• April 2004
  • Vol. 5, No. 3

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Project Fatherhood

The presence of involved, nurturing fathers has a positive effect on the emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development of children. Yet, traumatic experiences in a father's background can and often do impede his ability to parent his children effectively. Project Fatherhood, a program of Children's Institute International (CII) in Los Angeles, seeks to increase the positive involvement of low-income, high-risk urban fathers in their children's lives by helping fathers identify and resolve early traumas in their own lives.

Project Fatherhood has three primary goals:

  1. Participating fathers will more consistently and effectively fulfill their responsibilities as parents and parent their children in a more healthy and nurturing manner.
  2. Children of participating fathers will demonstrate improved functioning at home, at school, and in relation to peers and will be free from abuse and neglect.
  3. Child welfare agencies will become better able to competently engage and serve biological fathers of high-risk children.

"Men in Relationships Groups" (ongoing men-only therapeutic groups) are the program's cornerstone. In addition to learning about basic child development principles, appropriate discipline techniques, and other parenting skills, fathers in these groups receive help in dealing with traumatic experiences in their own histories that continue to impact their relationships with their children and partners. Flexibility is important: groups meet at the end of a normal workday, membership is open-ended, and members are not penalized for tardiness or sporadic attendance. In response to an identified need among the target population, one Spanish-speaking group is now offered.

Other services include:

  • Individual and family counseling (for fathers, partners, and children)
  • Crisis intervention
  • Case management
  • Peer mentors
  • Parent education classes
  • A "job club"
  • Advocacy with the Dependency Court and Department of Children and Family Services
  • Referrals for food, housing, shelter, health care, employment training, and legal assistance, as needed
  • Father/child activities such as fishing, camping, and sports events

Project Fatherhood has operated since 1996 with private foundation funding. In 2001, CII received a grant from the Children's Bureau to expand and enhance the project by serving more clients, developing a longitudinal research study and a training program for therapists, and publishing and distributing materials necessary for program replication. So far, more than 40 staff representing at least 30 agencies have received training.

For more information about the program or how to obtain a copy of the curriculum, contact:

Dr. Hershel Swinger
Senior Vice President of Clinical Services, CII
Founder, Project Fatherhood
(213) 385-5100

Note: The Project Fatherhood demonstration program was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant # 90 CA 1692. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau Discretionary Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.

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