Practitioners' Corner Archives 2011

Health Care Reform Includes Major Changes for Low-Income Noncustodial Parents Starting in 2014 (December 15, 2011)

The health care reform that was signed into law in 2010—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—includes changes to health insurance access for all low-income people when the major reforms go into effect at the beginning of 2014. For low-income noncustodial parents, and practitioners working with them, a good resource for learning about the health reform law is the Kaiser Family Foundation’s website: Health Reform – The Basics. This website includes a number of resources that can help noncustodial parents and practitioners to understand how the health reform law will increase their access to health insurance coverage.

health-reform-flowchartA good place to start is a flowchart that explains “How People Get Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act.” For all low-income people, including noncustodial parents, who do not have health insurance through their employer, the health reform law will provide access in two ways:

People whose household incomes are equal to or less than 133% of the federal poverty level will be eligible for Medicaid in 2014. Medicaid coverage will expand to include people, such as noncustodial parents, who do not have dependent children living in their household.

For people whose household incomes are between 133% and 400% of the poverty level, they will be guaranteed the ability to purchase insurance and will also be eligible for refundable tax credits to help cover the cost.

The website includes a “Health Reform Subsidy Calculator” which people can use to estimate how much health insurance will cost, and the amount of the tax credit they will receive to offset that cost. For example, in California, where the minimum wage is $8 per hour, a single 30-year-old person working full time at minimum wage would be eligible for a tax credit of $2,827 per year, and pay about $51 per month for health insurance premiums. As income goes up, the tax credit decreases and the premium cost increases. For example, a low-income noncustodial parent who is making 150% of the federal minimum wage—$10.86 per hour—would have a tax credit of $2,050 per year, and a premium of about $116 per month.

The website also includes a “Frequently Asked Questions” page with detailed answers that are relevant to noncustodial parents, including:

  • “Who will be eligible for Medicaid?” – Short answer: “Beginning in 2014, state Medicaid programs… will be expanded to cover all individuals under age 65 with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level…”
  • “Who will be eligible for subsidies…?” – Short answer: “Beginning in 2014, tax credits will be available to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who purchase coverage in the new health insurance exchanges and who have income up to 400% of the federal poverty level…”
  • “Will everyone have to buy health insurance? What happens if they don’t?” – Short answer: “Starting in 2014, most people will be required to have health insurance or pay a penalty if they don’t. … Several groups are exempt…including: people who would have to pay more than 8% of their income for health insurance, people with incomes below the threshold required for filing taxes…, undocumented immigrants, … and members of Indian tribes.”

Think you know the basics of the health reform law? Take the “Health Reform Quiz”to find out. CFFPP’s program and policy specialist took the quiz and scored 90%.

Employment Programs Had Positive Results, But Majority Were Unemployed After One Year (December 1, 2011)

urban_fathersPractitioners working with low-income noncustodial parents to support their children and families know first-hand the struggles that parents and communities continue to face more than two years after the Great Recession officially ended. A recent report from the Urban Institute about employment programs for noncustodial parents in New York confirms the severe economic challenges that confronted these parents during the years from 2006 to 2009, but also provides evidence that these programs produced positive results. The report is titled“Strengthening Families Through Stronger Fathers: Final Impact Report for the Pilot Employment Programs.”

The programs worked with very low-income noncustodial parents owing child support, most of whom were people of color: 58% black, and 23% Hispanic. To be eligible for participation, parents had to be unemployed or working less than 20 hours per week, and either receiving public assistance or having income less than 200% of the federal poverty guideline. At enrollment, only 11% were working, and those who were working had average hourly wages of $9.98. The economic security of these parents—and their children and households—was also challenged by the amount of child support owed: 76% owed current child support, averaging $3,042 in the previous year; and 82% owed child support arrears, averaging $14,579. Additionally, “72 percent had an arrest record, 79 percent had at most a high school education, [and] 52 percent lived rent free with friends or family.”

The housing situation of noncustodial parents in these employment programs is especially notable, as CFFPP has repeatedly heard from practitioners that the struggle to maintain stable housing is a major barrier to stable employment. As noted above, the majority of participants in the New York programs were relying on others for their housing; only 36% were paying rent. Many noncustodial parents were living with family members, relatives or significant others, including 13% that were living with their own biological children, as well as 6% who were living with unrelated children. Overall, the households that these noncustodial parents belonged to had very low incomes, averaging $10,458. About 24% of these parents received food stamps (SNAP), but 61% reported receiving no government benefits at all.

