Responsible Fathers Initiative (RFI)
One of the biggest problems facing American families is the absence of a father who is responsible, nurturing and giving of himself for the betterment of his family. Statistics show us that children who are raised without a responsible father in the home are more likely to have delinquency issues, including contact with the criminal just system, early alcohol and drug use and to live in poverty where food insecurity is a daily reality.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4 live without a father in the home. These children are four times greater risk of living in poverty, seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teenager, more likely to have behavioral problems, more likely to go to prison, twice as likely to suffer obesity, two times more likely to drop out of high school and more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Although these statics are very daunting, they are not insurmountable. What many state and county governments have known for many years is the importance of an evidence-based fatherhood program. Data shows that when fathers are engaged in an effective fatherhood program the bonds between the father and child is strengthened. Fatherhood programs can also increase the communication between the father and mother of the child as well as improve overall co-parenting skills. Another benefit of fatherhood programming is the improved physical health of the father as the importance of men’s health is a critical part of the curriculum. Fatherhood programming also focuses on cognitive behavior of the participant and his understanding of his role in the life of his child.
With the introduction of the ACE study, (Adverse Childhood Experiences) most fatherhood programs have accepted that the absence of the father is a contributing traumatic factor in the life of a child. Making sure that the participant clearly recognizes the connection between his absence and the future health issues of his child is just another way to stress the importance of a nurturing and involved father.
Child Support and Fatherhood Programs
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child Support Enforcement;
effective collaboration between child support and responsible fatherhood programs is essential in promoting child well-being and better child support outcomes. Child support programs are uniquely positioned to serve fathers because caseworkers have direct contact with noncustodial fathers and can connect them to responsible fatherhood-related programs and services.
DHHS recognizes that fatherhood programs play a crucial part in the overall strategies for effective child support outcomes. These strategies include: referring parents to fatherhood programs, answers child support related questions from fatherhood staff and participants, to provide individualized case management and assistance, welcome opportunities to collaborate and partner, visit fatherhood programs and give presentations on child support processes and develop a deeper relationship with fatherhood program staff.
The Talbot County Department of Social Services has been supporting fatherhood programming since 2010 and have seen an increase in child support payments as well as a stronger parent-child relationship from most participants in the fatherhood program. The Office of Child Support Administration provides funding to the local DSS offices for the cost of books, materials, and facilitator.
The Responsible Fathers Initiative (RFI) is a progressive and wide-ranging initiative that serves custodial and non-custodial fathers in Talbot County. The mission of the program is to empower fathers to become more responsible, accountable, and engaged active participants in the lives of their children. The purpose of RFI is to give the fathers the tools, training and understanding of the important role fathers have in the lives of their children.
The fathers, in RFI work to enhance and develop a healthy relationship between the father and child and the mother. The use of an evidence-based curriculum centering on the importance of responsible fatherhood encourages the participants of their role and duties to their children and the family unit. The RFI facilitators also promote active quality time between the father and his children to strength the bonds between father and child. The RFI when possible, will assist in obtaining job training and employment readiness, highlighting the importance of contributing to the financial needs of family, as one of the primary duties of a responsible father.
The National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI)
The National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-sectarian organization that aims to improve the well-being of children through the promotion of responsible fatherhood. Headquartered in Germantown, Maryland, its mission is to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children with involved, responsible, and committed fathers. NFI was founded on March 7, 1994 by Don Eberly, a civil society scholar.
The Responsible Fathers Initiative uses the NFI 24/7 Dad curriculum for its community-based program and the NFI Inside Out Dad for the fathers who are incarcerated at the Talbot County Detention Center.
24/7 Dad is a National Fatherhood Initiative curriculum covering twelve group sessions that trains fathers to be involved, responsible, and committed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Included in the curriculum are the five characteristics of the 24/7 Dad®: Self-awareness, caring for self, fathering skills, parenting skills, and relationship skills.
Topics discussed include family history, the meaning of being a man, showing and handling feelings, men’s health, communication, the father’s role, discipline, child development, getting involved, co-parenting, and work ethics.
The 24/7 Dad group meets each Thursday at the Neighborhood Service Center in Easton and Wednesday evenings at Delmarva Community Services Inc, in Cambridge. A meal is provided for the fathers as many are coming to the group directly from work. Through the partnership with the YMCA of the Chesapeake, the fathers have the opportunity for a limited free membership to promote good physical health.
Starting in Spring on 2022 RFI joined in partnership with Dorchester County Public Schools to launch the first 24/7 Dad for Teen Dads. This collaboration will introduce young men to NFI curriculum, while broadening their understanding and appreciation of the role that responsible fathers play in the family. These young men while also have the opportunity to take part in a summer retreat sponsored by Washington College. This is a special partnership between RFI, and Washington College will assist these young men as they prepare for college and future endeavors.
Inside Out Dad
The Responsible Fathers Initiative (RFI) also provides programming to the incarcerated fathers in the Talbot County Detention Center. Inside Out Dad is the most widely used evidence-based parenting program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers. It is included in SAMSHA’s National Registry of evidence-based programs and practices.
Understanding Dad for Moms
RFI in the Spring on 2020, during height of COVID pandemic starting offering serves to the incarcerated mothers at the Talbot County Detention Center. Due to health restrictions all the session were conducted virtually, yet RFI report 100% attendance for the entire three-month period. The NFI Understanding Dad for Mom curriculum was introduced to the women, giving them many topics of discussion surrounding the different role fathers and mothers play in the family.
According to NFI there are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail. Ninety-five (95%) of all inmates will eventually be released. Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents in prison are fathers. Most—2 out of 3 inmates—will reoffend and be back in prison.
Re-Entry and Fatherhood
Starting in June of 2022 RFI began a Re-Entry course at the Talbot County Detention Center. This course is designed to assist these inmates on planning for their release and eventual return to the community and their family. U.S. incarcerates some 2.2 million people in federal, state prisons, and local detention, of this total 95% will be released at some point. Roughly 40% of former federal prisoners and more than 60% of former state prisoners are rearrested within three years of release. By reducing the rate of offenders who return to prison, we keep communities safer, families more intact and can reinvest incarceration dollars into other critical areas.
Using Inside Out Dad as a component of a reentry program has been found to reduce recidivism by 37%. It has been shown that incarcerated fathers who participate with a fatherhood program have a 24% recidivism rate, while the cohort who do not complete a fatherhood program have been shown to have a 38% recidivism rate.
The Responsible Fathers Initiative (RFI) has also partnered with Mid-Shore Mediation to assist incarcerated fathers to start the process of reconnecting with their family members. As subject matter experts in the field of family mediation and conflict resolution, the RFI appreciates the support of Mid-Shore Mediation as an added resource for the fathers in the program.
The Responsible Fathers Initiative (RFI) realizes the importance of partnerships, as we have already joined with the Talbot County Detention Center, the YMCA of Chesapeake and with Mid-Shore Mediations, we will continue looking for new community partners in other areas such as employment readiness, financial literacy, housing, and addiction support care.
We hope that this over-view provides a better understanding as to the importance of evidence- based fatherhood programs and the part they play in overall family cohesiveness. The Responsible Fathers Initiative is here to assist the court and can provide attendance and performance reports of persons ordered to attend the program as part of a child support order or to strengthen partnering skills as part of a child custody proceeding.