The First Things First Strategy:
Collaboration, Mobilization and
First Things First is a community based nonprofit initiative dedicated to strengthening families
through education, collaboration, and mobilization. Based in Chattanooga, TN, FTF is mobilizing
one community to strengthen families and restore a marriage culture.
Chattanooga lies in east Tennessee, two hours north of Atlanta, bordering North Georgia, North
Alabama, and North Carolina. The population in the metropolitan area is about 453,000. In
2000, our estimated per capita income was $22,582.
Unemployment was at 4.10 percent in 1996. (As of 2000 unemployment is 2.8 percent)
Chattanooga has the 68th lowest cost of living of 318 cities surveyed in the United States (1997
ACCRA Cost of Living Index).
Making a tough transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service and tourism driven
Beautiful place to live, with rolling lush green hills, the Tennessee River traversing through the
city, and a true renaissance revitalizing and reclaiming the downtown and North Shore areas.
Chattanooga has been the subject of numerous national and international news articles in the
last 17 years, and the city is a frequent site for national and international visitors who want to
learn how to revitalize a community.
Despite all the great things that have happened in Chattanooga in the last 17 years, difficult
systemic problems endured. Concern remained high about crime, a poorly equipped work force,
poor health status despite soaring health costs, and periodic racial tension continued to stress our
In 1997, a group of civic leaders who were frustrated with the vast resources being devoted to some
of these issues -- sometimes with relatively limited results -- began to question whether proactive
preventive measures could address the issues of educational quality, crime, and related issues.
Research revealed the compelling links between family breakdown and the core issues facing the
community. Their next discovery truly mobilized them:
Chattanooga’s family health indicators were stunning:
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The divorce rate was 50 percent higher than the national average (33 percent/22 percent);
Tennessee ranked fourth in the nation for divorce (6.8 per 1000; national is 4.6 per 1000). In
1999, the state had the dubious distinction of moving to number two in the nation, behind only
Chattanooga had the 5th highest unwed birth rate of 128 cities in the nation, and in 1994, 50
percent of births in the city and 39 percent of births in the county were to single mothers;
Tennessee ranked 3rd worst in the nation for the number of families headed by a single parent (1
in 3 families, compared to 1 in 4 nationwide). In 2000, we moved to 8th worst.
There was a significant lack of father involvement.
One researcher said: “The absence of marriage, not race, is the major factor in explaining crime
rates and poverty. The rise in crime is tied to the disintegration of marriage. The impact on the
child is significant and can be permanent. Out-of-wedlock birth and growing up in a single-parent
family means that the child is more likely to:
suffer from poorer health as a newborn (if mother is very young),
an increased chance of dying,
retarded cognitive and verbal development,
lower educational achievements,
lower job attainment,
increased behavior and emotional problems,
lower impulse control,
retarded social development, etc.
The root cause of these ills lies not in poverty, but in the lack of married parents.”
This lovely community located in the buckle of the Bible Belt was populated by families who were
in a serious state of crisis.
In 1997, these concerned leaders began to form First Things First. The program was created in
recognition of family breakup and its effect on our community. It was designed as an experiment to
see if it was possible to change attitudes and behaviors, to reverse the spiraling divorce and out-of-
wedlock pregnancy rates, and to re-engage fathers in the lives of their children. The new initiative
was unveiled at a news conference in August 1997.
FTF Vision and Strategy
In an effort to reverse the trends of destructive relationships and to strengthen the infrastructure
of our community, First Things First:
Advocates for strong, healthy, life long marriage;
Promotes the fact that it is imperative for both mothers and fathers to be active in the lives of
their children; and
Works to prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
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Several strategic organizational decisions have guided FTF’s work.
To build on the common ground shared by all people in our community;
To be a secular organization that intentionally seeks to build bridges between sacred and
secular, public and private;
To demonstrate that these issues are common concerns shared by and impacting people of all
faiths, races, and socioeconomic groups;
To focus on advocacy, education, mobilization, and technical assistance;
To work with a wide array of programs and initiatives that support family formation,
increasing family stability, and creating systemic and long-lasting change; and
To create a community-wide assault involving government, places of worship, social service
agencies, the private sector, the media, and private citizens.
To use credible research to identify and understand significant problems facing
Chattanooga, emphasizing families and youth.
