The Integration of Responsible Fatherhood within Foster Care Service Delivery and Other Children and Youth Servicing Systems

What if, children, youth and family service agencies routinely included paternal resources as a component of ensuring child well-being?

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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

My own personal understanding – of aging out of foster care, never having experienced the love of a Father; managing a successful state demonstration project that connected non-custodial Fathers with their children and watching the joy of their reunion – caused me to face my own pain of loss of family, especially a Father. You see, although I was placed in a two parent foster home, I never had a conversation with my foster father that I can remember, except for “go across the street and get me a packet of cigarettes – Camels.” In short, the story behind how I came to this project began years before I ever thought of it, or understood the need for it. I guess my inner motivation began in foster care, as I aged through the system and eventually aged out. Actually, once out, I realized that there was no biological child-parent relationship in place to advance my well-being; as I was homeless, parent less, and penniless. However, thanks to educational opportunities and self-sufficiency training programs available at the time, I managed to pursue a college education, hoping to never ever have to look back. Yet, the reality was that I never forgot my childhood experiences in foster care; most notably, not having an emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual, or financial relationship with either of my biological parents. None the less, I learned quickly that in America - family relationships are crucial to child well-being. Please see attachment # 2 for complete story.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)
  • Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)

I am an American Negro who's ancestral roots stem from the Yoruba and Hausa people of Nigeria.


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Pennsylvania

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Pennsylvania

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Philadelphia County, and surrounding Southeastern Pennsylvania counties, i.e. Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, and Chester.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Too many children across the country, including Philadelphia, lack the benefit of both parents, most often an absent Father, resulting in negative impacts on child well-being from birth forward, including economic deprivation, higher odds of incarceration, twice the odds of being a high school dropout, higher odds of smoking, drinking and using drugs, and higher risk of physical, emotional or economic neglect. Although children, youth or family-focus providers exist with a child well-being mission or mandate most, if not all, are ill-equipped, notwithstanding contrary intentions, to respond to the absence of fathers in the lives of their children they serve, primarily due to the philosophies, policies, practices, procedures, and protocols found in their service delivery models. Please see attachment # 6 for complete text.

Engage children, youth and family-focused agencies in a systematic macro participatory action research process that will: 1) increase their conversation and build their awareness of the value of Fathers in the lives of Children, and 2) enhance their capacity to improve outcomes for children, by encouraging  agency leadership to consider innovative strategies to expand their philosophies, policies, practices, procedures, and protocols to endorse the involvement of Fathers as additional support in the care of their children.

The Project is based on the premise that too many children are growing up without the emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual and financial support of both parents in a healthy and supportive environment, due to divorce, separation, or failure of parents to form a stable healthy relationship to support the needs of their children. The premise is supported by Annie E. Casey Kids Count 2016 data that 25 million of America’s children lived in single-parent families and that thirty-five percent (35%) of all American families are headed by a single parent. Additional support is provided by the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) coining of the term “Father Absence” as a contributing factor to the number of children who are experiencing America’s child welfare and/or juvenile justice systems of care.

In the City of Philadelphia most child and family agencies engaged in foster care service delivery, through contracts given by the city’s Department of Human Services, had not included Fathers as an integral part of their Service Delivery and Practice Models.  This practice was inconsistent with an often cited Federal 2006 Report titled “What about the Dads?” which established the potential importance of engaging Fathers of foster children when attempting to build the child-father relationship (when such a relationship does not pose a risk to the child’s safety or well-being), thus, enhancing the worker’s ability to make broader placement decisions, and gain additional access to resources for the child.

In short, the Project “The Integration of Responsible Fatherhood within Foster Care Service Delivery and Other Children and Youth Servicing Systems” seeks to encourage change in current practice and to initiate new programming initiatives that would do two things: 1) strengthen the capacity of agencies to include Fathers in their service delivery models, and 2) address systemic barriers through advocacy that hinder the involvement of Fathers in the lives of their children.

Regarding the question, what do you see as your project’s most promising aspects for ensuring children grow up with a strong sense of self, purpose, and belonging? My answer is simple – Receipt of emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual and financial support from both parents, as well as extended maternal and paternal families members. By making sure that Fathers and the paternal side of the family are included in the mix, children are at least afforded a change for a clear identity.