The programs provided a variety of support services, using a one-on-one case management model. Most notably, these included:

  • Employment services that went beyond basic job readiness and job search to also include access to job developers with direct links to employers.
  • Legal services and advocacy related to child support issues, such as arrears forgiveness, modification of the order mount, and driver’s license reinstatement; as well as increased child visitation, either informally, or through a court petition.
  • Screening for public benefits eligibility such as food stamps (SNAP) or federal and state earned income tax credits (EITC).
  • Housing assistance.

The report compared noncustodial parents participating in the program with a matched group of nonparticipants and found that “participants earned an average of $986 more than nonparticipants in the year after enrollment, a 22 percent increase” and were 19% more likely to be employed. Additionally, “participants paid an average of $504 more in child support than non participants in the year after enrollment—a 38 percent increase” and were 22% more likely to pay child support.

While these results are encouraging, more than 68% of noncustodial parents were unemployed after one year from enrolling in the program. This reflects the depth of the economic crisis among people of color and their communities both during and after the Great Recession. According to CFFPP’s analysis, among the 32% of participants that were employed at the end of one year, their wages were an average of $1,352 per month, the equivalent of $16,226 per year. This is still a very low income, considering that most participants lived in households with other people—sometimes with children—and that the large majority owed child support arrears averaging $14,579. As CFFPP estimated in our July policy brief, a noncustodial parent who lives alone and pays child support for two children would need to earn about $40,000 per year to achieve economic security. This income figure would need to be even higher for noncustodial parents who also support other household members, such as relatives and their children.

Maps of Concentrated Poverty Can Help Focus Services (November 16, 2011)

poverty_mapA recent report on concentrated poverty contains data and maps which may be useful to practitioners providing support and services to low-income noncustodial parents, as well as their children, families, and communities. The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty: Metropolitan Trends in the 2000s,” from the Brookings Institution, found that “the population in extreme-poverty neighborhoods—where at least 40 percent of individuals live below the poverty line—rose by one-third from 2000 to 2005–09.” The report includes detailed maps of neighborhood poverty rates for Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, and Chicago.

Additionally, online interactive maps accompanying this report include links toprofiles of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. that include poverty data and detailed neighborhood maps. Practitioners can use these maps to focus services on communities that are experiencing the highest concentrations of poverty. Sixteen of these metro areas had concentrated poverty rates of more than 20%, including:Fresno, California; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Springfield, Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan; Jackson, Mississippi; Poughkeepsie, Rochester, and Syracuse, New York;Cleveland, Toledo, and Youngstown, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee; El Paso and McAllen, Texas; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

District of Columbia Tops the Fatherhood Funding Index (October 12, 2011)

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 11.42.09 AMOn October 3, the HHS Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance announced more than $59 million in grant awards for Responsible Fatherhood programs. The Fatherhood Funding Index, calculated by CFFPP, compares the amount of new Responsible Fatherhood grant funding in each state to the number of people living below 100% of the federal poverty threshold in 2010. Although the Responsible Fatherhood grant program does not explicitly aim to reduce poverty, its stated focus is to overcome or remove the multiple barriers that prevent low-income fathers and families from achieving self-sufficiency and economic stability.
The Fatherhood Funding Index reveals that across the U.S., the average program funding per person experiencing poverty is $1.29, but with wide variation between states. This can be used as a benchmark to compare funding between states and regions. Varying levels of funding for fatherhood programs across states may reflect a number of factors, including the ability of fathers and families in low-income communities to advocate for services, local organizations’ capacity to respond to the needs of people experiencing poverty in their communities, as well as policy priorities expressed through HHS’ funding choices.

The District of Columbia tops the Fatherhood Funding Index with a total of about $19 per person experiencing poverty, or about 15 times the national average. The grants were awarded to two organizations serving the Washington, D.C., area: Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaborative Council, which has run the Fatherhood Education, Empowerment and Development (FEED) program since 2006; and the National Organization of Concerned Black Men which currently runs the CBM Fatherhood Initiative program.

Montana is second on the Fatherhood Funding Index at about $18 per person in poverty. A single grant was made to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, which has previously run the Passages Fatherhood Program for youth and young fathers aged 13 to 21. In the other western states, two organizations received notably above-average funding: In Alaska, the Cook Inlet Tribal Council runs theFathers’ Journeys program in Anchorage; and in New Mexico, PB&J Family Services runs a variety of programs for parents in jail or prison, as well as their children and families, with a focus on the Native American and rural communities. Colorado, California, and Washington are the remaining western states, with about-average grants awarded to a mix of ten private organizations and public agencies.