To identify solutions that are based on traditional values and principles; to measure the
effectiveness of these solutions based on credible, empirical data and to evaluate the
impact of these potential solutions.
To build broad public support for values based solutions through advocacy,
communication, and collaboration rather than providing direct client services.
To engage and equip local leaders and professionals who work with families who are also
promoting values-based solutions, and to provide support that advances their effectiveness.
First Things First has three strategic goals:
1. Reduce the number of divorces filed in Hamilton County by 30 percent
2. Reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies in Hamilton County by 30 percent
3. Increase sufficient involvement of fathers in raising children by 30 percent
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The Community Mobilization Strategy
Collaboration and Partnership
FTF builds partnerships and collaborations on three key levels:
1. Collaborating with agencies and institutional partners
2. Mobilizing individual partners and volunteers
3. Strategic use of media
Collaborating with agencies and institutional partners
At the same time, First Things First has sought to build strategic alliances with key agencies and
programs that serve families or that have an impact on family policy. FTF’s partnerships with area
news media is a good example of this. Other strategic partnerships have included:
The Hamilton County Courts – First Things First organized a Divorce Education and
Mediation Pilot Project for the courts. The program requires divorcing couples with children,
under the age of 18, to attend a four-hour class on the impact divorce has on kids. Then it helps
parents work together to develop a parenting plan for their children. The pilot project was
approved by the legislature but was given limited funding. Three weeks after our kick-off news
conference, FTF was asked to assist the courts in implementing the project. We built a
community coalition, obtained broad professional and citizen involvement, coordinated media
outreach and public education, and raised funds to conduct an independent evaluation of the
program. The independent evaluation was a key factor in the Tennessee General Assembly’s
decision to expand the program statewide.
Hamilton County Schools. FTF assisted the schools in building public support for a new
character education initiative. That relationship opened the door for prompt approval of an
FTF/school partnership to launch a Father of the Year Essay Contest. More than 20,000
essays have been received in the three years we have sponsored the contest.
Hamilton County Health Department. FTF serves on the regional teen pregnancy
prevention council and has dramatically increased coverage of teen pregnancy prevention
month, Let’s Talk Month, and other outreach activities.
Churches, Synagogues, and Other Places of Worship. FTF does outreach to area faith
organizations and shares program ideas and resources with all faith-based institutions that
want to strengthen families. FTF has provided extensive staff resources for the local
MarriageSavers initiative, and now staffs the initiative directly.
Government and Public Policy. FTF’s public policy committee is co-chaired by the City
Council Chairman (a Muslim) and a chief aide to the County Executive (a Southern Baptist).
The committee includes representatives from all relevant agencies, private citizens,
advocates, and others interested in family policy. The City Council Chair has designated
Fathering as his special emphasis and we will be assisting him in a number of initiatives to
identify barriers to family stability and family formation, fathering, and related issues.
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Business Community Outreach. During the annual National Family Week observance, FTF
partners with several other agencies and local business organizations to focus on family-friendly
workplace policies, to recognize a family friendly business of the year, and a family of the year.
Regional Health Council. Staff served on the Regional Health Council, and chaired the
Work Group on Health Strategies to Reduce Risky Sexual Behaviors. The Council has
adopted a goal of reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies across the board – not just teen
pregnancies – because of the growing recognition of the health, economic, social, emotional,
and broad societal impacts of out-of-wedlock childbearing.
Colleges and Universities. FTF works closely with area colleges and universities, inviting
their participation and co-sponsorship of selected events, developing internships, and
providing speakers for college classes. We are currently working with University of
Tennessee at Chattanooga officials to develop a relationship curriculum for their freshman
Medical Society. FTF partnered with the Hamilton County Medical Society to publish a
guide to help parents talk to their kids about sex, which is being distributed through
pediatrician’s offices and youth-serving organizations throughout the region.
Counselors and Mental Health Professionals. FTF has hosted training seminars to equip
area professionals with skills to help couples keep their marriage intact. Training offered
include: Divorce Busting, Prevention Relationship Enhancement Program, Marriage Savers
Mentor Training and The Stepfamily Journey. When possible, we offer modules relevant for
both secular and faith-based professionals.
