Monday, March 8, 2010

Attorney General focuses on the importance of fatherhood initiatives

It's time to change our ways. In NYS, when a person is incarcerated, the policy has been to send them to a prison far from home and make them earn their way back. An unintended consequence -- weakening the bond between fathers and their children -- bad news for everyone including the community.

OJJDP News @ a Glance - January/February 2010: "'More than 1.5 million American children have fathers in prison,' the Attorney General noted in his address, 'And we know that children of incarcerated parents suffer from the physical and emotional separation, the stigma associated with having a parent detained, the loss of financial support, and the disruption caused by introducing new caregivers into a child's life.'

Approximately 700,000 people return to their communities from prison every year. However, only a small percentage of these people receive any help preparing for their return. Research reveals that incarcerated men who maintain strong family ties while behind bars are more successful when they are released. They have an easier time finding jobs and staying off drugs. In fact, a recent study done for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that people who were married or in committed relationships were half as likely to use drugs or commit new crimes after they returned to their communities. Family connections—and responsible and engaged parenting—improve public safety."

We're glad to see that OJJDP has initiated funding for demonstration projects to strengthen that link between incarcerated people and their families -- especially their children.

How does the portrayal of dads in the media impact kids? March 31, 2010

Join us for the next session of the Hudson Valley Fatherhood Alliance staff development series.

Considering the number of children growing up with fathers absent from their homes, NYS OTDA funded a study to assess the impact media fathers have in constructing children's perceptions of fatherhood.

The study showed that sitcom fathers demonstrate greater guidance, general support and acceptance than do real fathers, indicating the need to provide a forum to explore the complex view of real family life and move away from the often unrealistic portrayal found in the media.

NYS OTDA has released a DVD and training curriculum, Perceptions of Fathers in the Media, In Search of the Ideal Father, to assist service providers in facilitating conversations around a more reality based image of fathers in American society. Ken Braswell will share some of the material from that study and the training curriculum with us this month.

Join us -- This free session is open to human services professionals, the media, fathers, and the general public over age 15, compliments of the Hudson Valley Fatherhood Alliance and the City of Newburgh Youth Bureau --

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
3:00 pm

Perceptions of Fathers in the Media
Presented by
Kenneth Braswell, Director
NYS Fatherhood Initiative

City of Newburgh Recreation Department Activity Center
401 Washington Street
Newburgh, NY

RSVP required: or 845-883-6060

Monday, March 1, 2010

How "Father-Friendly" is your agency?


As agencies supported by community donations and tax dollars we have an obligation to pay attention to the research. Children do better when they have two parents who love and care for them. Those parents don't need to be in the same household, but they do need to collaborate to ensure their children grow up healthy and resilient.

Far a long time now we've focused on mothers -- reaching out to them, supporting them, engaging them. Now we wonder, where are the fathers? It's time to take a look at the messages, overt and unintended, that we send to fathers. Are we welcoming them? Do we make it easy for them to participate? How do we communicate with them?

We've posted some tools to help agencies take a look at their "father-friendliness." We hope they get the conversations started at your agency.

Meet the OCFS Fatherhood Team

Greg Owens, Janice Bibb-Jones, Robert Foulks, & Renee Bradley

On January 21st the Hudson Valley Fatherhood Alliance hosted the Fatherhood Team from OCFS.

The NYS Office of Children and Family Services has a number of initiatives underway to provide resources and incentives for dads -- some dealing with engaging the fathers of the children under their care and others helping teen fathers in their care explore the meaning of fathering.

We expect to see more of these folks over the next year. Robert is working with a group of fathers at the Highland Center which has been in the news lately. Christine has offered to provide a grant writing workshop later this spring.

You can read more about their work on their website.

This workshop is one in a series the Alliance is organizing to help agencies increase focus on strengthening fatherhood within the context of the programs we already offer.