In the southern region, West Virginia tops the Fatherhood Funding Index with a total of about $8 per person experiencing poverty, or about six times the national average. A single grant was awarded to the Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action, which has run its Fatherhood Program since 2006. Other southern states with above-average funding include Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. The grant to Alabama’s Department of Finance is also notable because it is one of only two Responsible Fatherhood grants to state-level government agencies, the other being the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Grants in Texas have an index totalling about $1, slightly below the national average, and include several organizations based in Austin, including: Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, which has run its Fatherhood Works Program since 2007; Southwest Key Programs’Responsible Fatherhood program; and LifeWorks which currently offers a variety of services focusing on youth and their families.

In the midwest states, South Dakota has the highest Fatherhood Funding Index at about $12 per person in poverty, or nine times the national average. A single grant was made to Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota which runs a Fathers and Families Program for men returning from prison. Other states with above-average funding include: Wisconsin (Milwaukee County Department of Child Support, andADVOCAP), Minnesota (Urban Ventures’ Center for Fathering, and Goodwill Industries’ FATHER Project which has been running since 1999),  Ohio (The RIDGE Project, and WSOS Community Action Commission), Missouri (Connection to Success, and Fathers’ Support Center St. Louis which has been providing services to fathers since 1998), and Iowa (Mid-Iowa Community Action). Grants in Illinois totaled just below the national average, with funding awarded to the Haymarket Center and the Springfield Urban League.

Lastly, in the northeast states, Vermont and Rhode Island had the highest funding levels, with indexes of about $6 and $5 respectively. In Vermont, a single grant was made to the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties which runs the Fathers and Children Together (F.A.C.T.) program. In Rhode Island, a single grant was made to Children’s Friend and Service which runs the Dads Making a Difference program. Other states with above average funding include: Connecticut (Catholic Charities of Hartford), and New York (Seedco which runs the Dads at Work program; The Fortune Society; Family Services of Westchester which runs theFathers Count program; Chautauqua Opportunities; The Retreat; and the Education & Assistance Corporation). Funding for programs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey was just below the national average.

Census Report: Poverty Rate of Single Men Increased to 21.7% in 2010 (September 15, 2011)

poverty2010The U.S. Census Bureau released a report about income and poverty in 2010, showing that median household incomes have declined and that the official poverty rate has increased to 15.1%, up from 14.3% in 2009. For practitioners providing comprehensive services to low-income noncustodial parents, especially men of color, the report provides evidence of the economic difficulties that these fathers have faced since the start of the Great Recession in 2007, as well as over the past decade. Although the current Census publication does not specifically report statistics for either low-income noncustodial parents or men of color, the circumstances of these fathers can be inferred by looking at individuals and households with similar characteristics.

The poverty rate among single men was 21.7% in 2010, up from 20% in 2009. People of color, both men and women, were much more likely to experience poverty, with the black and Hispanic rates of poverty – 27.4% and 26.6% respectively – more than double the 9.9% rate among white non-Hispanic people in 2010. The poverty threshold in 2010 for a single-person household, under 65 years old, was $11,344.

Large portions of single men experiencing poverty had incomes far below the official poverty threshold. The average income of these impoverished single men in 2010 was $4,840. However, more than a third – 35% – had incomes that were $1,344 or less for the entire year. Another 22% of single men in poverty had incomes that ranged from $1,345 to $6,344. The remaining 43% had incomes from $6,345 up to the poverty threshold of $11,344.

Income ranges of single men in poverty
Percent of single men in poverty
No income – $1,344
$1,345 – $6,344
$6,345 – $11,344

The increase of poverty among noncustodial fathers is closely linked to their ability to find full-time employment since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. According to the Census report, “since 2007, the number of men working full time, year round with earnings decreased by 6.6 million.” The income of all single-male households decreased by 7.9% from 2007 to 2010, falling to a median of $35,627. For comparison, the Center for Family Policy and Practice noted in an article titled“BEST Incomes for Noncustodial Parents Paying Child Support” that a noncustodial parent of two children paying 25% of his or her income for child support would need to earn $40,016 in order to also pay for basic monthly expenses and have economic security.

