Foundations and nonprofits are generating innovative solutions to improve life outcomes and decrease disparities for Black men and boys. The case studies presented here highlight strategies, successes, and lessons learned.
Fathers, Families, and Healthy Communities: Responsible Fatherhood as Community Building Practice
Fathers, Families, and Healthy Communities (FFHC) is a city-wide initiative in Chicago to enhance African-American noncustodial fathers’ engagement with their children and families. FFHC operates with the belief that when fathers’ untapped assets are leveraged, amazing things can happen. Funded by the Chicago Community Trust and the Open Society Foundations, the project helps men with legal issues around custody, visitation, and child support, offers job training and placement and educational development, and works to strengthen the relations that fathers have with their families and children.
Strengths and Successes
- The project is a collaboration of practitioners, researchers and academics, and public policy experts. This community-based collaborative approach is an emerging model of inter-organizational efforts to improve coordination of services and increase positive outcomes.
- FFHC’s strategy is evidence-based; its foundation is research from the University of Pennsylvania’s National Center on Fathers and Families.
- Currently in its second year, FFHC is working with 230 noncustodial African-American fathers. They are considered “members” rather than clients and participate voluntarily.
- FFHC holds regular peer-support groups and networking events that enable men to build camaraderie with each other, strengthening their motivation to keep striving to become better fathers.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
- Public policies criminalizing the failure to pay child support—compounded by employment and educational inequities—have created significant challenges for low-income, non-custodial African-American fathers.
- The creation of Responsible Fatherhood as a distinct field has constrained its sustainability, causing it to lack integration with other funding streams (e.g., those that support mothers and children). By taking a collaborative approach, FFHC integrates fatherhood services into broader family services, thereby leveraging other funding sources.
- Fatherhood programs often lack capacity to conduct rigorous evaluations and fail to show how father engagement contributes to positive outcomes for children. To build the knowledge base, FFHC rigorously measures outcomes using an evaluation and data tracking model.