P.S. -- here's a simple strategy that Renee shared. Take lots of pictures of fathers with their children. Many non-custodial fathers have no pictures of themselves with their children and the visual reminder seems to help them re-engage.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Raising Girls

Here's a new PBS special. Guess I won't watch it tonight, but I'll catch it on the web sometime soon.

in reference to: A Girl's Life . Raising Girls . PBS Parents | PBS (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Garry Mendez' Words of Wisdom

On December 10, 2009, Garry Mendez and his wife Juanita shared their experience and perspective working with long-term prisoners. Garry's goal is to build a community of incarcerated leaders who can work with their peers. He believes that unless African American men take responsibility for their families and their communities, the trend will continue until one in three African American men are incarcerated.

One of Garry's thought provoking comments is "Forget about changing the system. It takes too long. Focus on changing people."

In his work with the National Trust for the Development of African American Men, Garry wastes no time negotiating for the right room, time slot, number of participants, funding, or anything else. Work with what the terms the prison administration dictates and get down to business.

And, above all, don't do for the men who participate in your programs. They are resourceful and must make their own plans. They can find ways to father their children from prison, find a place to live and a job in anticipation of release, and can give back to the community they have wronged. You are there to help them if they want help, share how things are done in the rest of the world, and cheer them on. But the program, as well as their individual plans, have to be their own.

But, to start them on that road, you have to listen to their stories. Many of them have never had the opportunity to talk about the whys and hows of their lives. We all need that opportunity; that's where change begins.

Thanks Garry and Juanita for a wonderful conversation.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Letters - Losing Fatherhood -

Read the follow-up letters to the NY Times Magazine article on DNA testing, Losing Fatherhood. You'll find a few different perspectives, but most acknowledge that it is protecting the child from the devastating loss of a relationship with the father they know that should be our first concern.

Letters - Losing Fatherhood - "Preserving the nonbiological father’s and, more important, the child’s right to their relationship would shield the child from the catastrophic effects of a father’s desertion that often is motivated, in large part, by dollars and cents. Moreover, permitting the mother to retain an unfair bargaining chip against the father — threatening to sever the relationship unless the father continues to pay support — empowers the perpetrator of the fraud over the victim a second time.

Huntington, N.Y."
What are your thoughts?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How DNA Testing Is Changing Fatherhood -

The NY Times magazine recently published a long, thoughtful article on the complexities that DNA testing has introduced into the issues of fatherhood, child support, and the child's best interests.

How does the NYS court system regard these issues? And, as a professional in the field of human services, what do you think about the conflicts this article describes? Are those the same feelings you have as a father?

How DNA Testing Is Changing Fatherhood - "In an age of DNA, when biological relationships can be identified with certainty, it can seem absurd to hew so closely to a centuries-old idea of paternity. And yet basing paternity decisions solely on genetics places the nonbiological father’s welfare above the child’s. Phil Reilly, a lawyer who is also a clinical geneticist, has been wrestling with the policy implications of DNA testing for years, and even he is stumped about how society should manage the problem that men like Mike face. “We’re at a point in our society where the DNA molecule is ascendant, and it’s very much in the public’s consciousness that this is a powerful way to identify relationships,” Reilly says. “Yet at the same time, more people than ever are adopting children, showing that parents can very much love a child who is not their own. The difference here for many men is the combination of hurt and rage over the deceit, the fact that they’re twice beaten. I can see both sides of this argument. As a nation, we’re still in search of what the most ethical policy should be. Every solution is imperfect.”"
Read the whole article -- if you work in the fatherhood field it's well worth the time. Tell us what you think.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Conversation with Garry Mendez, Dec. 10th

Photo: Lil Wayne, rapper, facing a year behind bars for possession of illegal firearms

Dr. Garry Mendez has been troubled by some statistics for a long time.  The Pew Foundation recently published a study that indicated one in every hundred American citizens is incarcerated.

But Garry knows that incarceration is not an equal opportunity phenomenon. One in eight African-American males between 18 and 30 are incarcerated. If this trend continues, it wil soon be one in three.

Garry founded the National Trust for the Development of African-American Men to turn the trend around.