Hospitals. FTF obtained the rights to Boot Camp for New Dads and brought together area
hospitals to offer it as a community service at all area hospitals that deliver babies in addition
to other locations in the community. We also teach classes for new parents to help them keep
their marriage strong after the baby arrives.
Families First Out-of-Wedlock Pregnancy Task Force. FTF served on and now is the
convener for the state welfare reform agency’s pregnancy prevention task force. Participation
in the task force process enabled us to present important research on family formation, help
shape the content of focus groups, and generally raise the awareness of the extreme
difficulties faced by mothers and children. The bottom line was reinforcing that family
structure does matter, fathers should not be considered optional equipment, and government
policy should not further undermine family formation.
Volunteer Agencies. FTF serves on a variety of coalitions that target early childhood
education, parenting, and related issues. We provide a voice for the importance of involving
and educating fathers, supporting and strengthening marriage, and related is sues.
Fathering Initiative. FTF has held several public sessions to educate citizens and leaders
about the impact of effective fathering and to mobilize them for action. These included a
Fatherhood Summit and a Fatherhood Symposium. Fathering classes are offered for men at
various locations in the city. In response to numerous requests, we have started a lunch time
meeting for single fathers to help them deal with the challenges of parenting from a distance.
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Early Childhood Education Programs. FTF offered free technical assistance to early
childhood development programs, such as Early Head Start, and First Steps to incorporate
fathering material into their curriculums. We have partnered with numerous programs to train
their trainers, provide speakers on fathering issues, and to generally raise awareness and
action on this important issue.
Special Interest Groups. FTF has strategic relationships with organizations such as the
statewide Fathering advocacy group, the local Domestic Violence Coalition, organizations
targeting fragile families, job training organizations, the local Urban League, etc. This
enables FTF to be aware of special concerns or issues, to address concerns early, and to build
strong community-based support for initiatives.
Mobilizing Individuals and Volunteers
Mobilizing individuals is crucial to implement true cultural change. We have mobilized individuals
around these issue areas so they can go forward in their individual areas of influence – churches,
workplaces, agencies – and in their personal lives to make an impact.
How have we done this?
Finding volunteers (and creating the first database)
Recruited volunteers and potential supporters who were friends of board or staff, community
leaders, church leaders, fellow leaders in civic organizations. We created a unique 3,000-
person database in our first six months; we now have a 12,000-person database.
Recruited 100 initial partner couples, who made financial contributions and were invited to
first community mobilization training seminar. They in turn recruited other couples and
Sign-up sheets for potential volunteers and for newsletter at every event.
Finding creative ways to involve and engage volunteers, including:
Recruiting members of Civitan and other service organizations to judge our annual Father of
the Year Essay Contest. We have involved literally thousands of volunteers in the last eight
Recruiting key civic leaders to serve on the Board of Directors and Committees.
Utilizing volunteers in all public events, including seminars and training.
Using their skills and talents for media interviews, letters to the editor, writing, photography,
and public speaking.
Providing training to volunteers and community leaders, including:
Community Mobilization Training (which encouraged at least three people to run for public
office, including one person who won a Chancery Court race);
Skills training for program leaders in curricula such as Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers, I-
CANs of Fathering, Quenching the Father Thirst, Boot Camp for New Dads, PREP,
Keeping Love Alive, Prepare/Enrich, etc.
Training marriage mentors in area churches to promote and develop family life ministries
that focus on marriage preparation and nurturing, fathering and parenting, and focus on all
stages of family development.
Producing a Marriage and Family Resource Manual for area church leaders.
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Educating them about family formation issues and empowering them to be a voice for
families on the boards, commissions, and work groups on which they serve.
Mobilizing and educating volunteers about how they can make a difference in their own
spheres of influence.
FTF frequently uses the “14 Things You Can Do” handout to motivate and encourage
people to do something.
The Law of Unintended Consequences: We have lost several board members over the last
eight years. After learning about the importance of fathers, they realized they had been
neglecting their families and they resigned from numerous boards and volunteer
organizations to spend more time at home.
An annual appreciation event is hosted for volunteers. A local television station features our
volunteer event as one of their weekly “Backyard BBQs.” The weather reports are done
from our event during the evening news, and we are featured on the segment two or three
times. Our volunteers are honored by FTF and recognized by the local media.
