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Dads Matter 2 Works to Change Attitudes Around Fathers

by Stephen Rusnak , Social Program Administrator, Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services
father and son smiling at schoolThe Healthy Fathering Collaborative of Greater Cleveland, a group of representatives of area agencies that offer programs and services specifically focused on fathers, held their bi-monthly meeting August 1, at the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS,) an active partner organization.

The Collaborative was established in 2001, and today provides a platform to share information, identify needs and develop solutions to meet those needs through advocacy, dialogue and partnerships to improve the lives of fathers and their families in our community.

Members include Cuyahoga County DCFS, Cuyahoga County Job and Family Services, Cuyahoga County Office of Re-Entry, Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative, Cuyahoga County Office of Child Support Enforcement, and countless agencies outside the county like Greater Cleveland Foodbank, Murtis Taylor, Metro Health, and Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center who provide education and training, employment, nutrition, health care, housing, legal and other critical services to help fathers succeed.

At Thursday’s meeting members shared information about new staff, funding, programs and services as well as success stories of some of their clients. CCDCFS Director Cynthia Weiskittel welcomed everyone to the meeting and discussed DCFS efforts to change attitudes towards fathers at Ohio’s largest public child welfare agency and efforts to include them whenever possible in plans to help improve the lives of their children and strengthen families.

The new campaign, titled Dads Matter 2, was launched to make sure that any time a child is involved with the agency, fathers are informed and included. The campaign targets both agency staff and parents of children with DCFS cases. “We’re working to change attitudes around fathers, both for our staff and the families we serve,” said Cynthia Weiskittel, DCFS Director.

“We recognize that people do sometimes have a bias against fathers, which isn’t fair to them or their children. Dads can be loving, devoted, and stable parents. Whenever possible, they should not only get that chance to be involved, but also the support and resources to be the best dad they can be.”

father and daughter walking to schoolInternally, the campaign reinforces existing efforts to include fathers, reminding staff of the value they can provide to a child’s life. The agency has also developed step-by-step guidance to help workers find fathers when the mother is unable or unwilling to supply this information. Once located, DCFS mandates that fathers are included in every aspect of a child’s case and considered as a priority option for placement when a child must be removed from home.

Dads Matter 2 also includes education materials for moms on the benefits of including their child’s father in the child’s life. Research shows that children with involved fathers tend to have fewer behavior problems, do better in school, have higher self-esteem, and are less likely to use drugs or alcohol. If a mother knows the name of her child’s father but is not sure how to contact him, child protection specialists will assist in finding him and working with him to become a successful and supportive co-parent.

The campaign also aims to educate fathers about the important role they can play in their child’s life. DCFS workers will give fathers a printed guide explaining his rights and responsibilities, plus informational resources to help navigate the child welfare and court systems.

The campaign will continue indefinitely, complimenting other Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services programs like the Fatherhood Initiative, which connects fathers with new dad boot camps, father and child activities, employment counseling, and more.


DADS MATTER 2
  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America -- one out of every three -- live in biological father-absent homes.
  • Children with involved fathers do better across every measure of child well-being than their peers in father-absent homes.
  • Children from father-absent homes are more likely to be abused.
  • Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor.
  • Children from father-absent homes are two times more likely to be obese.
  • Children from father-absent homes more likely to experience behavioral problems.
  • Children from father-absent homes scored lower on reading achievement tests.

* All data was provided by the National Fatherhood Initiative Website 

The Healthy Fathering Collaborative maintains a website of network resources for fathers and professionals working with fathers, www.neofathering.net  and publishes a brochure of service offerings, which is also available on www.justfordads.org.