Garry Mendez is visiting family and friends in the Hudson Valley next week and has agreed to spend some time with us talking about his values-driven work with prisoners, the formerly incarcerated, and their families.

Join us:
Thursday afternoon, Dec. 10th at 2pm
Child Find of America Offices (Across from Lowe's)
21 S. Elting Corners Road
New Paltz, NY

Please drop Donna Linder an email or call her (845-883-6060) to RSVP so we set up for the right number of people.

Prior to founding The Trust, Dr. Mendez was a National Institute of Justice Fellow and developed the Crime Prevention programs for the National Urban League. Dr. Mendez received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, his M.A. from the Bank Street College of Education and his B.A. from Hobart College.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Two Proposals Submitted to Support Fatherhood Initiatives

Whew!Image via Wikipedia
Whew! We've completed the rather exhausting work of getting two proposals submitted -- one to support building the capacity of the Alliance and our members, the second for a coalition of organizations to offer workforce development and fatherhood enriching services in three counties in the Hudson Valley.

We talked to lots of folks as we put these programs together. The positive response thrilled us. While busy people were sometimes hard to reach, they were always supportive and enthusiastic when we explored how to work together.

And, now the waiting begins...

Thanks, everyone for your help and support.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Teenager Can’t Enjoy Being A Teenager!

Thought you might like to read Ken Braswell's most recent post. We've reproduced it here in full. Thanks, Ken, for sharing the ways in which things have changed with those of us whose children are grown.

My Teenager Can’t Enjoy Being A Teenager!: "
by Kenneth Braswell

On Saturday night while I was doing a little work; as I usually do, I was watching the clock and waiting for 12:30 to go and pick my daughter up from a party. She’s 16. It’s the age where she’s not quite an adult, but as parents we have to begin loosening up a bit, because in short order she’ll be 18. The celebratory age for us as parents; because she should be well on her way out to college. This joyous occasion will make those years between 16-18 years of age worth the headaches from her attitude, the stress from her wanting to be more independent and the worrying from being out on a Friday and Saturday night. It is the time in her life where we expect and want her to be young and experience the growing pains of youth. In fact, enjoy a time that she will look back on the rest of her life.

Well on this night she and her best friend ventured out to a teen Halloween party. Harmless enough right? Uneventful at least until our phone rang at about 11:30 to hear our daughter asking me to come and get her because a fight broke out at the party and someone was stabbed. Upon arriving at the scene, I was greeted by scores of police cars, ambulances and many concerned parents.

While I was relieved to get my daughter and her friend safely into the car, I was quite disturbed by several parents who arrived wanting to find teenagers to fight themselves. I shutter to thing that this may be the normal weekend course of parents across the country. My “Old School” won’t allow me to understand the behavior of these grown a$ parents. For a few moments I sat in the car watching this craziness take place. I struggled with coming to grips with the reality that I was not in Brooklyn or Albany (circa 1970). It began abundantly clear that this might just be a different era.

As I glared into the sea of flashing lights, parents screaming and chaotic movement, I couldn’t help but notice one evident visual. Out of the over 50 parents I saw that evening, there was only a handful of men. I couldn’t help but wonder where in the Hell were the fathers of these children? I just couldn’t imagine me sitting up in my house watching TV, while Tracy was out getting our daughter from this kind of situation. Painfully, I knew the answer to that question, but I struggled to accept it. I also couldn’t help but think that maybe if there was a caring father in the lives of these kids they wouldn’t be out on the weekend wilding out.

Our inconceivable reality is that, at parties; in our neighborhoods; at school; and on the corners of our communities; these kids are shooting and stabbing each other for absolutely nothing. And while I want to acknowledge that this kind of behavior happens in rural and urban schools; it is highly more likely to happen when our teenagers are black and brown.

