Family strengthening is a topic that has always been a part of the Head Start vision, and the past two decades have seen a growing recognition of how important Dads are to this process. For example, take the 2017 Father/Male Engagement Appreciation Breakfast held by Union Baptist Head Start in Baltimore, Maryland. This event truly embodied the best practice of showing fathers they are needed and appreciated. It also served to uncover Dads’ wants and needs for services. As the Master of Ceremony for the event, it was exciting for me to facilitate a spirited conversation to find out what personal and community issues their Dads faced. This allowed the center staff to document their needs and determine a course of action to increase their family services.
The discussion was an excellent use of the dads’ time and would have been a great event if it had ended there, but Union Baptist has a flair for going the extra mile. They also used this time to have community service agencies on site to provide information and supports for the Dads. So as issues came up during the conversation, Dads could see the Head Start’s commitment to supporting them. Dads could get immediate access to health services providers, community college programs, community fatherhood & workforce development services, business clothing, and much more. There were even educational resource and services that Dads could take advantage of with their kids.
This event was a great example of how Head Start programs can leverage their partnerships and resources to engage Dads. Union Baptist Head Start understands that once you show Dads how you can help them, you will see just how much they are in it for their children!
Head Start programs – visit the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse to find resources to grow your father-focused programming, like Engaging Fathers in Head Start: NRFC Tips for Fatherhood Professionals and In Their Own Words: Early Head Start Fathers in our Library!
Fatherhood programs – share this article with your Head Start partners to start a conversation about father involvement. Don’t have a Head Start partner yet? Find a Head Start program near you in the Head Start Locator.
James Worthy, Fathers, Inc.