People of color experienced larger income declines than white people since the beginning of the Great Recession, with black households’ incomes falling the fastest. Black household income decreased by 10.1% from 2007 to 2010, falling to a median income of $32,068. Hispanic household income decreased by 7.2% to $37,759, about 18% higher than black households. In contrast, white non-Hispanic household income decreased less sharply by 5.4% to $54,620, about 70% higher than black households.

Black people were three times as likely to be in deep poverty than white non-Hispanic people. Among black people, 13.5% had incomes that were below half of the federal poverty threshold. Among white non-Hispanic people, the portion was 4.3%. Looking at people with incomes below 200% of the poverty threshold, both Hispanic and black people were more than twice as likely to have low incomes than white people. More than half of all Hispanic and black people – 54.6% and 51.3% respectively – had incomes that were less than twice the poverty threshold, compared to 25.5% of white people.

Low-income households have lost a larger percentage of their income than higher-income households since 1999, the year that incomes peaked prior to the 2001 recession. The Census report notes that “changes in household income at selected percentiles shows that income inequality is increasing.” Low-income households at the 20th percentile, earning less than $20,000 in 2010, have experienced a 10.8% decrease in household income from 1999 to 2010. This decrease is more than three times the 3.5% decrease experienced by higher-income households at the 80th percentile. Since 2007, the start of the Great Recession, low-income households have lost 6.3% of their income.

Household income in 2010
Decrease 1999 to 2010
Decrease 2007 to 2010
20th percentile ($20,000)
– 10.8%
– 6.3%
80th percentile ($100,065)
– 3.5%
– 4.8%

Lastly, the Southern states were hit hardest by the increases in poverty from 2009 to 2010. According to the Census report, “the South was the only region to show increases in both the poverty rate and the number in poverty—16.9 percent and 19.1 million in 2010, up from 15.7 percent and 17.6 million in 2009. … The South had the highest regional poverty rate.”

The Census report is titled “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010.” Links to additional presentations, charts and fact sheets can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website.

Job Losses Remain High Among Less-Educated Workers (September 1, 2011)

A new fact sheet from the Urban Institute titled “Less-Educated Continue to Lose Jobs in Recovery—Even in Low-Wage Industries” underlines the employment challenges that face low-income noncustodial parents and the practitioners advocating on their behalf. Although the so-called Great Recession ended in June of 2009, the period since then has often been called a jobless recovery due to continued high rates of unemployment. Job losses have been especially concentrated among people who did not complete high school or ended their education with a high school diploma.

urban_emp_chartAccording to the fact sheet, during the recovery from June 2009 to April 2011, workers with less than a high school education have seen employment decrease by 9.6%. These lower-educated workers account for about 10% of the labor market. Among workers who completed their education with a high school diploma, employment decreased by 2.9%. These high-school graduates account for about 30% of the labor market. The fact sheet notes that “gains in the recovery have been concentrated among workers with college educations.”

Job losses among workers without high school diplomas are worse even within low-wage industries, where employment has decreased by 10.7%. According to the fact sheet, “workers with high school degrees or less education are concentrated in low-wage industries” such as “accommodation/food services, agriculture/forestry/.fishing, … retail trade, … administrative, and waste management.” The only type of workers who have increased employment in the low-wage industries are those who have some college education, but have not completed a bachelor’s degree. These low-wage jobs typically pay $7.75 to $11.00 per hour, or about $16,000 to $23,000 per year.

As the Center for Family Policy and Practice noted in our July 2011 Policy Briefing article titled “BEST Incomes for Noncustodial Parents Paying Child Support,” a noncustodial parent of two children paying 25% of his or her income for child support would need to earn about $19 per hour, or $40,000 per year, in order to meet basic monthly expenses and have economic security. Wages at this level are near the high end of what the Urban Institute’s fact sheet categorizes as “high-wage industries,” paying $13.50 to $19.50 per hour, such as “transportation and warehousing, information, durable manufacturing, construction, professional and technical services, public administration, mining, and utilities.”

Noncustodial parents who have not completed a bachelor’s degree face steep barriers to obtaining higher-wage employment that would enable them to provide for both themselves and their children. Over half of the child support debt nationwide is owed by parents who earn less than $10,000 per year. Practitioners and policymakers advocating for noncustodial parents may consider a range of policies to increase access to high-wage industries, such as: increased support for access to higher education through grants and childcare assistance; family friendly workplace policies designed to increase job openings, such as paid parental leave and work-sharing; and stronger enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and affirmative action policies.

