Engaged fathers play a positive role in promoting children’s development. NW Kansas shares their experience in adapting a group-based father intervention to home visiting to strengthen families by increasing protective factors that build safe, nurturing environments for children.
            
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KIPS TIPS September 2014

 Hi ,  

Engaged fathers play a positive role in promoting children’s development.  Research shows that children with engaged fathers show better outcomes in early childhood and adolescence, such as 1) better social-emotional development, 2) higher school achievement, and 3) fewer behavior problems.  This is how fathers pave the path for their sons and daughters to become successful adults.  

In our series of KIPSter Voices from the Field, Northwest Kansas Prevention of Child Abuse, shares their experience in adapting a group-based father-focused intervention to home visiting to strengthen families by increasing protective factors that build safe, nurturing environments for children.  

I hope this offers you food for thought in your program.

Marilee


 

Paige Campbell
Project Director of Parenting Together Project
Northwest Kansas Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect
 It’s a joy to work with new fathers who are eager to grow as parents. In Northwest Kansas we want to support fathers to build strong families and support their babies’ development from the start.  So do our funders.  A 2013 request for proposals asked us to address fatherhood, using an evidence-based program.  So we started our search.  

Parenting Services in NW Kansas

Clearly delivering services to families regarding parenthood is complex work and calls for a team effort.  I collaborate with Maureen Ostmeyer and Denise Singer of Smart Start Northwest Kansas.  The goals of our program are to 1) reduce the risk of Adverse Childhood Experiences, 2) to strengthen families through increasing protective factors so that all children live in safe, stable and nurturing environments and 3) to provide the best outcome for children 0-5 years.  We initially took on the challenge of supporting families with low protective factors by offering parenting education groups for families expecting a baby and those with children from birth to 5 years.  Some families travel up to 40 miles to participate in our groups.  We serve families spread out across 12 rural counties inNorthwest Kansas.  In FY2014, 83% of the families we served were Caucasian, with 17% Hispanic. The majority of our children served in our parenting programs were birth to 3 years, with parents ranging in age from teens to middle age.

Our usual parent education groups use the Nurturing Parenting curriculum and involve more teaching than individual conversations with families.  They are sponsored by Northwest Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect (PCAN) and Smart Start Northwest Kansas. These groups are funded by the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund through Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) and Early Childhood Block grant funds.  It was the CBCAP proposal that requested father involvement.  

parenting-_assessment-resized-600When searching the Internet for evidence-based programs to engage fathers with their babies, I discovered a review of the Parenting Together Project on the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare.  This approach looked like a good fit because fathers were the focus, yet it required mothers to participate as well.  Much of the intervention worked on forming a partnership in parenting, in addition to building fathers’ knowledge and skills as they become parents.  Fast forward to the good news: our proposal was funded!

How We Engaged Fathers in Parenting Services 

As soon as we received the CBCAP grant funds, I contacted William J. Doherty, Ph.D. and Kurt A. Wical, Ph.D. who were lead researchers in developing the Parenting Together Project at the University of Minnesota.  Dr. Wical trained me on this intervention; but with a twist. We adapted the original Parenting Together Project group model for home visiting.  I had learned previously that it was inconvenient for fathers to attend our usual parenting groups.  The Parenting Together Project gave us the opportunity to engage fathers with their infants, alongside mothers, in being new parents. 

As a woman reaching out to fathers, I depend upon father advocates among our community partners to screen our materials, such as recruitment fliers, to grab fathers’ attention.  Overall, during home visits we focus on building mothers’ support for the fathers’ involvement, teamwork in parenting, and creating nurturing homes for the children.  I meet with the fathers and their partners for 4 sessions when they are 6 to 1 months before birth.  Sessions range from 1-2 hours in length.  I expected the moms to do most of the talking, but to my surprise, the fathers are much more interactive than I expected, asking lots of questions, when they are given center stage in the project.  During home visits I’m especially careful to use “my listening ear” to facilitate the father’s involvement in balanced conversations with parents.  

During prenatal visits the Parenting Together Project curriculum calls for each father and mother to develop a vision statement of what it will look like to be parents.  I ask them to reflect on how this is similar or different than the ways they were parented, and then, what supports would help them achieve their vision.  We also work on couple communication, including assertive talk with respect, and acknowledging your partner’s skills.  In preparation for their changing lives with a baby, the father and mother negotiate a co-parenting plan for basic tasks, such as child care, grocery shopping and cooking. 

After birth we meet for 4 more sessions when the baby is 2 to 6 months old.   During these visits they share their birth stories and family rituals that are developing, while also attending to their own relationship as a couple.  We discuss the challenges to the father’s involvement.  For example, the gatekeeper role some mothers play, or the way dads may do things differently with their baby, but it still works out fine.  Communicating with their baby is a particular topic of interest for both parents.  

The Role of Parenting Assessment

 The KIPS parenting assessment is especially helpful in promoting the father’s engagement. Because fathers are the focus of this intervention, I use KIPS with the father and baby during the visits at 2 and 6 months to help assess where he is and build nurturing behaviors with his baby during their early months together.  KIPS meets our funder’s requirement for evidence-based measures of outcomes and also offers a behavioral guide for working with each family.  In addition, fathers and their partners report their views of their family strengths pre and post intervention on the Protective Factors Survey.  After the first KIPS is performed with each father, we discuss with both parents his strengths while interacting with his child, and then set a plan on how to enhance their interactions. 

 One of my first Parenting Together Project participants was really receptive to what he could do more when interacting with his infant.  At the post-KIPS session he improved with the skills we discussed, such as watching for the baby’s cues (Sensitivity item on KIPS) and then following his baby’s lead (Agenda item on KIPS), and continued to build on his strengths with interacting with his baby.  Conversations with parents about their KIPS results are especially enjoyable because they are so delighted when they see they have strengths.  During these early months with their babies, they are particularly motivated to work on areas that they did not score as well.

 All the families have been receptive to the KIPS assessments.  We usually see an improvement by the second time KIPS is performed.  The families are pleased and we are pleased.


 

 Stork-KIPS

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