children          2    (1.9%)
Present at delivery     Yes                   64   (61.0%)       105
  of child              No                    41   (39.0%)
Declared paternity      Yes                   43   (46.7%)        92
                        No                    49   (53.3%)
Provides financial      Yes                   73   (73.7%)        99
  support               No                    26   (26.3%)

employment (93.2%), educational/vocational training (77.0%), social
services (64.7%), and preventive health care (59.8%).

Question 3: Is there a relationship between their risk behaviors and the
services they request?

  1. Educational/Vocational Services (referral to training pro-
     grams): Of 68 unemployed teens that also requested services,
     54 (79.4%) wanted educational/vocational services. Of 77
     teens not in school, 61 (79.2%) requested educational/voca-
     tional services. Of the 84 males who were seeking employ-
     ment, 66 (78.6%) requested educational and vocational ser-
  2. STD Screening/Treatment: Of four males with STDs at as-
     sessment and one male wanted STD screening.
  3. Mental Health Counseling (for issues such as depression, anger):
     Of 25 males who reported alcohol use, 11 (44%) requested men-
     tal health services, of 32 males who reported drug use, 16 (50%)

                             TABLE 3

                         Services Requested

Variable                      Distribution                   Reporting

Educational/Vocational        Yes             74   (77.0%)      96
                              No              16   (16.7%)
                              Not   sure       6    (6.3%)
STD screening                 Yes             25   (33.3%)      75
                              No              48   (64.0%)
                              Not   Sure       2    (2.7%)
Mental health counseling      Yes             31   (39.2%)      79
                              No              42   (53.2%)
                              Not   sure       6    (7.6%)
Child support services        Yes             39   (48.1%)      81
                              No              40   (49.4%)
                              Not   Sure       2    (2.5%)
Substance abuse programs      Yes              7    (9.2%)      76
                              No              63   (82.9%)
                              Not   sure       6    (7.9%)
Preventive health care        Yes             49   (59.8%)      82
                              No              28   (34.1%)
                              Not   Sure       5    (6.1%)
Social services               Yes             55   (64.7%)      85
                              No              27   (31.8%)
                              Not   sure       3    (3.5%)
Employment                    Yes             96   (93.2%)     103
                              No               7    (6.8%)
GED classes                   Yes             33   (44.0%)      75
                              No              40   (53.3%)
                              Not   sure       2    (2.7%)
            MAXINE L. WEINMAN, PEGGY B. SMITH, AND RUTH S. BUZI        447

       requested mental health services, and of the 42 males who
       smoked, 19 (45.2%) requested mental health services. Of the
       10 males who reported problems with the law, 4 (40%) re-
       quested mental health services.
  4.   Child Support Services: Of 30 males who had not declared
       paternity, 15 (50%) requested child support services.
  5.   Substance Abuse Programs: Of 30 males who used alcohol, 4
       (13.3%) requested substance use services; of 39 cigarette
       smokers, 6 (15.4%) requested substance use programs; and
       of 24 males using drugs, 5 (20.8%) requested substance use
  6.   Preventive Health Care (immunizations, contraceptives, sport
       physicals): Of 52 males who were infrequent contraceptive us-
       ers, 34 (65.3%) requested preventive health care; and of the
       52 infrequent condom users, 35 (67.3%) requested preventive
       health care.
  7.   Social Services (help with WIC, Medicaid, rent, utilities, food):
       Of the 16 males who reported no financial support to their
       children, 7 (43.8%) requested social services. Of the 31 males
       who had not declared paternity, 19 (61.3%) requested social
  8.   Employment: Of 72 males who were not employed, 69 (95.8%)
       wanted employment services.
  9.   GED Classes: Of 62 teens that were not currently in school,
       33 (53.2%) requested GED classes.