Strategic Use of Media
One of our strategic goals was to educate the public about our three areas of concern. We would
have to employ all types of media to successfully reach our audiences.
Electronic – television, radio, internet, movie theaters
Print - newspaper, magazines, entertainment tabloids, and special publications
Outdoor Advertising – Billboards and bus placards
Our plan for getting this information out to the public would have to be multifaceted for a
number of reasons
Different target audiences
Obviously, some people choose one medium over another
We knew that we would need the help of all of the different types of media outlets in our
community. Relationships are critical because of the trust factor. We had staff members with
long-term relationships with the media. People trusted us, which made it easier to get their
personal buy in.
We knew that we would need the media as our ally. It was as critical for the front line people
to buy into our cause as it was for the station directors and publishers to believe in the cause.
We chose to do several things to meet our goal:
We held a kick off press conference where we identified ourselves as a resource for the media
when it came to issues surrounding the family. We made it very easy for them to cover our issues
by providing them with: 1) the information, 2) real people who had experienced the issues, and
3) several different examples of community organizations that were addressing the issues we
were talking about. This allowed each media outlet to choose an angle that was unique.
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We also established credibility by involving the mayor and county executive, as well as highly
respected community leaders, at the opening news conference.
From the start, the FTF approach has been to provide excellent service and support for the news
media. We told the media, “If you are dealing with an issue surrounding the family – call us and
we will help you put the story together.” We have tried to focus on promoting issues and
solutions versus programs.
This was our strategy, but we weren’t sure how they would respond. To our pleasant surprise –
they loved it and from that day forward we have built a very strong relationship with all of the
media outlets in our market. They even call us for information totally unrelated to our issues
because they know we will help them.
Most reporters work very long hours. Making their job easier is the first step in building
effective media partnerships.
The first thing we did was work to establish ourselves as the experts with information
resources and access to great sources.
Second - We don’t wait for them to call us. We call with story ideas that fit with the
news of the day, as well as with interview ideas that are geared toward the audience they
are trying to reach. In other words, we are trying to make this a win-win situation.
Fathering – Father’s Day
National Family Week
Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month
National Marriage Week
Black Marriage Sunday
Tips for healthy relationships
Helping teens dealing with conflict
Talking to your children about sex
Local Perspective on National Issues
We also call to offer a local perspective on emerging national issues. When a national
story is breaking – like the recent Kids’ Count report – we often call local reporters to
offer local data and a comment on the local implications of the national event. After
almost five years, they usually call us for a comment before we can initiate a call.
We collaborate with other family organizations by utilizing them for interviews and
information. This helps the community learn about other resources and we accomplish
our goals in the process. There are many times that we line up interviews using people
from other organizations and we are never mentioned. Our concern is educating people
versus getting all the credit.
We looked across the country to find excellent media campaigns in our three issue areas.
We were able to purchase rights to the campaigns, rather than produce new campaigns,
saving thousands of dollars that could be used instead for media buys.
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We have partnered with Families Northwest, the National Fatherhood Initiative/Ad Council, the
Rocky Mountain Family Council, Campaign for Our Children, and other groups to bring excellent
campaigns into our market.
We buy time on the networks, including cable. In fact, our biggest buy is with cable since people
now watch the cable stations more than the three broadcast networks. All of the outlets match our
buy at least one-to-one. Many of them use our ads as filler for the times that don’t sell.
One reason that we chose to buy times was to ensure that our ads would not just go into the PSA
rotation, which usually means your ad will air at 3 a.m.
Through making the media buys we accomplished three things:
The stations knew we were serious about getting the word out to the people – so it helped
us gain credibility.
We didn’t just come begging to the stations to run our ads; we were willing to lay
something on the table as well.
We were able to have more control over when the ads aired. We know that at least half
of the ads will air during the times that our target audience is watching.
One of our goals is to decrease out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Certainly, one audience we have to
reach is teenagers. Our media buy includes stations like VH1 and MTV, BET. At one point,
some of our board members questioned why we supported these networks. Our response is that
we have to go where the audience is. Teens and young adults are not watching the same shows
we are watching.
In addition to intuition about the best places to air PSAs, we obtained valuable information about
audience demographics from area television stations. While you can intuitively assume that men
were watching ESPN and that women liked HGTV, the stations were able to provide much
Website and e-newsletter. We developed a website that includes current research, news
releases, background information, volunteer opportunities, information about upcoming events,
and other links to family-friendly organizations. This site is frequently accessed by area news
media in search of new data.
