Engaging Fathers

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) has provided resources, curricula, and training on father involvement since 2000.  The Basic Fatherhood Training Curriculum was developed as part of a demonstration project in which child welfare social workers received training and assistance to engage fathers in their children’s lives.  The project was successful and was one of the first to show that training practitioners is a key component of engaging fathers.

Additional studies over the past two decades show that early engagement of fathers is critical to engaging and involving them in their children’s lives. Early engagement is also important because the practitioner’s efforts and the father’s involvement tend to peak within about six months.

To assist practitioners with early engagement of fathers, the following is a six-week plan for engagement of non-residential fathers whose children are involved in the child welfare system:

Week 1:  

Identify the father of the child

Obtain a physical address for the father

Share with the mother how a father can be a resource

Contact the father: schedule face-to-face meeting

Week 2: 

Complete assessment form on father’s current involvement

Explore with father how he can be a resource to the child

If father is a limited resource, ask if his extended family could be a resource for the child

Identify services and resources that the father needs

Arrange a visit between the father and child

Week 3:     

Provide information and discuss with the father the developmental stage/needs of the child

Suggest activities that the father and child can do together

Discuss with the mother what the father’s involvement with the child can do to help her                       (child care, co-parenting, respite)

Connect both parents to services and resources that include addressing their co-parenting                     roles

Include father in the case plan

Week 4:    

Assist the father with scheduling a visit to the child’s school (pre-school, nursery)

Discuss with the father how services and resources are helping him to become more                            involved in the child’s life

Ask the child (if appropriate age) what his father’s involvement means to the child

Week 5:     

Discuss with each parent (or arrange a meeting with the father and mother) their view of                      the father’s involvement, assist with setting up a schedule for the father’s time with the                        child, and help establish methods/frequency of communication between the parents

Explore with the father what other services and resources are needed for him to maintain                     involvement in the child’s life

Week 6:    

Complete the assessment form on father involvement to determine progress and areas still                    needing improvement

Connect the father to any additional needed services

Explain to the father the importance of and benefits to the child of the father’s ongoing                        and permanent involvement

For information on the Basic Fatherhood Training Curriculum visit http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement/basic-training-package

For additional resources on father involvement visit http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director


ACEs and Trauma-Informed Care

ACEs are adverse childhood experiences that may have lasting, negative effects on health and well-being both in childhood and in adult life.

While there is currently not a definitive list of ACEs, the original list included exposure to child abuse, substance abuse, mental illness and suicide, incarceration, and violence. Recent additions included in a study of ACEs conducted by Child Trends are parental separation/divorce, death of parent, and economic hardship. The following information summarizes the study and there is a link to the study at the end of this post.

Key findings:

  • Economic hardship and parental separation/divorce are the most common ACEs reported nationally
  • 45% of children in the U.S. have experienced at least one ACE
  • 61% of black children, 51% of Hispanic children, 40% of white children, and 23% of Asian children have experienced at least one ACE
  • One in nine children has experienced three or more ACEs

ACEs can result in toxic levels of stress hormones that alter normal mental and physical development.  This can lead to alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide, poor physical health, lower educational attainment, unemployment, and poverty. Not all children who experience ACEs have negative outcomes but multiple ACEs substantially increase the risk of negative outcomes.

Protective factors can reduce negative outcomes.  The most significant protective factor is a positive, supportive relationship with one or more adults.  Children who experience ACEs but who can manage their emotions have more positive outcomes.  Resilience can be cultivated through self-care routines and through strengthening social and emotional skills such as empathy, self-regulation, and self-efficacy.

An understanding of ACEs has been accompanied by an increase in the development and application of trauma-informed care.  Trauma-informed care includes a variety of approaches that acknowledge the impact of trauma, recognize its systems, respond with appropriate treatment, and prevent further traumatization. It should be noted that screening for ACEs does not replace comprehensive trauma screening and assessment.

All federally-funded programs and many state programs require that programs and services be trauma-informed.  In response to these mandates, the National Family Preservation Network developed one of the first tools for assessing family trauma.  The tool measures symptoms and indicators of trauma in both children and parents.  In the field study one of the most significant findings was the effect of past trauma in parents involved in abuse/neglect of their children or family conflict.  The tool also measures post-trauma well-being following services.  The field study showed dramatic improvement in post-trauma well-being with services primarily consisting of Intensive Family Preservation Services.

For more information on the Trauma/Post-Trauma Well-Being tool visit http://www.nfpn.org/assessment-tools/trauma-assessment-tool

To read the field study report on trauma visit http://www.nfpn.org/Portals/0/Documents/trauma-report.pdf

To read the full report on ACEs visit  https://www.childtrends.org/publications/prevalence-adverse-childhood-experiences-nationally-state-race-ethnicity/


Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director


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