18, No. 2
Strong Fathers in Prevention
Knowing what we do about fathers' contributions to the parenting relationship and to children's well-being gives us great reason to find help for fathers who have a history of domestic violence. Violence puts a father at risk of separation from his children. It jeopardizes his involvement with them, and negatively affects their safety and well-being.
As a child welfare worker or agency, dealing with situations of domestic violence is difficult.
A new initiative in North Carolina is helping communities find answers for these questions.
The Strong Fathers Model
Funded by the NC Division of Social Services, the Strong Fathers program is offered through Family Services, Inc. and serves men in three North Carolina counties. The Center for Family and Community Engagement (CFFACE) at NC State University evaluates the program.
Developed by the Center for Child and Family Health and its partners, the curriculum used in the Strong Fathers model draws on other nationally recognized courses that seek to reduce child maltreatment and intimate partner violence.
The Strong Fathers groups meet once a week for 20 weeks. During these sessions participants learn about child development and parenting techniques and talk with other men about how to be good fathers and care for their families. They learn about the effects of domestic violence on families, discuss ways to work in partnership with children's mothers, and they set goals for their own growth as fathers.
According to the preliminary findings, the men who completed the program demonstrated:
None of the data sources show increased safety risks for children and their mothers (CFFACE, 2012).
These early results are promising. If longitudinal data becomes available it will be interesting to see what those data show about outcomes for children in these families.
Tools for Workers
A handout for use with fathers, "Supporting Your Child's Mother," explains the effects of domestic violence on children and offers ways fathers can show respect and support for mothers.
There is still a lot to learn about how best to help fathers change when domestic violence is involved, but the child welfare community and others are making strides in this area. The Strong Fathers model is one such effort that holds promise for helping fathers and their families.