We also developed a monthly e-newsletter that provides a simple, but effective way to
communicate with a significant part of our target market.
What are the benefits of developing a strategic media partnership?
The key benefit is ownership for the issues within the media outlets themselves. These issues
affect all of us and we made sure the media understood that they had the potential to be a part of
the solution. We made them partners in the process.
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How are we doing?
Marriage and Divorce
Divorce filings in Hamilton County have decreased 28 percent in eight years. The divorce rate
has decreased 20 percent.
The Divorce Education and Parenting Plan Pilot Project is now permanent and the state
legislature voted to expand the program statewide.
There are numerous reports of couples who went to the divorce education class and decided to
go to counseling instead of court.
In partnership with the Urban League and The Front Porch Alliance, FTF helped to start the
African American Marriage Initiative, which held its first couple’s conference in April. There
was a standing room only crowd.
145 churches now require premarital counseling before performing weddings.
There are emerging marriage mediation and “Peacemakers” movements in Chattanooga that
seek to begin mediation processes before marriages reach a crisis stage, and that seek to equip
churches in biblical peacemaking/conciliation.
More than 7,000 people have attended our marriage education seminars.
Father involvement has increased dramatically.
Dozens of new leaders have been trained to teach various fathering curricula.
Public awareness of fathering issues and media coverage of issues has increased dramatically.
Churches are incorporating fathering training in their family life ministries.
Early childhood education programs, hospitals, and schools are incorporating fathering into
Father of the Year Essay Contest has been incorporated into the county school system’s
Tennessee Legislature has approved the creation of the Tennessee Commission on Responsible
In Hamilton County teen out-of-wedlock births have decreased 23 percent. Out-of-wedlock
births for women age 20-44 have increased.
Relevant public agencies are moving away from a value-neutral position on out-of-wedlock
pregnancy, and recognizing the profound and often permanent risk it engenders for women and
The Hamilton County Regional Health Council has adopted reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancy
as a community health goal.
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Take the long view. Systemic change takes time, and some initiatives require a long-term
commitment. Change agents must be willing to serve patiently, build credibility, and develop
relationships, which can enable you to have real impact on the public policy agenda.
Creating systemic cultural change requires developing multiple levels of advocacy. Consistent,
patient, fact-based advocacy on family formation, father involvement, health and other risks for
children in single-parent families can have an impact on public policy over time.
Determined advocates can have a powerful impact, even without the benefit of a local
organization such as First Things First. One does not need a separate agency to be an effective
advocate. However, it is important to have a catalyst to educate, mobilize, and identify
opportunities. This can be a focused, independent organization; however, a coalition or roundtable
can also be created to focus this effort. Such a group could meet monthly to discuss issues and
opportunities, to collaborate on projects that will raise the visibility of marriage, fathering, and
related issues, and to provide a constant voice for families.
Communicate clearly and listen carefully to your supporters. Let your supporters and other
like-minded individuals know what they can do to help – and suggest ways you can help. We
regularly provide briefing materials for reporters, officials, researchers, and others who are
interested in these issues. Our strategic relationship with the court system came about because a
state senator who knew of our interest in reducing divorce and strengthening marriage arranged a
meeting between FTF and the judges charged with implementing the pilot project.
Develop a network to learn when (and who) to ask for help, and when to offer help. When you
develop effective partnerships with other agencies and individuals, you can call on them for help.
You can also open the door to opportunities by offering your assistance, which enables you to help
shape the community’s agenda.
Give volunteers multiple opportunities and points of entry. We offer a variety of opportunities
for volunteers and we recruit volunteers at every event we sponsor. Our volunteer information form
asks about their interest areas, as well as for information about the church and civic organizations
they attend. This enables us to establish points of contact with different congregations and
organizations to arrange future speaking engagements, to involve them in upcoming programs, and
to build long-term relationships.
