It seems like a trend is sweeping our county, and we are happy to be a part of it. Many groups are starting or revitalizing fatherhood initiatives in an attempt to get disengaged fathers back in their child’s life. Our agency is right in the middle of several of these efforts.
First, we have our own program, Engaging Fathers, within our Children’s Services organization. This is aimed at reducing the number of children placed in foster homes and residential facilities. We are looking at ways to improve early identification, location and engagement of fathers and the paternal side of the family. We want to reduce placements because studies show children overall have better outcomes when with family.
We have several partners in this effort, including the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office, Lighthouse Youth Services and Talbert House. The group meets monthly and is working to establish outcomes that will measure the success of the group’s work. One idea is to show improvement in the number of fathers the agency is able to identify, locate and engage. Data sources are being investigated.
In addition to the work being done by this group, the agency has also created two new Kinship Locator positions that will focus specifically on identifying kin who can serve as suitable care givers for children involved with Childrens Services.
At the same time, Lighthouse Youth Services is planning a fatherhood conference aimed at strengthening fathers, families and the Greater Cincinnati community for Aug. 13. The conference will feature workshops on child support, parenting, relationships, family violence and mental health. We will have further information on speakers and registration at a later date.
We’ve had a five-year partnership with Lighthouse to help fathers who owe child support achieve life skills that will lead to employment, responsible payment of child support and more meaningful relationships with their children. The program, entitled REAL (Responsible, Effective, Accountable, Loving) Dads, has been responsible for the collection of $423,000 in child support since its inception (currently $20,000 a month).
And then, just last week, the Talbert House Fatherhood Project held its second annual Fatherhood Celebration. Talbert House took over the project, which started under SUMA in 2000, two years ago and has added this great event to celebrate and recognize the fathers in the program.
The Fatherhood Project is a United Way-funded program that has served more than 1,200 fathers since its inception. It promotes active and nurturing parenting by providing fatherhood coaching, parenting classes and fellowship support to give the men the tools to be engaged fathers. In addition, the fathers receive case management, employment readiness and legal services to remove barriers to employment and compliance with child support.
There is a lot of traction behind fatherhood right now and we are very happy to be involved!