by Mark Larson

Responsible Fatherhood Initiative Director

Father’s Day is a day to appreciate our fathers and the role that they play in our lives.  For some, it is a day of thanks for the ways that their fathers have enriched their lives.  For others, Father’s Day brings reflection on difficult experiences and lost opportunities.  For many, Fathers Day can be a combination of the two.  Whatever the experience, Father’s Day is a reminder of the significant impacts fathers have on our lives.

As people who work with families, Father’s Day is also an opportunity to reflect on our relationships with fathers and how working with dads fits within our efforts to engage families.  Are we doing what we could or should be doing to reach out to fathers?  Do we fully understand the roles fathers play within the families we work with?  All too often, our work with families is really work with moms and kids.  This can have a profound impact on our ability to understand and support families.

Here are a few questions that might help evaluate your and your agencies work with fathers:

  1. Do we prioritize efforts to find and meet with the fathers of the families we work with?
  2. Do we fully consider the strengths that fathers have as parents and the contributions they can make in their children’s lives?
  3. Do we assess for behaviors that fathers may engage in that are harmful to their families? Do we provide accountable and supportive opportunities to change these behaviors?
  4. When working with mothers and children, do we consider the impact of fathers who are present or absent from the home on the family history and dynamics?
  5. How do issues of gender, race and class impact our expectations of fathers?
  6. Is our work environment inviting to fathers and does it show fathers as having a central role in family life?
  7. Do staff members in your organization feel as comfortable and capable of working with fathers as they do with mothers?

In honor of Father’s Day, I encourage you to take a moment to consider on a scale of one to ten how you feel about your and your agency’s work with fathers and on the role of fathers in the lives of their families.  Whatever numbers you choose, what would it take to move those numbers higher? What steps could you take by next Father’s Day to get there?   How would these steps impact the health, safety and well being of the children? How would these steps positively impact moms?   Based on this reflection, you can develop an action plan to move you and your agency forward towards an approach that more accurately reflects the lives of the families in our communities.