Young fathers face unique challenges to parenthood. They often have not finished school, have reduced job opportunities, or are in the early stages of their career, making it difficult to become financially secure and to support a family. Programs can adopt a combination of strategies including working with fathers to encourage education and training and delaying of additional pregnancies until they become financially more sound.
Fatherhood programs can assist young fathers by providing dedicated resources and support to help ensure access to education and training opportunities. This helps build a path to longer-term economic stability. Often young fathers decide to drop out of high school or forego other educational opportunities to find work so they can provide for their child financially. Fatherhood programs can encourage young fathers to complete high school or obtain a GED, get additional education and training, and pursue apprenticeships or other methods of getting skills needed to earn a living wage.
Delaying additional pregnancies is an issue that is not always addressed by programs. While this issue affects many dads, young fathers who are trying to acquire basic education and job skills are particularly affected. Having more than one child at a young age multiplies the challenges young men and their children face. Almost one-half of men who father a child as a teen have more than one child by the time they are 22–24 years old. Fatherhood programs can provide information on actively planning future births so they happen by choice, not by chance.
Tips & Best Practices
- Partnerships are key for promoting education, training, and pregnancy planning services to young fathers. Partnerships with local community colleges and workforce agencies can help support young fathers working toward educational or vocational goals. Additionally, community reproductive health agencies can be potential partners serving as referrals or speaking to groups of fathers about their services.
- There are programs available that can help fathers improve their economic stability in addition to promoting further education. For instance, fatherhood programs can provide financial education classes and free tax return preparation. They can also teach participants various money-saving tips. View the Economic Stability and Employment page for examples of these strategies.
- Include pregnancy planning in case management. One way to start this conversation is to ask fathers to identify when and under what circumstances they would want additional children. Encourage fathers who are in committed relationships or married to the mothers of their children to work together with their partner to plan future pregnancies. This provides an opportunity to strengthen their relationship by sharing responsibilities and making joint decisions about what they want to accomplish individually or as a couple before enlarging their family. Encourage fathers who are not in committed relationships to think about the impact of unplanned pregnancies and the challenges that can accompany having another child outside of a stable relationship. Talking about attaining educational or employment goals; connecting them with mentoring programs or education and training opportunities, and generally providing caring guidance can be particularly helpful.
- Challenge young fathers to share their new knowledge and skills through peer education or a speakers’ bureau. Participants can be empowered by sharing information about their experiences and the lessons they have learned in the program. Peer networking can help young men find jobs and prevent premature parenthood if young fathers counsel others to delay parenthood until they are ready to support a child.
Launched in 2009, Young Fathers of Santa Fe operates in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a mix of local funding and donations. With a staff of three, including a case manager bilingual in English and Spanish, the program supports young fathers and their partners during and after pregnancy. The program uses mentoring, education, and group activities to establish trust runs weekly support groups at various community locations and helps with education and job placement. They utilize Facebook as a means of direct engagement with participants and have found this can help identify areas of stress and provide opportunities to provide additional support. Young Fathers of Santa Fe connects with about 150 dads each year and works with other family members whenever possible. The organization supports the mother-father-child relationship; connects with fathers early in the pregnancy; encourages childbirth preparation, parenting, and relationship training; and facilitates employment, housing, education, and legal support.
How can my program better educate fathers on the importance of pregnancy planning and effective birth control methods?
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, has several resources, including the “Promoting Responsible Fatherhood through Pregnancy Planning and Prevention” brief. Additionally, please check out the “Partnering to Prevent Unplanned Pregnancy” brief, published by the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center.
What are supportive resources a fatherhood program can take to support career advancement for young fathers?
Supportive services can include flexible academic supports, industry-specific and on-the-job training, job placements, holistic case management with caseworkers who understand issues young fathers face and providing supports to assist with childcare, transportation, healthcare, and housing. Consult this webinar for some promising practice examples.
What are some strategies a fatherhood program can use to encourage young fathers to restart or persist in further education?
Despite challenges, studies show numerous benefits for young parents who continue to enroll in education or training after having their child. Fatherhood programs can assist young parents by reducing some of the barriers to education. Strategies include providing counseling and guidance to navigate education programs, lowering the costs of education faced by young parents, and scheduling programs that accommodate the schedules of young parents who are both working and participating in education.