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 Poten­tial — emerged 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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