On November 29th, Ascend at the Aspen Institute and the GOOD+ Foundation co-hosted The Father Factor: A Critical Link in Building Strong Families and Communities to discuss the importance of engaging fathers both with their children and with social programs. Practitioners, policymakers, and researchers explored current research, disseminated best practices for reaching fathers, and discussed policy interventions and opportunities for improvement moving forward.
The agenda started with, “why a focus on fathers, and why now?” and other questions like, “How can we better serve fathers?” UTEC is proud to partner with Ascend to advance 2Gen strategies that are tailored to proven-risk young fathers, including those who are returning from incarceration.
The criminal justice system affect many families and communities. Gregg Croteau, CEO of UTEC, Jerry Tello, Founder/Director of Training & Capacity Building, National Compadres Network, Mary Weaver, Executive Director, Friends Outside in Los Angeles County/Dad’s Back!, Robin McDonald, Office of Family Assistance, Administration for Children and Families (moderator) focus on strategies that work and understanding the challenges in building relationships and opportunities for fathers and their families as they re-enter communities.
Gregg talked about how our collective work is ultimately about eliminating the “surprise factor” that some programs work with young fathers. When it’s possible for both parents to be engaged, that should always be the goal. “All of our 2Gen work is so that each young parent can be the number one teachers in their kid’s life,” Gregg said, whether that be for life skills or practical skills like math and reading.
Young dads with a history of incarceration represent some of the highest-risk families, and therefore also offer potentially the highest return on investment, Gregg said, connecting the family to community as other speakers also did.
Kathryn Edin, professor at Princeton University, explained that “social policy is failing families. Child support is critical, yet the broken system treats less advantaged men like second-class citizens.” Other leaders also focused on connection. “Talk to the dads that you want to serve and figure out what’s important to them,” said Jason Gortney of Children’s Home Society of Washington.
The voices of families – their perspectives and experiences – are critical to informing 2Gen practices and policies. Young parents are aware that their children’s economic future are at risk unless society work together to offer a new path forward.
Source: Lowell Sun