4 Your Child: Dads Making the Difference
The purpose of 4 Your Child was to assist non-resident fathers act on their intentions to positively impact their children’s growth and development by increasing their capacity for paternal involvement. The 4 Your Child program served non-resident fathers ages 16 and up.
Because of demographic shifts including decreases in marriage rates and increases in non-marital births, the proportion of fathers living apart from their children has grown. In contemporary society, expectations for fathers have expanded to include both financial provision and participation in nurturing and caregiving. Because these are non-traditional activities for some men, they need accurate and concrete information related to child development, communication, conflict resolution, health, mental health, discipline, co-parenting and balancing work and family responsibilities delivered in father-friendly environments.
Through 4 Your Child, 1,300 non-resident fathers across several Kentucky counties were provided with a comprehensive, solution-oriented program featuring group based parent education and individualized case management. All of these services were designed to help the fathers achieve financial independence, increase their parenting skills, and develop a co-parenting alliance with their children’s mother.
The overall goal of 4 Your Child was to help fathers increase their capacity for taking active roles in their children’s lives. We believe that fathers’ role is both unique and irreplaceable. Therefore, we taught our participants that if they weren’t doing it (it being taking an active role in nurturing and caregiving), they could not guarantee that anyone else was going to do it. We also taught them that love is spelled T-I-M-E so it was the most precious gift they could give to their children. Beyond giving their children the gift of their time, we taught our dads that they also needed to work to develop and maintain a respectful relationship with their child’s primary caregiver, usually the child’s mother. Consistent with these points of emphasis, our primary outcomes were parenting knowledge, parenting self efficacy, communication patterns, conflict resolutions skills, and co-parenting relationship quality.
The 4 Your Child program concluded in December 2020, so we only recently started the process of analyzing the final data. However, there a number of artifacts documenting the program’s impact on the participants and the field of fatherhood. A sampling is listed below:
- A journal article featuring preliminary analyses documenting significant increases in participants’ parenting knowledge and conflict resolution skills has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Research on Social Work Practice.
- A practice brief published by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse on social capital featuring examples and anecdotes from 4 Your Child.
- 4 Your Child was featured on the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse’s DADTALK Podcast
- Animated video of 4 Your Child program activities featured on the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse’s DADTALK Podcast
- A companion grant funded by the Fatherhood Research & Practice Network that enrolled 4 Your Child participants’ co-parents in a brief intervention. The results revealed that mothers in the intervention group reported significant improvements in conflict resolution skills and co-parenting relationship quality. The report detailing these outcomes is linked here.
The biggest challenge that faced 4 Your Child and its participants was society’s inability to distinguish non-resident fathers from uninvolved or disengaged fathers. In other words, due to decades of ill advised public policy and negative media portrayals of fathers (particularly low income and minority fathers), people often erroneously use non-resident and uninvolved interchangeably. As a result, all too often, the fathers that our program served had to overcome the perception that they were irresponsible and uncaring parents with little interest in being active in their children’s lives.
Family is the primary institution in our society. Therefore, interventions that increase parenting knowledge and skills can improve conditions for children. Given that fathers are a largely untapped resource, programs like 4 Your Child that center the role of fathers represent opportunities to significantly impact families and the communities in which they reside. –Armon R. Perry, PI & Project Director
Contact for further information:
Armon R. Perry, Ph.D., MSW
Principal Investigator/Project Director