Purdue program turns fathers into parentsWEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Purdue University effort is helping young men who father babies also become good dads.
As welfare reform moves families off public assistance, states are required to put more pressure on dads who don't pay child support. "However, many young dads have neither the means nor the motivation to pay," says Aadron Rausch, Extension specialist and assistant director of Purdue's Center for Families.
Research suggests that a father is more likely to be financially and emotionally involved with his child if:
Enter "It's My Child, Too," a parenting curriculum aimed at young, unwed fathers. "The goal of the program is for fathers to recognize the important role they play in the lives of their children," Rausch says.
"It's My Child, Too" has been obtained by schools, community centers and detention centers in 22 states. The fathering course was developed two years ago by Purdue's Center for Families and is administered by the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service.
"It's My Child, Too" focuses on six major areas:
In Butler County, Ohio, Extension educator Jim Jordan sees strong evidence of behavior changes in the fathers he's helped with the program. "The young men see the benefits of being involved with their children. They appreciate the help and the hands-on learning experience," he says. Jordan works with families as a part of the Extension Service's 4-H youth development program.
Kim Mihelich, home economist in St. Claire County, Mich., uses the curriculum on an individual basis with young men. "A lot of times there are issues over visitation, and men find the sections on communicating with the mother very helpful. They learn how to get past the anger and resolve conflicts," she says.
Among its supporters, "It's My Child, Too" has attracted the attention of judges and prosecutors. In some instances, the court system sends young fathers to the program because the men are delinquent in paying child support or are having problems with the mother.
It's a situation one prosecutor describes as paying now or paying later. "Statistics indicate that children raised by a single mom, with no emotional or financial support from the father, often fall into poverty, making it more likely these children will be teen parents, truants, dropouts and criminals," says Michael Gotsch, past president of the Indiana Child Support Alliance and deputy prosecuting attorney in St. Joseph County in Indiana.
"We can either work to prevent these problems or plan to build more prisons."
Even when the father is active in a child's life, problems can arise. "It's My Child, Too" tries to help fathers deal with the stresses of parenting. The program also addresses normal childhood behaviors and ways of dealing with them. For example, what may be inappropriate behavior for a 3-year-old may be very appropriate behavior for an infant.
"We need to help fathers understand their own children," Rausch says.
She says the program also helps fathers feel more in control, and it tells them where to turn if they feel themselves losing it. This means helping them recognize their own warning signals. "Often times, parents have multiple stressors and few resources," Rausch says. "It's My Child, Too" makes fathers aware of the resources available in the community.
Gotsch sees programs like this as strengthening families. "It's my hope that fathers will bond with their children, and that these young families will eventually come together as one," he says.
Sources: Aadron Rausch, (765) 494-9516; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Jordan, (513) 887-3722
Kim Mihelich, (810) 989-6935
Michael Gotsch, (219) 235-9564
Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail, email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org