Seedco’s Dads at Work Program Highlights Importance of Legal Services (August 18, 2011)

seedco_logoSeedco’s Dads at Work program uses “comprehensive strategies to increase access to economic opportunity” for low-income noncustodial fathers in New York City. A recently released report, “Learnings From the Field: Supporting Fathers,” highlights the importance of legal services to removing employment barriers for low-income men.

Legal services include “full representation around child support orders,” “criminal record checks, rap sheet cleansing” and other legal needs. The pressing need for legal services among low-income noncustodial fathers became apparent during the three-year pilot program which preceded Dads At Work. Launched in June 2010, the Dads at Work program grew out of Seedco’s Fatherhood Initiative Pilot Program, which ran for three years from 2007 to 2010. According to the “Supporting Fathers” report:

During the pilot, legal assistance was among the most heavily uitilized of the services provided and positively correlated with a participant’s ability to find a job. Of those who used legal services, 53 percent found employment, while only 44 percent of those who did not use legal services found work.

Details about how these legal services were implemented can be found in a policy brief titled “Seedco’s Dads at Work Initiative.” The majority of the program’s legal assistance focused on modifying the amount of child support orders, including fixing “many erroneous” orders. For program participants with criminal histories, Seedco’s legal services partner found that 32% of their records had “at least one significant error” and that “more than 1/3 of those had more than one error.”

To meet the high level of need for legal services, Seedco developed a creative solution in partnership with The Bronx Defenders/Reentry Net. Seedco trained its case management staff “to identify legal issues and work closely with the staff from Bronx Defenders to follow-up on legal advice provided. This approach was less costly than having attorneys provide legal advice and complete all follow-up.”

Locating Health Insurance for Low-Income Noncustodial Parents (July 28, 2011)

Starting in 2014, eligibility for Medicaid will be expanded to include most individuals, including noncustodial parents, who have incomes below 133% of the Federal Poverty Level. Additionally, people with incomes between 133% and 400% of the poverty threshold will be eligible for subsidies to pay health insurance premiums. These are two of the key changes that will be brought about by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as the health reform law.

kaiser_logoUntil these changes take effect in 2014, practitioners working with low-income fathers have limited options for linking men with health insurance, as only a small number of states offer Medicaid and/or state-funded programs, and eligibility requirements vary greatly from state to state. TheKaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured has published a useful fact sheet that compares health insurance programs operating as of January 1, 2011, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia: “ Where are States Today? Medicaid and CHIP Eligibility Levels for Children and Non-Disabled Adults.”

If working with a noncustodial father who is in great need of access to medical insurance, and there are no local programs available, practitioners may want to research if that man would be eligible for a Medicaid or state-funded program in another state. Although moving to a new state in order to access health insurance may seem like a radical step, there may be circumstances where it makes sense, such as if the father lives near the border of a state that offers a program, or if he has family or friends in such a state who are willing and able to support him in making the move.

All the major regions in the continental US have at least two states that offer a health insurance program for low-income people: Oregon, California and Arizona in the West; Minnesota and Iowa in the Midwest; Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia in the upper south-Altantic region; and New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine in the Northeast.

The South stands out as a very large region with only two states, Oklahoma and Arkansas, offering “limited subsidized coverage” for low-income noncustodial parents. Oklahoma’s program covers people with incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, while Arkansas’ program only covers individuals who “work for a qualifying, participating employer.” None of the Southern coastal states—stretching from Texas across to Florida and up to Virginia—currently offer such programs.

HUD Encourages Public Housing Agencies to Allow People With Criminal Records to Rejoin Families (July 19, 2011)

Practitioners working with people returning to the community from jail or prison know that finding stable housing can be a challenge. Some people in this situation will ultimately find housing with a family member or significant other who lives in federally subsidized housing such as the Public Housing or Housing Choice (Section 8) programs. The following information can help practitioners advocate for people with criminal records who want to live with family in federally subsidized housing programs.

A recent letter from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan encourages executive directors of local public housing agencies (PHAs) to allow people leaving jail or prison to return to family “when appropriate.” The letter reiterates that people with criminal histories are only banned from public housing programs under certain circumstances, and that PHAs have great discretion to admit such people into housing programs.

nrrcThe National Reentry Resource Center has a very useful Housing FAQ web page that outlines the circumstances under which people with criminal records can or cannot access public housing programs. The two major prohibitions on eligibility are if the person is “subject to lifetime registration as a sex offender or [was] convicted of manufacturing methamphetamines on the premises of federally assisted housing.” Additionally, PHAs have discretion to consider mitigating circumstances related to drug-related criminal activity and substance abuse—such as successful completion of a rehabilitation program—when deciding whether to allow such a person to enter a public housing program.

