The National Quality Improvement Center for Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System (QIC NRF) (www.fatherhoodqic.org) awarded subgrants in 2008 to projects in four States for fatherhood classes for nonresident fathers whose children have been removed from their homes. One of the four subgrants was awarded to the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) to locate and recruit nonresident fathers of children in the Marion County child welfare system to participate in fatherhood classes. The goal was to increase fathers' involvement with their children and the child welfare system.
The fatherhood classes met for 20 weeks and used a curriculum developed by the QIC NRF to support nonresident fathers in engaging their children. The curriculum covers topics such as navigating the child welfare system, supporting their children, and workforce issues. Between December 2008 and December 2010, 98 fathers participated in these classes.
The following are examples of successful strategies used by the project to engage nonresident fathers and help gain buy-in from caseworkers:
- DCS staff led some sessions, which helped build rapport and trust between the fathers and the agency. The fathers said they were impressed that someone from DCS would provide them with so much useful information and that this helped them see they were all on the same team.
- The project received funds to make the DCS lobby more father friendly, including installing a baby-changing table in the men's restroom, leaving out literature about fatherhood, and hanging pictures of fathers with their children.
- The project had one staff member based in a DCS office. The staffer, who served as a liaison between the fathers and the agency, helped caseworkers better understand the program, what their roles were, and the resources available to them. Having the liaison based at a DCS office eased caseworkers' concerns about confidentiality and information sharing.
- Fathers who participated in the program spoke on panels for the caseworkers. This helped the caseworkers view the fathers as more than names in case files and helped them better understand how to engage fathers in case planning.
The QIC NRF subgrant ended in March 2011, but the Marion County DCS plans to continue offering classes to help engage fathers in the child welfare system. Additionally, Indiana DCS will continue incorporating father engagement into its case practice and issued a statewide request for proposals to establish fatherhood liaisons in all 18 regions of the State to conduct location and engagement efforts with nonresident fathers.
Reprinted from Children's Bureau Express, "Site Visit: Engaging Fathers Project in Indiana" (http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov).