Fathers, Families, and Healthy Communities (FFHC) works directly with fathers to foster communities of support in hopes of eliminating their sense of isolation and empowering them. The strength of utilizing a peer group model is two-fold. First, is its ability to help fathers develop a community of mutual aid. Second, it creates opportunities for them to share, compare, and highlight their challenges and successes as men and fathers. This peer group work helps FFHC assess and support the emerging needs that fathers require; it also allows us to effectively grow and maintain our service partner network that assists us in meeting their evolving and unique needs. Additionally, the peer groups keep FFHC abreast of the successes, as well as challenges, that fathers face. This real-time feedback influences the ongoing evaluation of how well FFHC’s practice and policy initiatives are meeting the needs of those we are serving.
FFHC leverages and mobilizes community-based, social service organizations on behalf of low-income, African-American fathers in an effort to increase their engagement in the lives of their children and families. Through these partnerships, FFHC seeks to instill a sense of responsible fatherhood and self-efficacy within participants by bringing them together in a safe space among their peers. Here, they can share a myriad of experiences, while holding each other accountable for setting and achieving goals that will improve connection to their children. FFHC provides facilitation of and tools for discussions related to male/father responsibility, parenting skills, co-parenting, child development, and nurturing skills. In addition, the network of partners to which FFHC can refer fathers for specific resources such as employment, legal services, or physical health, is steadily increasing.
Recognizing there was a need to break the cycle of disconnection between very young children (ages 0-5) and their young fathers, FFHC launched its Young Fathers Initiative (YFI) in the fall of 2013. This initiative serves young, African-American fathers between the ages of 17-21. This strategic and intentional investment in our young, male citizens, and by extension their children, is aimed at interrupting the pattern of father disengagement in its earliest stages. Through this initiative, FFHC seeks to replicate the support, empowerment, and accountability of the P2P program with younger men. Offered on a weekly basis, high schools are where the peer groups are held. FFHC provides facilitation of and tools for discussions related to male/father responsibility, parenting skills, co-parenting, child development, and nurturing skills for this younger population. As participants, young fathers will focus on their future, including aspirations and goals, as well as the future they envision for their children.
In the course of interacting with these men, FFHC has ascertained that many of the participating fathers have episodic work histories for various reasons. FFHC seeks to strengthen the employment prospects of these fathers by connecting them to educational, employment, and job placement opportunities via its community partner network. Of special interest, FFHC has initiated innovative efforts with Chicago’s Workforce Board and instituted JOB CLUB programming for the involved fathers that work; matching them with developing employment sectors of the economy based on the specific interest and skills of the fathers, while building a fraternity of support among them as they bolster their employment skill portfolios.
Community Service Partner Network
FFHC believes that there are vast amounts of resources in the community that are siloed, lack collaborative effort, and that fail to fully utilize what is being offered by various service stakeholders so that services can be brought to scale. FFHC not only seeks to mitigate this lack of service interaction on behalf of fathers and their families but also to expose its partners to promising practices in father engagement and involvement. We hope that our involvement will encourage partners to implement these practices in their daily service approaches. We believe the implementation of these practices will reinforce and contribute to the completion of goals they are working toward when servicing mothers and children.
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