A one-page summary of federal public-housing policies that affect people with criminal records can also be found in the “Reentry Myth Buster On Public Housing”published by the Federal Interagency Reentry Council.

Benchmarking Project Seeks Employment Programs (June 30, 2011)

36_initiative_imageBenchmarking Project is seeking employment programs to participate in its survey of job placement and retention outcomes. The project’s “web-based survey and confidential reports allow organizations to compare their job placement and retention outcomes with those of similar programs.” The Benchmarking Project is a partnership between the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Public/Private Ventures (P/PV). “To date, 283 programs from 186 organizations have submitted one-year aggregate data” to the survey. The Benchmarking Project also offers a learning community for participating organizations, focused on effective program practices and improving program performance.

Employment programs seeking answers to the following questions may be particularly interested in participating:

“How can we know if our job placement and retention results are as good as they could be?”

“What is reasonable to expect?”

“How can we get better ‘apples to apples’ comparisons of our outcomes with those of other organizations?”

“What can we learn from those organizations?”

Several organizations that are nationally known for working with low-income parents are participating, including Center for Employment Opportunities in New York and Impact Services in Philadelphia. See the complete list of Participating Agencies. A series of informational conference calls will be held from through July 20. View the schedule.

The Benchmarking Project has the following eligibility requirements:

“…your organization must directly provide workforce development services and track job placement and retention outcomes.”

“…programs must have enrolled a cohort of at least 25 participants, 18 years or older, during a recent one-year period…”

“Programs must report outcomes on a cohort for which there is already complete job placement and three-month retention data. Six-month or one-year retention data can be entered at a later date.”

Complete information about the Benchmarking Project can be accessed at thePublic/Private Ventures website.

Suggestions for Working With Urban African American Fathers (June 16, 2011)

wfsw20.v014.i03.coverA new article in the Journal of Family Social Work provides suggestions from front-line professionals at the Center for Urban Families (CFUF) in Baltimore. “Working with Urban, African American Fathers: The Importance of Service Provision, Joining, Accountability, the Father-Child Relationship, and Couples Work” makes several recommendations on what practitioners should know about fathers, and recommendations for working with them.

The article emphasizes that there is a “need for a range of services. … Fathers need job training, parent education, educational support, and ex-drug abuser support groups.” The following are other highlights:

The importance of practitioners joining with fathers:

“Participants recommended treating young fathers with respect, empathy, and a nonjudgmental attitude about their past and present behaviors.”

“…establishing a relationship is the most important step. Without a relationship … fathers will not follow up on referrals and will not attend sessions, whether they are job training-related or focus on interpersonal change.”

“The relationship cannot seem like therapy. Fathers already feel stigmatized, and attending therapy is another form of stigma.”

“Outreach and working outside the office setting, including making home visits, is one way to connect. ‘Home visits help develop relationships.”

Fathers’ relationships with their children:

“Fathers are often teenagers who had no contact with their own fathers. Visiting their children is painful because it brings up their own loss. To cope with it, they stay away.”

“‘These young men are in such need of fathering themselves,’ one participant said, ‘that it drives everything they do. The absence of the father is always there in their life.'”

“The practitioner needs to bring out the nurturing side of the father so that he can connect positively with his children. … The notion that they can only be a part of their child’s life if they provide money needs to be addressed by encouraging fathers to interact with their children in a variety of ways.”

Fathers and the mothers of their children:

“The father’s relationship with the mother of his child is a central theme. Fathers want access to children and have to work with the mother to get contact. When the father does not have cash or other forms of support, the mother may block access.”

“Fathers are encouraged to not place any legal dispute between themselves and their children and to try and connect with them. This advice is not meant to circumvent a custody order but rather to not let court-related matters discourage a parenting relationship.”

“Although the worker needs to be able to explain the mother’s situation to the father so he can understand what she is dealing with as a single mother, the worker should avoid aligning only with the mother’s position.”

“…some men are accustomed to being taken care of by their mothers and are looking for the same caretaking by the mother of their child. These power differentials can affect couple counseling.”

“Working with Urban, African American Fathers…” can be accessed at either theJournal of Family Social Work, or the Center for Urban Families.

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