Entrust important work to your volunteers. We use volunteers for events; for advocacy
activities such as writing letters to the legislature and to newspapers; to request and arrange
speaking engagements with their civic clubs, churches, and schools. We encourage them to be the
voice of the family in public settings, and we provide materials to help them do that. When we
needed to request financial support for our church outreach initiative, several volunteers made the
actual requests to their churches on our behalf. They could discuss FTF’s work from personal
Build a strategic partnership with the news media. The media will respond if the material is user
friendly, fact-based, and timely/news worthy. Be proactive, not reactive. Give them a heads-up on
emerging issues, provide concise and readable backgrounders on key issues (to editorial writers as
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well as reporters), offer them advance interviews with well known speakers who are coming to
town, and take the time to learn their personal issues and areas of interest.
Promote issues, not organizations. By promoting the issues – even when it means directing media
to another organization or source – we have gained credibility, and, ultimately respect, from the
news media and from other agencies. This approach has helped us earn a reputation as a viable, fair
Don’t hog the good stuff. Helping other agencies gain media coverage is seldom wasted.
Directing the media to other agencies who are doing credible work has also strengthened our
partnerships with the agencies. As they see us as collaborators, not competitors, we gain credibility
and earn their public support.
You can accomplish great things if you don’t care who gets the credit. This may be the central
lesson. Public entities at every level are overworked and overextended. Most will accept your help,
which provides access to the policy process. They are especially open if you are willing to work
behind the scenes to provide technical assistance and advice.
Strategically target and work with key agencies and opinion leaders who are in a position of
influence over family policy. In some areas, particularly out-of-wedlock pregnancy, it will take
years to overcome the barriers and make significant progress. But finding key leaders in strategic
positions and educating and mobilizing them will hasten the work.
Identify credible representatives. There is no doubt that the strong relationships that the FTF
staff already had in multiple arenas eased the process of community acceptance and built
credibility. Similarly, the recognizable leaders on our board of directors offered credibility and
earned us a hearing in many settings.
Tap into the resource offered by faith communities. While FTF is a secular, value-based
initiative, about 20 percent of our work is with the faith community. Mobilizing and equipping faith
communities to strengthen families is a logical and powerful strategy. We reinforce the common
ground that exists between people of all faiths and all backgrounds when it comes to the core issue
of family. FTF has sought to demonstrate that effective programs can cut across artificial lines of
sacred and secular, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, and other descriptors to bring people
together around a crucial set of issues.
Be willing to tackle tough or controversial issues. In developing fathering and divorce reform
initiatives, it is important to understand and address concerns such as safe sex, domestic violence,
and custody issues.
Use technology to work smart. Our website, e-newsletter, e-mail capability, and strategic use of
media have allowed us to be involved on many fronts, despite a small staff.
Failure is not a bad thing if you learn from it. Early in the process, we recognized internally that
the goal to reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancy by 30 percent in a short period of time would require
nothing short of an act of God. But we did not try to modify or change the goals at that point, nor
did we drop it as a goal. We simply recognize that changing attitudes and behaviors about fathering
and about marriage are a prerequisite to making lasting, systemic change to reduce the out-of-
wedlock pregnancy rate. This tough goal is a powerful motivator that holds our feet to the fire.
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Use research often and honestly. Many are quick to marginalize initiatives to strengthen
traditional family forms as a closeted attempt to promote a religious or political agenda. Basing
policy proposals on solid, reputable research is crucial. We regularly remind media that we aren’t
the experts…we are just referring them to what the experts say.
Identify obstacles and develop specific strategies to overcome them. Because family initiatives
are often marginalized, we knew it was important for the public face of FTF to be as diverse as its
audience was. The three speakers we have hosted for major fundraising events have been Michael
Medved (a media critic who is Jewish), Joe Jones (head of the National Center for Fathers,
Families, and Workforce Development in Baltimore), and Chuck Colson (an evangelical who spoke
about families and culture). Invocations at public events have been offered by local pastors of
different denominations, a Muslim city councilman, and a local Rabbi. Again, this has visibly
demonstrated that these issues are common ground between people of all faiths.
Transforming a community is all about relationships. This work cannot be done in a vacuum. It
sometimes requires partnering with people or programs with which you may have some areas of
difference. We focus on the 80 percent we agree on, and respectfully disagree on the rest.
The messenger must fit the message. The messenger needs to have credibility in the community
receiving the message. FTF recruits and trains a variety of volunteers and area professionals to
ensure that the messenger is appropriate.
