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Reaching their Full Potential

Aug 1, 2020

In Spring 2020, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Center for Urban Families hosted a two-part roundtable with ten youth-serving organizations that conduct outreach and provide services, including job training, parenting, life skills and mental health support to young fathers. Participating organizations hail from both urban and rural communities, and range from mature, high-scale and well-known to small-scale and small-budget. Most are led by men of color and some are led by women of color. This brief illustrates the creative and exciting approaches the practitioners developed to serve young fathers of color. It also highlights opportunities to strengthen and improve services to young men who are parenting. These are best practices identified by the organizations who are actively involved in this work on a daily basis—and where they see opportunities to improve on this essential work.

  • Practitioners need to take a non-traditional approach to reaching young fathers. That can mean chatting them up on street corners or even showing up at bars or strip clubs to pass out fliers. They address urgent needs first, such as helping youth obtain stable housing.
  • Most of the programs are cohort-based, combining classes on parenting, relationship and financial stability into one curriculum. And they rely heavily on mentors, typically older fathers, to coach them through the challenges of parenthood.
  • Young fathers live complex lives. They’re often in the thick of resolving these issues, which means they may have to exit the programs temporarily. Still, while they’re juggling a lot in their lives, they usually want to rejoin at a later time. Practitioners stress the importance of maintaining communication, reaching out and establishing trust so that young men feel comfortable returning to the program—even if it’s a year or so later.
  • All service providers the report's talked to take advantage of activities to help young fathers nourish their relationships with their children. That can mean father-daughter parties or kids’ photo days. Or it can mean back-to-school shopping expeditions where fathers receive gift cards provided by charitable organizations to buy their kids clothing and supplies.
  • The success of the programs, and the ultimate success of the young men and their families, is limited because of the systemic challenges the organizations face. So, to continue doing this laudable work, these practitioners need support, too. The practitioners agreed that the following actions should be taken to strengthen their program models and the long-term trajectory of all young fathers: Peer Connections, Increased Public Funding, Research and System Change