The Women's Role in the Fatherhood Movement

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					The Women’s Role in the
 Fatherhood Movement
       Melanie Funchess
  Nadia Cayce-Gibson, M.P.A.
       Frank Rider, M.S.
         Kim Williams

        National Federation of Families
         for Children’s Mental Health
              November 5, 2010
 Historically, fatherhood engagement efforts
 have been lacking; or strategies have been
 punitive (based mostly on child support
 enforcement). The Fatherhood Movement has
 shifted to include resiliency efforts, and
 has received increased national focus through
 recent initiatives of President Obama’s

 There are now many local, state and national
 fatherhood initiatives across the country to
 engage fathers.

Should women be involved? And if so, how?
            Today’s Objectives
1. Understanding authentic fatherhood engagement

2. Discussing strengths and challenges of engaging
   women in this movement

3. Discussing advantages for different groups why
   it is important for Women to be involved in the
   Fatherhood Movement

4. Sharing concrete strategies and resources to
   create, implement and sustain a diverse,
   fatherhood movement that includes the presence
   of women.
        Fathers Are Important!
Thousands of generations attest to essential roles
of both mothers and fathers in the healthy
development of their children.

Studies consistently show that children with
involved, loving fathers are much more likely to:
        – do well in school,
        – have healthy self-esteem,
        – exhibit empathy, pro-social behavior, and
        – avoid high-risk behaviors

compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.
      Fathers Are Important!
Children who do not live with their
biological fathers are two to three times
more likely to:

      – be poor
      – use drugs
      – experience educational, health, emotional
        and behavioral problems
      – be victims of child abuse; and
      – engage in criminal behavior,

…than their peers who live with their
married, biological (or adoptive) parents.
Today’s Fathers Are Recognizing
       Their Importance
  The Fatherhood Institute findings
     (April 2010 poll of 1,000 parents):

      52% men say they wish their father had
       spent more time with them when they were
       growing up.

      37% of fathers report they are trying to be
       closer to their children than their fathers were
       to them.

      35% saying they feel their father had little
       influence or no positive influence on their
       Understanding Authentic
       Fatherhood Engagement
Per CCAT Survey/National Evaluation findings
  among family members (2009), fathers:
           Love their children.
           Are an integral part of families and
           Can be part of the solutions needed to
           address challenges.
           Do not feel valued by service systems as
           much as they deserve to be.
           Bring rich perspective to systems
           Inclusion of male caregivers in systems of
           care is especially critical.
 Understanding Authentic
 Fatherhood Engagement
Ensure that fathers have access, voice and choice.

Understand fathers’ work schedules, and try to
schedule meetings at times that are convenient for

Professionals speak with and to (eye-to-eye contact)
fathers—not in ways that exclude, alienate them.

Engage fathers even when they must be absent (due
to work, immigration, military service, incarceration
status, etc.)
  Understanding Authentic
  Fatherhood Engagement
Individualize outreach and engagement with
fathers using methods that appeal to them
(e.g. culturally).

Offer engagement opportunities for fathers that
involve more doing than talking.

Be creative with outreach and recruitment
efforts: go where the fathers are; and recognize
that male-to-male outreach, engagement and
partnering is critical.
    Understanding Authentic
    Fatherhood Engagement
Acknowledge, respect that fathers have feelings,
despite that their communication styles are often
different than mothers’.

Create father friendly programs that focus
specifically on fathers, and are welcoming and
engaging to males.

Arrange opportunities for fathers to lead projects
and to which they can recruit other males.

Ensure the inclusion and participation of fathers in
family support groups and family leadership teams.
 Should We, or Shouldn’t We?
―The organizers of the 1995 Million
Man March asked women to stay
―There is a cultural rationale for the
exclusion of women…‖
―Men can’t be fathers unless the
mothers of their children allow it.‖
     Strengths and Challenges with
Engaging Women in the Fatherhood Movement

       – Member of the family unit
           Share caregiving role
           Desire to give and receive male support in
           sharing parenting roles.

       – Major ―Users‖ of child-serving systems
           Can act as a liaison
           Bring experience
           Support to Dad for modeling to systems
           that he is a valued and equal partner.
Strengths and Challenges with Engaging
 Women in the Fatherhood Movement

      – Understanding that Dads are equal parents

      – Understanding that systems aren’t as
        “Dad-friendly” as they are “Mom-friendly”

      – Understanding that Parenting is not gender-

      – As ―liaisons‖ to systems, Moms need to
        bridge communication to those systems that
        Dads are parents, too!
Engaging Women in the Fatherhood
 Movement: What’s in It for Men?

    An ally in advocacy

    A partner in parenting

    A supporter for your role

    A ―bridge builder‖ for systems
Engaging Women in the Fatherhood
Movement: What’s in It for Women?
Women want to share the responsibility

Women know Fathers love their children

        Offering children/youth a unique
        perspective and learnings that only
        a father can impart

An ally in advocacy
Engaging Women in the Fatherhood
Movement: What’s in It for Systems?
There are fathers who are part of families raising

      Fathers can speak for themselves and
      bring a uniqueness that mothers cannot

      For families with involved fathers, this
      helps ―demystify‖ a piece that is often
      otherwise a mystery to systems

Having more perspectives and more options for
support of children/youth.
   Engaging Women in the Fatherhood
Movement: What’s in it for Children/Youth?
    Children don’t have to choose which parent
    to advocate if BOTH are involved

         Children gain from the parents’ sharing
         their different perspectives

         Children get to see fathers in a strong
         positive light that is supported by mom

    Children feel supported by a united force.
 Some Challenging Thoughts to Consider as
Women Participate in the Fatherhood Movement

        relinquish some power?

          be comfortable in a family movement
          that is developed by men for men?

          believe in the abilities,
          talents and strengths of men regardless
          of their needs?

        broaden your perspectives beyond the
        personal relationship?
 Some Challenging Thoughts to Consider as
Women Participate in the Fatherhood Movement

         offer supportive feedback when
         you have a concern?

         be open to when a women can serve
         as a liaison between you and the

         be willing to learn from the family
         movement, which has been traditionally
         led by women?
 Some Challenging Thoughts to Consider as
Women Participate in the Fatherhood Movement

             create an environment that is
             conducive to fathers playing active,
             important roles?

             engage mothers and fathers

             be comfortable increasing the
             advocacy movement which may
             ultimately challenge you?
National Fatherhood Initiative's (NFI) Father Facts
TA Partnership – Cultural
Competence Action Team (CCAT)

– Fatherhood Initiative
   Fatherhood Guide
   List Serve – contact Amy Johnson @
   Monthly Calls – 2nd Tuesdays of the month
     – 3PM EST Call info: (800) 503-2899,
 Contact Us:
Melanie Funchess
– Email:

Nadia Cayce-Gibson
– Email:

Frank Rider
– Email:

Kim Williams
– Email:

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