Focus Areas for Advocacy
SCCFMIC has identified the following areas as strategic avenues for fatherhood and male involvement advocacy activities:
Parenting Workshops and Support Groups
In a study of the effects of parent education for fathers and the level of parental involvement, researchers found an improvement in the fathers' communication skills with their children and in the children's perceptions of their relationship with their fathers. For example, comprehensive programs directed at birth planning and sex education are effective at reducing the incidences of teen pregnancies. When parenting workshops are available to teen fathers, they become more involved with the pregnancy and birth of their child.
In one study focused on the impact of support groups, male participants disclosed that male support groups were an effective means of assisting in problem solving and networking with other men. A potential first step in getting fathers to seek assistance with issues such as divorce, post-traumatic stress, and substance abuse is to convene a meeting of fathers with similar problems and provide a supportive forum.
Child Visitation and Child Support
Research suggests that children are better supported when there is encouragement of cooperative parenting especially for parents involved in custody or visitation disputes. Also, the more time that a father spends with their children after divorce, the more the father-child bond is strengthened. Payment of child support by fathers has shown to be positively associated with the improvement in a child's overall well-being and increasing the father's visitation time. Some possible explanations for the relationship between child support payments and child visitation include fathers wanting to oversee the use of their child support payment. Since a non-resident father cannot monitor the use of the child support money, the best strategy for him is to increase the time spent with the child. This is one of the few verification mechanisms available to fathers.
Father and Male-Friendly Environments
Even though research shows the positive contribution that active parental involvement in early childhood programs has on the development of a child, little programmatic emphasis has been placed on encouraging the involvement of fathers. For the most part, early childhood programs have been slow to adjust to the dramatic transformation in the modern family structure or lifestyle such as single parent households, extended families with relatives, or other familial situations. Some of the key factors cited in studies that contribute to the exclusion of fathers in early childhood programs such as Head Start or other state-funded pre-Kindergarten classes include an inappropriate program design and delivery; staff ambivalence towards the importance of father involvement; gate keeping by mothers; and fathers' fears of exposing inadequacies. Another reason often cited is the misconception that children from low-income families or high-risk neighborhoods have little to no contact with their fathers. As a result, lack of attention to fathers results in many early childhood programs failing to incorporate a key component in the development of an effective home-school partnership.
Job Training and Education
Investments in job training and education for fathers have a greater likelihood of increasing their employment opportunities, wage potential, and ability to provide financially for their family. Intervention strategies implemented while fathers are still incarcerated and after their release from prison can produce positive outcomes for the father and for the child. Further investments to enhance these programs could have a positive impact on reducing recidivism and increasing the likelihood that fathers will play a more active role in the lives of their children and thereby ensuring a more positive outcome for the child.
Studies have also revealed that male teens who believed that they had limited academic or professional opportunities in life were more likely to become teen fathers and more likely to not reside with the child. A teen father that has the skills to be a productive member of society and to provide emotional and financial support to his child, will be less likely to require public assistance, less likely to engage in criminal activity, and more likely to be actively involved with their child(ren). Since research has shown that male teens from families with actively supportive parents tend to postpone sexual activity and have lower incidences of pregnancies, implementing strategies has the potential of breaking the generational cycle of teen fatherhood.