Participate actively within the system. This allows you to network, grow in the issues, and have
an impact on setting the agenda that will shape public policy. Never underestimate the power of the
“Asked Question.” By pleasantly sharing data, asking questions, and participating in the policy
process, an effective and persistent advocate can get important issues on the table. For instance,
while preparing for focus groups with single, low-income mothers, FTF suggested asking a question
about attitudes about marriage, and another about the participants’ personal religious values. Some
important information was uncovered that has opened new doors for engaging faith communities to
address the issue of out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Essentially, those questions tapped into some
important personal values shared by these individuals that would have been missed had we not
asked the question. The question probably would not have been asked had we not been at the table.
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FTF Partnership and Collaborative Relationships
1. 100 Black Men
2. 100 Black Women
3. 145 Area Churches
4. AAA Women’s Services (assisting in developing men’s program, including fathering)
5. Alton Park Development Corporation (technical assistance)
7. Area Child Care Centers
8. Association of Marriage and Family Ministries
9. Audubon Acres Nature Center (Kickin it with Dad)
10. Barnes and Noble Booksellers
11. Bethlehem Community Center (inner city center)
12. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee
13. Boot Camp for New Dads (local and national relationships, national conference in
Chattanooga, training and sponsor programs)
14. Boys Club of Chattanooga (Ron Johnson – Rites of Passage)
15. CADAS Substance Abuse Treatment Program (fathering classes)
16. Campaign for Our Children (ad campaign)
17. Chattanooga Association for the Education of Young Children (local board, co-sponsor
18. Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce -- Chattanooga Insight and Leadership Chattanooga
19. Chattanooga Department of Human Services
20. Chattanooga Housing Authority
21. Chattanooga Lookouts Baseball
22. Chattanooga Outlook – An arts, entertainment and human interest newspaper
23. Chattanooga Parks and Recreation (fathering classes)
24. Chattanooga Resource Foundation (leadership development, partnered for MarriageSavers,
25. Child Abuse Prevention Advocacy Council
26. Children’s Advocacy Center (National Family Week activities)
27. Citadel Communications
28. Civitan (Father of the Year essay contest)
29. City of Chattanooga
30. CityScope Magazine (Contribute articles)
31. Clear Channel Outdoor
32. Clergy Koinonia
33. Coalition for Marriage, Family, and Couples Education, LLC (Smart Marriages)
34. Community Impact Fund
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35. Community Research Council (research activities)
36. Community Services Agency
37. Covenant College
38. Covenant Transport
39. Creative Discovery Museum (parenting activities)
40. Crown Ministries (financial planning for families)
41. DAD of Tennessee (fathering legislation, Fatherhood Symposium)
42. Domestic Violence Coalition of Greater Chattanooga
43. Parkridge East Hospital (Boot Camp)
44. Erlanger Hospital (Boot Camp)
45. Families First Out-of-Wedlock Pregnancy Task Force (chair)
46. Families First Advisory Council
47. Family and Children’s Services (partner for National Family Week activities and other
trainings throughout the year)
48. Family Life (church training, assist with promoting annual marriage conference)
49. Fathering Public Policy Committee
50. First Tennessee Bank
51. Front Porch Alliance (board member; outreach to link faith-based community and
neighborhoods…effort to establish relationships for future programming)
52. Frontier Bank
53. Geico Insurance
54. Girls Inc. (Ron Johnson event)
55. Girl Scouts
56. Hamilton County Court Clerk’s Office (Distribute brochure: Ten Things to Consider Before
You Walk Down the Aisle)
57. Hamilton County Circuit and Chancery Courts -- Divorce Education and Mediation Project
58. Hamilton County Health Department (work with OWL initiatives and other community
59. Hamilton County Jail (Fathering and relationship classes)
60. Hamilton County Juvenile Court – (Living Separately, Parenting Together Classes, and Teen
61. Hamilton County Medical Society Foundation (co-sponsored “Talking to your kids about
62. Hamilton County Schools (character education initiative and Father of the Year Essay
63. Harley Owners Group
64. Harriett Tubman Express Abstinence Education Program
65. Health Scope Magazine (contributing writers)
66. Head Start/Early Head Start (Fathering and relationship classes)
67. Hope for Chattanooga
68. Inner City Ministries (fathering classes)