Open-Ended Questions

The young fathers were asked to describe in their own words what
they wanted the program to help them do, and to describe their rela-
tionships with the child(ren). For the first question, a total of 123 fa-
thers participated. Content analysis was used to determine unique
categories. The majority of these young males wanted help finding a
job, being responsible men, and being good fathers (N = 76, 61.8%).
They also wanted to be able to see their children and have a relation-
ship with them (N = 33, 26.8%). A few stated that they would like help
with housing, counseling, legal help, and parenting lessons (N = 14,
   For the question regarding the relationship with children, a total of
83 fathers participated. The majority of the young fathers indicated
that the relationship with their children is good, loving, and that they

see them (N = 64, 77.1%). A few young males indicated that they
wanted a better relationship with their children and that they would
like and to see them more (N = 19, 22.8%).


Risk Behaviors

The subjects in this study exhibited the same risk behaviors identified
in the literature (Cochran, 1997; Lerman & Sorensen, 2000). Seventy-
three percent were unemployed, 69% dropped out of school, over 60%
were poor users of contraceptives, over one-third used alcohol and
drugs, and 30% had committed a felony. Forty percent of young fa-
thers had more than one child and less than half had declared pater-

Service Needs

The most requested service was employment. The need for employ-
ment was also the focus of the subjects’ responses to the open-ended
questions they completed. Young fathers perceived jobs as giving them
the role of provider and access to seeing their children, as well as pride
among their peer groups. Researchers have suggested that offering to
meet employment needs is a major key to attract young fathers into a
program (Hendricks, 1988). However, without a high school degree
and with a criminal record, the ability of the program providers to
find adequate employment for these young fathers is problematic. One
way to address this is to encourage them to seek services that can
enhance their employability, such as educational and vocational train-
ing. Counseling would also enable them to develop interviewing skills
and realistic expectations about the type of jobs that may enable them
to enter the labor market.

   Relationship Between Risk Behaviors and the Services Requested:
Although substance abuse was identified as a problem, very few fa-
thers wanted services in this area. Due to missing data, we can only
provide some speculation about this relationship. It is possible that
young fathers were guarded about revealing activities that could be
tied to crime. It also could be that these young fathers see substance
use as a way to deal with stress in life, which was more often associ-

ated with requesting mental health services. However, problems with
substance abuse might be a significant barrier to employment and
ignoring it could affect employability.
   Among the young fathers who were not in school, less than half
requested a GED. Furthermore, only half of the young fathers who
had not declared paternity requested child support services. Green
and Moore’s (2000) review points out that fathers tend to want to con-
tribute food, diapers, clothing, and tangible items rather than cash
assistance or legal paternity. This may be tied to cultural practices or
simply because of a lack of consistent employment. Additionally, as
Dallas and Chen (1998) note in their focus groups, young fathers are
in new kinship relationships without marriage, and this means they
may have to negotiate with an extended family in order to have access
to their children. Without resources, they may be denied access to
their children. Fathers may in turn provide tangible resources, be-
cause it may be the only thing that is available to them without em-
ployment. This tradition of bartering items may be linked to previous
behaviors they have seen in their own families or in their communi-
ties. They may see social service assistance including WIC and Medic-
aid as contemporary ways of ensuring their children receive needed
   The findings of this study suggest that these young fathers have
multiple risk behaviors and diverse needs. These risk behaviors and
needs suggest that the following components need to be integrated in
a fatherhood program:

1. Paternity Establishment:
   In order to financially support their children, fathers have to estab-
lish paternity and child support payments. Some literature suggests
that support, in general, varies by marital status and that subsequent
to the dissolution of the relationship, never married couples receive
less support for the children (Horn & Bush, 1997). Other studies sug-
gest that age of the child impacts support, i.e., the older the child the
less financial and emotional support is provided by the biological fa-
ther (Rangarajan & Gleason 1998). Other possible confounding factors
include status of the couple’s relationship, number of other children,
and the presence of another male in the household. Programs need to
accommodate the diversity of issues surrounding paternity.

