Understanding and Serving the Needs of Young Fathers of Color

Posted August 26, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Young dad reads to his toddler.

Young fathers of color face many challenges — from struggling to maintain housing and family-supporting jobs to keeping up with child support. At the same time, organizations, funders and others can improve how they’re helping these fathers, according to a new report from the Center for Urban Families.

The report — entitled Reaching Their Full Potentialemerged from a two-part roundtable hosted by the Center for Urban Families and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The spring 2020 event brought together 10 organizations that serve fathers of color through job training, mental health care, parenting support, life skills coaching and more.

Understanding the needs of young Fathers

Young fathers lead complex lives, the roundtable participants noted. Oftentimes, they’re attempting to juggle work, school and parenting responsibilities.

As a result, these fathers:

  • face challenges that need to be addressed quickly, such as needing help finding stable housing, child care, financial assistance and other supports;
  • need legal support, including assistance with family court cases or justice system involvement;
  • require strong bonds and trusting relationships, which can sometimes be addressed by hiring staff who were young fathers themselves or can relate to the population in other ways; and
  • can be recruited in unconventional ways, such as at social events or similar occasions.

Young Latino fathers — especially those who lack citizenship or English language skills — may refrain from seeking services out of fear of deportation. As a result, targeted and tailored outreach may be required to reach this population, the roundtable participants maintained.

“During the roundtable, we were inspired as we heard about the strength, resilience and motivation young fathers bring to tackle dual goals: becoming the best dads they can be while improving their own lives,” says Rosa Maria Castañeda, a senior associate at the Casey Foundation who manages investments in two-generation approaches. “It’s time that young fathers be seen in this positive light and that we fix the structural problems and historical inequities that place too many obstacles in their paths.”

Recommendations for the field

The report also offers guidance to organizations and funders that are devoted to supporting fathers of color. This advice includes:

  • developing program models that take into account the latest research on young adult brain development;
  • using approaches that properly implement culturally competent programming and curricula;
  • expanding opportunities for organizations serving young fathers of color to connect, discuss challenges and explore new approaches;
  • linking young fatherhood programs with workforce-training networks and programs that serve young boys and people of color;
  • leveraging public funding to food and transportation
  • supporting quantitative and qualitative research that leads to evidence-based program models.

These recommendations are a good start,” Castañeda says. “We hope public officials, program leaders, funders, researchers and young fathers themselves put them into action and discover new and better supports and approaches.”

Watch a webinar about the report

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