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69. Institute for American Values (marriage initiative and OWL initiative)
70. Junior League
71. Kiwanis Club of Chattanooga
72. Links of Chattanooga (partnership for Father of the Year Essay Contest)
73. Marriage Savers™
74. Medical Community
75. Medical Institute for Sexual Health
76. Memorial Hospital (co-sponsor training events, faith-based health teams, abstinence
77. Men’s Ministry Network (collaborate on training and outreach activities)
78. Mental Health Community
79. Monica’s Bridal Shop
80. National Abstinence Clearinghouse
81. National Family Life & Education Center
82. National Center for Fathering
83. National Center for Strategic Nonprofit Planning and Community Leadership
84. National Families and Work Institute
85. National Fatherhood Initiative (Regional Training Location)
86. Outreach to America’s Youth (co-sponsor abstinence speakers)
87. Parents are First Teachers
88. Parents’ Place (steering committee, offer fathering classes)
89. Partners in Prevention (Teen Pregnancy Prevention) (member, assist with pregnancy
90. Partnership for Children, Adults and Families (steering committee, technical assistance,
fathering programs and curriculum assistance)
91. Prepare/Enrich (local trainers)
92. Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) – local trainers, sponsor
93. READ Chattanooga
94. Regional Health Council (establishes health priorities for community and directs some
95. Regional Health Council Community Health Planning Committee (serve on work group)
96. Regional Health Council Work Group on Health Strategies to Prevent Risky Sexual
97. Safe n Sound (fathering classes, curriculum development)
98. Salvation Army (fathering initiative)
99. Signal Centers (Consortium leader for delivery of services for TANF families in 6 counties)
100. Smalley Relationship Center (local host for seminar)
101. Sports Barn
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103. Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (Divorce Education and Mediation Pilot
104. Tennessee Association for the Education of Young Children (board and conference
105. The Bridal Center of Chattanooga (Donates space for us to teach marriage education
107. Urban League of Greater Chattanooga (programs such as women’s group on fathering
and fathering classes)
108. UTC Department of Human Ecology (co-sponsored Symposium)
109. United Way’s Project Ready for School (steering committee, communications
110. Westside Community Development Corporation
111. Workforce Development
112. WRCB – NBC Affiliate
113. WTVC – ABC Affiliate
114. WDEF – CBS Affiliate
115. WDSI – FOX
116. WNOO radio
117. Why kNOw (abstinence efforts, provide technical assistance and media assistance)
118. Women’s East Pavilion
119. YMCA (co-sponsor National Family Week activities, classes and other events)
Board or Committee Representation (FTF professional staff serve/have served
on board or committee)
1. Hamilton County Schools Character Education Steering Committee
2. Chattanooga Resource Foundation Leadership Committee
3. Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program
4. Community Research Council Board
5. Creative Discovery Museum Board
6. Divorce Education Pilot Project Steering Committee, convener, secretary-treasurer
7. Divorce Education Pilot Project Coalition
8. Domestic Violence Coalition Board, newsletter, liaison for Parenting Plan Pilot Project
9. Front Porch Alliance Board of Directors
10. Hassle-Free Communities Initiative
11. Chattanooga Homeless Coalition Board
12. Invest in Children Steering Committee
13. Kiwanis Club of Chattanooga Board
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14. March of Dimes Board
15. Mayor’s Faith Based and Community Partnerships Advisory Board
16. Marriage Savers of Chattanooga Steering Committee
17. Family Connection
18. Parent’s Place Steering Committee
19. Partnership for Children Steering Committee
21. Regional Health Council (and related committees)
22. Rotary Club, Program Committee
23. Scenic City Women’s Network
24. Signal Centers Board (Administers TANF )
25. Tennessee Association for the Education of Young Children
26. United Way Grants Roundtable
27. YMCA Youth Leadership Board
Barna Research Group
Community Research Council
Wirthlin Worldwide Research Group
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Psychology Department
UTC Research Department
First Things First – Reproduction of this material only with permission 18
Julie M. Baumgardner
President and Executive Director
Rozario L. Slack
Director of Fathering and Urban Initiatives
Projects and Logistics Director
Chief Development Officer
Assistant Officer Manager
First Things First
701 Cherokee Blvd., Suite 230
Chattanooga, TN 37405
First Things First – Reproduction of this material only with permission 19