Child welfare policies and practices that may make the participation of fathers in child welfare case planning increasingly more likely include:
- The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997
- The nationwide movement towards concurrent planning
- The growing use of kinship placements
- The increasing use of family decision making
- The increasing nationwide movement of father engagement and father inclusion
These laws, programs, and initiatives provide the blueprints for working more effectively with fathers, and thereby, increasing success in child welfare.
Policies and Procedures for National Father Engagement Efforts
The Ohio Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families (OPNFF) recognizes that the role of a father is important to the healthy cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development of children. They created a public policy agenda acknowledging that much work remains to be done in the area of fatherlessness and father engagement. The following include their policy and procedural recommendations for addressing problems that fathers still face in child welfare:
1. Child support reform, to include:
a. Higher legal standards to be met before incarcerating fathers
b. Ending arrears accumulation during incarceration
c. A state-owed arrears forgiveness program
d. A meaningful child support arrearage forgiveness program linked to participation in responsible fatherhood training programs
e. Greater allowance for child support modifications that take into consideration the totality of family circumstances
2. Job training and employment reform, to include:
a. More funding for job training so that men can gain the skills needed to obtain and retain gainful employment
b. Addressing the problems and challenges created by the child support and criminal justice systems for fathers to become gainfully employed so that they can contribute to their family's financial well-being
c. Job training and help with job attainment as part of fathers' reentry into society and into the lives of their families
d. All working men and women should receive a "living wage."
e. The legislature should focus attention on the disproportionately high unemployment rates among low-income minority males. A goal should be set to reduce unemployment within three years.
3. Welfare/TANF reform, to include:
a. State and local governments should be actively pursuing demonstration and other grant opportunities through the federal Responsible Fatherhood program that is part of the recent TANF reauthorization.
b. More TANF funds should be used for fatherhood and cooperative parenting programs.
c. Federal TANF policy allows funding for two-parent families and non-custodial fathers. State officials should recognize the potential of pro-family policies and use available resources to implement programs that will benefit low-income families.
d. Public officials must recognize that there needs to be a shift away from the past bias toward single mothers in welfare and family-related programs. In designing and funding programs, they must recognize the key role that fathers play in strengthening families.
4. Fathers, families, and professional support, to include:
a. The state legislature should appropriate money annually to support local fatherhood programs.
b. Additional funding should be provided for fatherhood training so that young men will understand the need for accepting social and financial responsibility when they have children.
c. Mentoring programs should be established for boys who themselves are fatherless; these programs would help to lessen the likelihood that they will continue this pattern of the absent father.
d. Adequate funding should be provided for training qualified professional fatherhood trainers and service providers.
5. Incarceration and reentry, to include:
a. Programs and services should be established to help individuals make a positive adjustment that gives them the opportunity to remain out of the criminal justice system. These programs should include:
iii. Self-sufficiency training
b. Families should play a central role in the lives of incarcerated fathers through increased child visitation and family involvement in the rehabilitation
c. Funding should be provided for job training and job placement services to help ex-offenders who want to become legitimate wage earners, enabling them to be supportive of their families.
d. The Ohio Fatherhood Commission should play a key role in reentry policies.
Policies and Procedures for California's Father Engagement Efforts
In California, the Department of Social Services (CDSS) is spearheading efforts to disseminate and promote the development and implementation of strategies, policies, and protocols to improve the engagement of fathers who have children involved in the child welfare system. California's father engagement efforts are also an integral part of the state's Program Improvement Plan (PIP).
View or download All County Information Notice (ACN) 1-05-11, which describes CDSS's conviction about its intention to promote father engagement.
Napa County, as part of its father engagement initiative, developed a policy that includes a case review every six months for the purpose of examining permanency for children. This policy was enacted in order for staff to consider creative and alternative practice methods in addressing the needs of fathers. It reads:
"It is the policy of Napa County Child Welfare Services to ensure that all children in out of home care for 24 months or longer have an administrative permanency case review once every six months which includes a review of the child and their family's current circumstances. The goals of the review are to identify a plan of directed activities designed to achieve permanency for a child or youth, such as adoption, guardianship and/or develop lifelong connections to caring adults."
View or download the entire policy.