The Family Services Center in Brownwood is using a $25,000 capacity-building grant from the National Fatherhood Initiative to provide services that will lead to stronger ties between dads and children in the community.

“The goal is to strengthen the involvement of fathers for the benefit of children,” Doak Givan, executive director of the center, said. “As a center, we are serving our fathers as parents, but this will allow us to focus efforts specifically on fathers. We all have seen how fathers’ positive involvement, or even a father figure, improves a child’s chances at succeeding in life.”

Givan produced stacks of research showing how a father’s involvement is linked to a child’s risk for poverty, teen pregnancy and other problems, and a child's chances for educational success.

“We also want to work with other organizations serving fathers,” Givan said. “We’ll collaborate with anyone interested in seeing fathers’ involvement improve.”

Those programs could include one for military families, and specifically for families with a father who has been deployed overseas.

Programs could also target ways a father can balance the duties of work and home.

“It’s another tool,” Givan said. “We’re not going to tell someone what they’re doing wrong. We want to encourage and support.”

Family Services Fatherhood Coordinator Landry Blackstock, who attended a weeklong “certification college” with Givan in Indianapolis, Ind., almost two months ago, agreed.

“We try to educate, encourage and equip fathers,” Blackstock said. “We have a model we can use as we work with other agencies. We don’t want to come across as judgmental.”

Certainly, Givan said, there are extreme situations in which the father “doesn’t need to be there. But research repeatedly has shown unless that’s the case, it’s best to have both parents involved in a child’s life.”

The initiative’s vision, Blackstock said, is to create an atmosphere of collaboration in the community concerning the issue of fatherhood. Those served by it will have a greater sense of importance as a parent and as a man, and agencies that work with fathers in various ways will be more sensitive to the specific needs faced by men.

“It’s a challenge to the community,” Blackstock said of the $25,000 grant. “We’re extremely interested in collaborating with (other organizations) and showing what we’ve learned.”

One possibility would be holding a workshop for a group of fathers in a particular office or organization, Blackstock said.

The focus on many programs — from basic divorce classes to social service agencies — is often more on mothers, Givan said. These initiatives will help fathers understand that they are significant, as well.

“Fathers are important,” Blackstock said. “We want to see fathers engaged in a more proactive way in these organizations.”

The Family Services Center was awarded the grant in late February through a competitive process that generated more than 300 applications. The center in Brownwood was among only 25 organizations chosen by the National Fatherhood Initiative to receive funding.

Blackstock, who wrote the grant that won the award, and Givan plan to return to Indianapolis this week for additional workshops. The initial session was designed to help grantees cultivate “promising practices” in their leadership development, organizational structure, programming trends and community connections. Awardees receive follow-up assistance throughout the year, concluding with a two-day mini-conference for assessment.

“We are working toward sustainability after the grant is over,” Blackstock said. Ongoing costs will include maintaining the curriculum used by various fatherhood programs.

The funding is provided by the National Responsible Fatherhood Capacity Building Initiative, a program administered by the National Fatherhood Initiative through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Brownwood center was among the third set of grantees that have received assistance since 2007.

POSSIBLE BOX

(pick and choose the ones you like or have room to use)

The Father Factor

• Over 25 million children in America live apart from the biological fathers, or 1 in 3 (34.5 percent), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

• Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. In 2002, 7.8 percent of children in married-couple homes were living in poverty, compared to 38.4 percent of children in female-householder children.

• A child with a nonresident father is 54 percent more likely to be poorer than his or her father.

• A study in the state of Georgia found that infants without a father’s name on their birth certificate (17.9 percent of births over two years) were 2.3 times more likely to die in the first year of life compared to infants with a father’s name on the birth certificate.

• Even after accounting for income, youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds of incarceration.

• Youths are more at risk of first substance abuse youth without a highly involved father. Living in an intact family decreases the risk of first use.

• Obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than non-obese children.

•Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school.