As to the child’s purpose, the supports mentioned above provided by the parents actually strengthens the child’s ability to find and embrace his/her own purpose in life. The strong sense of self with a purpose forms the foundation for feeling safe and secure. A feeling of belonging comes most readily when the child feels secure in a community where he/she is welcomed.

A Father’s contribution can add to the child’s sense of self, purpose in life, and most of all provide an additional sense of belonging. In that regard, the project champions the conversation and build an awareness of the value of Responsible Fatherhood within foster care service delivery and other children and youth servicing systems, through the initiation of the much needed dialog, by and among children, youth, and family-focused agencies, regarding the importance of healthy Father Involvement in the lives of children to enhance their well-being across-systems of care.

There is ample evidence of the inability of children, youth and family-focus serving entities to include paternal resources to maximize child well-being. These limitations are not a new phenomenon and are precipitated and sustained by a variety of factors, including policies underlying the funding on which the entities must rely, training and technical assistance needed that goes unmet, and operational philosophies, practices, policies, procedures and protocols that do not include the presence of Fathers.   Because of the complexities of the problem the project demanded a multi-faceted approach which it provides, given raise to encouraging results of added Father Inclusiveness within agencies.

Key dimensions of the project, to gather the most up-to date information regarding project agencies, keep apprised of their best practices, and monitor their practice enhancement initiatives, are as follows:

Evidence based learning

Reciprocal knowledge building and exchange



Systems integration

Agency self-assessment

Focus-group learning


Model development

Responsible fatherhood training and curriculum design

Technical assistance in the form of  individual agency consultation for capacity building

Strategies for agency system-wide policy and practice change

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • LGBTQ or non-binary individuals
  • Religious minorities (non-Christian)
  • Low-income communities
  • Other
  • No, not explicitly

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

Public Safety, Emergency Housing, Youth Congregate Care, Juvenile Justice, & Superv. Indep. Living.

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

My case example relates to Philadelphia Public School: Code Number # C-2016-0013, one of 33 agencies from 10 different systems of care for children participating in the Project “The Integration of Responsible Fatherhood within Foster Care Service Delivery and Other Children and Youth Servicing Systems.” Participating systems of care include the following: Administration of Justice/Public Safety, Behavioral Health, Child Welfare/Foster Care, Congregate Care Facilities, Education (K-12), Emergency Housing for Families Experiencing Homelessness, Intentional Targeted/Language and Culture, Juvenile Justice, Parent Education/Supportive Services, and Supervised Independent Living. For complete text please see attachment #12 - Example.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The major impact of the Project has been the recognition, by local, state and national child well-being stakeholders, of 23 children, youth, and family-focused agencies in Pennsylvania that voluntary collaborated, as a community of learners committed to strengthening their agency capacity to include Fathers of dependent and delinquent children and youth, who currently are, or are at risk of becoming, involved in various systems of care by 1) increasing the conversation and building awareness of the value of Fathers in the lives of Children, 2) enhancing their capacity to improve outcomes for children, by encouraging agency leadership to consider innovative strategies to expand their philosophies, policies, practices, procedures, and protocols to endorse the involvement of Fathers as, additional support in the care of of their children, and 3) Please see attachment # 13 for full text.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • less than $1k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Since Project ending, The Strong Families Commission Inc. has assumed continued management of the Father Integration Model Development Initiative and will continue implementation, in collaboration with the Child Welfare League of America, supported by efforts such as 1) A co- applicant-funded, National Father Engagement Certification process; 2) Philanthropic, public, private, and corporate funding; and 3) National Consulting Opportunities.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

The value of my Project is that it gathers its research, proposes policy change, and implement practice enhancements from the ground up. Most Fatherhood programs, including those in child welfare, are micro-focused on Father-Rehabilitation issues, as opposed to macro centered, which focuses on systems enhancement, to faciliate Father Inclusion within children, youth, and family-focused agencies or systems of care. This project, in short, is about child well-being and agencies' failure to include Fathers' potential to improve outcomes for their children, in their service delivery models.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

One of the most potentially promising developments in the field is a national, public sector, and agency-level transition. The apparent shift is to a more holistic approach—e.g., coupling existing resources with new, innovative concepts, that hold the potential for strengthening Father-inclusive families and, consequently, enhancing child well-being from birth forward. Continuation of the shift requires collaborative and collective work across silos; with a keen focus on holistically strengthening families, inclusive of Fathers. The full text of this Question is attached as # 18.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email
  • Other

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Jacquelyn Mitchell, JD, LSW, Commission Special Counsel for Child and Family Matters Ms. Mitchell is an attorney, forensic social worker, educator, and mediator. She earned her J.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is a member of the bar in Georgia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. A licensed social worker in Pennsylvania. She holds an earned M.S.W. degree from the Atlanta University School of Social Work.