2. Employment:
   Self-sufficiency of fathers is essential in to help them to financially

support their child or pay child support. Programs have to ensure that
males become self-sufficient by obtaining adequate employment and
also have access to educational programs that provide employment
mobility. Because 73% of the males in this study were unemployed,
vocational counseling and job placement could be used to attract them
to the program.

3. Effective Parenting Skills:
   The development of effective parenting skills is also an aspect of
responsible fatherhood. Skill acquisition supports the hypothesis that
fathers can influence the cognitive and personal development of their
children (Argys, Peters, Brooks-Gunn & Smith, 1998; Johnson, 1995).
Assisting fathers in increasing knowledge of child development, expec-
tations, and discipline can enhance their role as fathers.

4. Physical and Mental Health:
   It is essential that programs assist young fathers to develop skills
and behaviors promoting a healthy life style. Since studies suggest
that young fathers engage in high-risk behavior such as unprotected
sexual activity, targeting these behavior appears to be relevant. This
includes addressing issues of family planning in order to prevent addi-
tional unplanned pregnancies that create additional strain. Studies of
young adults suggest that there is an association between sexual risk-
taking behavior and specific mental health problems such as depres-
sion, substance abuse and conduct disorder (Ramrakha, Caspi, Dick-
son, Moffitt & Paul, 2000). For example, a study in a clinic serving
young males found that clients utilized health services in order to re-
ceive mental health attention (Armstrong, Cohall, Vaughan, et al.,
1999). Recognition of these issues and problems demonstrates an over-
all concern for the fathers’ well being in addition to their children’s.
Moreover, the success of employment also depends on addressing ba-
sic mental health and preventive health issues. These services should
be a priority among program planners for young fathers. Health care
service could orient young fathers about the importance of physical
health to their well-being and self-esteem. Mental health services, and
specifically support groups, may be one way to have young fathers get
together and discuss their feelings in a non-threatening environment.
These services could also be regarded as enhancing their communica-
tion and negotiation skills which could help them to have more realis-
tic expectations about employment. It is interesting to note that in
the open-ended questions, young fathers stressed the importance of
employment and being a better person as goals for the program. The
             MAXINE L. WEINMAN, PEGGY B. SMITH, AND RUTH S. BUZI                  451

case managers noted how many young fathers had a need to talk
about their issues. This part of programming is often ignored in pro-
gram designs (Lane & Clay, 2000).
   In addition to the challenges of substance use, non-compliance to
contraceptives, crime, and low education, other factors such as low
attendance at programs, hopelessness, poor motivation, and compli-
ance affect program success. Kost (1997) notes in the Fathers Forever
Program (FFP) in Buffalo, New York the importance of keeping enroll-
ment fluid which includes taking walk-ins and outside referrals as
well as keeping fluid time lines for goal achievements. It is important
that the program reflects an atmosphere of support and hope, know-
ing that fathers will leave and return to the program at various points
in time. One of the pressing concerns is convincing funders that fluid-
ity is needed in tracking progress through the program and that spo-
radic attendance must be tolerated. Gains may also be slower in areas
such as employment and paternity than in such areas as preventive
health care and counseling. Programs for young fathers may need to
be conceptualized on different levels depending upon the assessment
profile. For example, it might be useful to separate programs by
whether or not the young father has a criminal history, or has dropped
out of school, or has more than one child. Some have suggested that
programs be geared toward socio-cultural or ethnic affiliations.
   The literature on successful programs for young fathers is still de-
veloping. Those of us who work directly in these programs have be-
come aware that teenage fathers are a very diverse group with differ-
ent needs and expectations depending on their school and employment
history, the number of children they have, and their experiences with
the criminal system. It may not be feasible for one program model to
meet all these needs. However, we believe that the core elements
listed above are essential to program development. The challenge
among professionals who work with young fathers is to first assess
their risk behaviors and service needs and then integrate essential
program components that are compatible with their identified needs.
Program developers need to know that intermediate services may be
the path to final goal attainment.


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