As I reflect on the role we play in the lives of vulnerable children and families, it reminds me that we are in the business of imparting hope to those who are struggling with life’s challenges.
In our community and most communities across the United States, family-centered practice has become the gold standard approach used to successfully engage and include families in case planning. Yet, research informs us that father engagement and involvement is often overlooked or minimized in the case planning process for children involved in the child welfare system.
The father-child relationship plays a vital role in the emotional development of a child either good or bad. Yet, all too often nonresident fathers remain at a distance and efforts to engage and involve them remains limited.
As Father’s Day approaches and communities recognize and celebrate the vital role father’s play in the lives of their children, I thought it is only fitting to share research that illustrates the role of dad’s in the healthy development of children. Studies indicate:
- Involvement by nonresident fathers is associated with more reunifications.
- Higher levels of nonresident father involvement substantially lower the likelihood of later maltreatment allegations.
- Highly involved nonresident fathers’ children exited foster care faster.
- Children who had contact with a noncustodial parent in the last year were 46% less likely to enter foster care.[i]
A study of school-aged children found that children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie, and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior.[ii]
Father involvement protects children from engaging in delinquent behavior (Harris et al., 1998), and is associated with less substance abuse among adolescents (Coombs & Landsverk, 1988), less delinquency (Zimmerman et al., 1995), less drug use, truancy, and stealing (Barnes, 1984), and less drinking (Harris et al., 1998).
Since evidence supports father –involvement as a significant factor in the healthy development of children, it is important to ensure efforts to engage fathers is paramount in the planning process and that fathers are actively pursued and engaged. Even if placement with the father is not an option, maintaining a connection, when safe and appropriate to do so, is critical for the healthy development of children.
It is important to:
- Treat all fathers (resident, non-resident, incarcerated) with respect and do not assume that they do not want to be involved in their children’s lives.
- Prioritize placement of children removed from their mother’s home to the nonresident father when safe and appropriate to do so.
- Encourage fathers to do basic activities to support normalcy and create positive memories for children.Historically, Father’s Day is celebrated to recognize the contribution that fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children. It is a special time to honor fathers, fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. Father’s Day gives us an opportunity to recognize all of the fathers in our system of care and community who make a meaningful and lasting difference in the lives of those we serve. I would like to especially acknowledge and personally thank our foster and adoptive fathers who give of themselves to invest in Brevard’s children. Lives have been changed because of you!
[i] Engaging Noncustodial Fathers in Child Welfare Cases: A Guide for Children’s Attorneys and Lawyer Guardians ad Litem
Lisa Pilnik and Jessica R. Kendall Edited by Claire S. Chiamulera
[ii] Mosley, J., & Thompson, E. (1995). Fathering behavior and child outcomes: The role of race and poverty. In W. Marsiglio (Ed.), Fatherhood: Contemporary theory, research, and social policy (pp. 148–165). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.