Program Design Clarity

The Project’s immediate beneficiary is children, youth and family-focused agencies with philosophies, policies, practices, procedures, and protocols (5P’s) for service delivery to children and families that do not value the contributions of Fathers to a child’s well-being. Transform agency thinking to consider innovative strategies to expand the 5P’s to endorse the involvement of Fathers as, additional support in the care of their children. Activities: agency self-assessment; consultation; T/A; focus groups; training; and creation of agency re-tooling plan. Project P.I. delivers the services.

Community Leadership

The Project established early in its development the Trans-Disciplinary Multi-System Stakeholders Task Force on Dependent, Delinquent, and Crossover Youth as an independent governance and quality control mechanism to provide feedback regarding process, product deliverables, and evaluation. Task Force Membership totaled over 60 representatives from local, state, or national entities. See Attachment TD/MSS/TF/DDCY.

Age of Children Impacted

  • Pregnancy - 0
  • 0-1.5
  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

The first strategy in collaboration with others is to continue the conversation and build further awareness of the need to modify philosophies, policies, practices, procedures, and protocols that do not value, and hinder, the contributions that Fathers can make to the well-being of their children. Relationships currently exist at the local, state, and national level that will support the strategy; however funding is non-existent.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

The Project is committed to building a Resource Development Center (RDC) for Single Fathers with Children, a population that is increasingly growing. RDC would have at its center the needs of the child and the aspirations of the Father. Research shows that children do better on nearly all social and physical indicators of child well-being when there is a Father in their life, resulting in their sense of self, belonging, and purpose supported.

Leadership Story

I did not grown up with a family of my own. I have mentioned before in this application that I had no social relationship with my foster father even though he came home every night. My foster mother was a caring women, although I got tired of hearing “they don’t pay me enough for this.” This meaning taking care of me and my brother and sister. Once I aged out of foster care I promised God that I would never intentionally make any human being feel worthless, and so my life of social change began even though I did not realize it. I am a fighter for what's right for all, without prejudice.

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

Recognition by ASHOKA Changemakers, Funding from the Stoneleigh Foundaton, Collaboration with the Child Welfare League of American, Partnership with NASW-PA, Invited to serve on the National Responsible Fatherhood Roundtalbe, and Chair of Affiliate Dev. for Fathers & Families Coalition of America.

Organization's Twitter Handle


Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)

Leader's LinkedIn Profile (URL)

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 60%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 40%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 20%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 0%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 80%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 0%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 40%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 20%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 40%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 20%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 60%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 20%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 60%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 40%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 60%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 60%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

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Attachments (8)

Stoneleigh Foundation Fellow's Individual Participants and Participating Entities January 2016.docx

The purpose of the TD/MSS/TF/DDCY is to serve as the Project Governance and Quality Control Group; as well as, to define a trans-disciplinary approach to family service delivery that includes Fathers as critical to optimizing the safety, permanency, and well-being of the family, including and beyond financial support.

Changemakers Question Number # 18 Rsl Amendment.docx

Full text of Reflect on the Filed and its Future Statement

Changemakers Question Number # 17 Amended.docx

Full text Unique Value Proposition Statement

Changemakers Question Number # 6 Amended.docx

Full text of Problem Statement

Changemakers Question Number # 2 Amended.docx

Full text of Founding Story

The Strong Families Commission Incorporated Newsletter May 30 version 2016 (3).pdf

Last of three Strong Families Commission Newsletters.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Michael Auerbach

I love when ideas have a mission of systemic change addressing root causes, not symptoms. I don't know enough about father inclusiveness as it relates to family-focused agencies to offer valuable input. Yet, if father inclusiveness initiatives are systemically lacking, then your project is taking a wonderful approach by collaborating with relevant agencies.

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