As my daughter and I were driving home, we talked about the events of the night. To my surprised my daughter says to me; “I guess I won’t be going to anymore parties.” I didn’t quickly respond because, while many would agree with her assessment and I too would agree; I couldn’t help but be saddened by hearing her say that. I even believe it hurt me more hearing it, than her saying it. Here’s why? As a teenager I can’t surmise a situation when I was growing up, when I would have uttered those words. I can look back at my years between 16-18 years old and remember all of the great times I had being a teenager. Because of this violent teen culture, our teenagers today might not be able to do that.

On Sunday I purchased the paper to see if they had reported anything about the fight. Even though I did not see anything about that one, there were several other parties where kids were stabbed or shot that evening. Are we supposed to keep our teens locked up or roll very dangerous dice each time we allow our children to enjoy their youth? If she was a difficult child, it would be very easy to ground her for 2 years, but she’s not. She’s a good kid who deserves to be out with her friends, have a good time, and not have to worry about guns blazing.

Our society is rapidly spiraling out of control and unfortunately our children are suffering directly from the broken state of our families. This parenting, single mother, responsible fatherhood and healthy relationship work is a critical work. It is needed at a time when mothers and fathers are finding difficulty in negotiating common ground. It is needed at a time when our youth are looking for direction, discipline, hope and example. Unfortunately it’s at a time when the parental needs for services are greater than our organizational resources or the political desire. [editor's emphasis]

It is a concerning matter for me, because I got two more children to go. I’m certain it is a concerning matter for parents who desire that their teenagers have fun, yet are serious about life. The problem with bullets is they rarely have names of them. The problem with knives is, even when you pull it out, the damage is already done. The problem with youth (sometimes) is it is wasted on the young.

For me and Tracy, we are going to keep trying to keep our children safe from all hurt, harm and danger without keeping her on permanent lockdown. While we may want her to enjoy her teenhood, unfortunately it will be much more difficult to say “yes” and a much greater necessity to say “no.”


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bad fathering is not the same as bad mothering

If this Salon post is indicative of the popular view of parenting, we've got a long way to go to change attitudes about the importance of good fathering. Check out the search term and Google's response above.

in reference to:
"Really, Google, did you mean that?We know it’s nothing personal; it’s just an algorithm based on the most common queries. And while we appreciate your patience when we suck at spelling “sacerdotal” and don't quite know whether that song goes “whoo hoo” or “woo hoo,” trust us that when we’re looking for faulty fathering, it’s not dear old mom we seek. Who knew you were so Freudian?"
- Did you mean that, Google? - Broadsheet - (view on Google Sidewiki)

Next Meeting Friday 10/30 at 9:30

FatherhoodImage by DaDaAce via Flickr
See you Friday morning when we'll continue working on our OTDA application.

Dutchess County DSS is in.
Ulster County DSS looks promising.
Orange County DSS is reviewing our request.

Want to be a part of Strengthening Fatherhood in the Hudson Valley?
Join us!
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Collaborating on Strengthening Fatherhood

Oct. 7, 2009: Two new Fatherhood RFPs Released. Steering Committee to discuss joint Hudson Valley application. All interested agencies are welcome.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 2 pm
Please RSVP 883-6060 for details and directions

Capacity Building: NFI, with support from the US HHS Office of Family Assistance, announces availability of 25 awards, each in the amount of $25,000, for the specific purpose of increasing capacity to develop their fatherhood programming, and to improve their financial sustainability by becoming more familiar with-and better qualified to receive-federal or private philanthropic support. Due Nov. 6, 2009. Link to RFP and more information.

Strengthening Families Through Stronger Fathers:
NYS OTDA - In an effort to help unemployed and underemployed noncustodial parents increase their financial and emotional involvement with their children, OTDA is seeking programs to provide case management and employment services coupled with other supportive services. Due Nov. 13, 2009. Link to RFP and more information.

Do you want to compete or collaborate? Let us know.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

HVFA Late September updates

Sept. 30 Updates: The Steering Committee Notes have been posted. We're planning a series of workshops, probably one a month, and getting ready to post some resources for you. Keep an eye on the events page. Bob Stein told us about some workshops for fathers scheduled in Westchester. And, Alicia Crowe is part of a Washington fatherhood panel and book-signing.