When fathers are involved with their children, a strong base of research shows that there are considerable benefits to the health and well-being of children, mothers and even the fathers themselves. The issue of engaging fathers has been the focal point for federal efforts like the Responsible Fatherhood Grants and the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.
But in the effort to emphasize the importance of paternal parenting, young fathers and those who are involved with the child welfare system have often been neglected, according to the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP). In a new report, the needs and barriers facing young fathers are identified, especially those who are transitioning to adulthood after time spent in the foster-care system.
Designed to create opportunities for the greater involvement of young fathers into their children’s lives, “Changing Systems & Practices to Improve the Lives of Young Fathers, Their Children and Their Families” offers recommendations to child-welfare agencies and jurisdictions to bolster services for young fathers.
The report suggests that child-welfare systems may be well positioned to help young fathers improve parenting skills and strengthen families across multiple generations. In the past, the role of fathers has been overlooked by some child-welfare agencies. But by identifying and involving fathers early on, social workers can increase opportunities for safety, permanency and well-being for children and families.
In addition to a series of recommendations aimed at child-welfare providers and agencies, the CSSP report also highlights state and local programs that support young fathers. As part of its focus on the experiences of young fathers, CSSP created a video that highlights the voices of three young fathers involved in New York City’s child welfare system.
According to the report, the following recommendations can improve how child-welfare systems work with fathers:
- Revise agency forms and materials and adjust physical spaces to promote father-friendliness and inclusion.
- Require the identification of young fathers as early as possible during pregnancy using all available resources for identification.
- Require the exploration of coparenting with young fathers and provide referrals for coparenting supports where appropriate and safe to do so.
- Ensure access to equitable services for young fathers that are developmentally and trauma-informed.
- Require that when young fathers are identified as undocumented, caseworkers develop a strategy and work with immigration attorneys to obtain legal recognition of parenthood and legal status and incorporate it within case plans and transition services.
- Require the engagement and involvement of incarcerated young fathers in case planning, including the facilitation of meaningful contact or visits with their children.
- Ensure that the relationship between young offending fathers and their children is supported and maintained unless it is not safe for the child and mother.
- Establish performance benchmarks for engaging and serving young expectant and parenting fathers and create systems of accountability.
- Systematically collect, analyze and use data on expectant and parenting young fathers and their unique needs.
To read the full report, click here.