New York-Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced the launch of a citywide fatherhood initiative to strengthen New York City families by helping fathers be active in their children’s lives. The launch comes after the Mayor directed city agencies to review their policies and practices to make sure fathers were not unintentionally excluded from, or missing opportunities to engage in their children’s lives. The initiative includes more than a dozen programs ranging from offering parenting classes at public hospitals and homeless shelters, to educational activities for dads and their children at Housing Authority community centers. To oversee the effort, the City will hire its first-ever Citywide Fatherhood Services Coordinator. The Mayor was joined at the announcement at The Fortune Society by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott, actor Malik Yoba, New York City Housing Authority Chairman John B. Rhea, Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar, Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Jeanne B. Mullgrav, President and CEO of the Fortune Society, Joanne Page, and Fortune Society member Francisco Gonzalez.
“Strong families make a strong New York. But too many children in this city are growing up without their fathers,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We want more children in our City to experience the encouragement, support and love of their fathers. And that’s why all City agencies will work to seize every opportunity to help fathers be a part of their children’s lives.”
“All too often we focus our attention and resources on helping mothers and forget that dads – particularly new ones – need help too,” said Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs. “The initiative announced today will make sure New York City fathers have more opportunities to engage in their children’s lives.”
Children who grow up without active fathers in their lives are more likely to live in poverty, do poorly in school, run afoul of the criminal justice system, and become teenage parents.
This is particularly true for New York City’s African American and Hispanic children, who are more likely to grow up in single-parent households. While 32 percent of all New York City children under the age of 17 live in households without a father, 54 percent of black and 43 percent of Latino children grow up in fatherless households.
“By making our agencies more father friendly, we will help thousands of dads be a part of their children’s lives,” said Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott. “This will improve the lives of thousands of children in New York City, who will undoubtedly do better in school and life with the support and love of two active parents.”
“The New York City Housing Authority is proud to work with Mayor Bloomberg to engage, educate and empower fathers in NYCHA communities,” said NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea. “NYCHA is fostering an environment in our developments and community centers where fathers re-connect with their children, equipped with the child development and life skills to make a positive, lasting impact on their children’s lives.”
“Under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership, the City’s new Fatherhood Initiative will give men – many who grew up without fathers – a real chance to do better for their children,” said Fortune Society President and CEO Joanne Page. “At The Fortune Society, we work with formerly incarcerated men and those who come to us as an alternative to incarceration. Overwhelmingly, these men want to be there for their own children because they know what it's like to grow up without fathers as positive presences in their lives. Fortune provides the necessary skills, knowledge and support, to help them become responsible parents and avoid repeating the behaviors of their own fathers. Working together, the City and The Fortune Society can help these individuals learn the practical and emotional skills they need to be there for their children and support their families emotionally and financially.”
“When I came to The Fortune Society three and a half years ago, I was not a man who my daughters could proudly call, ‘dad’,” said Francisco Gonzalez. “Thanks to The Fortune Society, I now understand what it takes to be a positive role model in my children’s lives. Today, I am a changed man – the kind of father who my daughters can yell from the rooftops, ‘that’s my dad.’ They’re proud to resemble me and I owe it all to The Fortune Society who believed in me and my capabilities to be a loving, loyal father.”
“This morning over 24 million children woke up without their biological fathers in the home,” said Kenneth Braswell, Board Member of the National Fatherhood Leaders Group. “Many of them will wake up the rest of their lives never seeing their fathers or knowing who they are. This is a great beginning to encourage fathers, require accountability from them, and ultimately celebrate fatherhood.”
“The importance of a father in a child’s life can not be overstated,” said actor Malik Yoba, who is a strong supporter of custodial rights for fathers. “And at the risk of sounding cliché, it really does take a village to raise a child. It is great to see the ‘village of New York City’ come together under a comprehensive vision to support children and families from a male perspective. This has been a long time coming and it couldn’t have happened soon enough.”
Over the last three months, 13 City agencies including the Parks Department, Health and Hospitals Corporation, Department of Correction, Housing Authority, Probation Department, Health Department, Human Resources Administration, Department of Education, CUNY, Administration for Children’s Services, Youth and Community Development, Aging, and Homeless Services, have undertaken an extensive review of their policies and developed plans to better engage New York City fathers. In addition to hiring a program coordinator, the City will also:
Launch a pilot at Housing Authority community centers on Wednesdays and Saturdays for fathers and their children. In this supportive atmosphere, fathers will learn parental, life and child development skills, while also participating in recreational and cultural activities with their children. The Housing Authority will also create a new partnership with CUNY to offer precollege development workshops and courses for teen-aged youth and young fathers, with the goal of connecting fathers to CUNY colleges. The City’s Department of Youth and Community Development, and other agencies, will also collaborate to provide additional resources and programming at the centers.
Develop a part-time CUNY program for under-engaged fathers focusing on academic preparation, computer literacy, and parenting and health workshops. CUNY will also offer family and self sufficiency counseling, and employment readiness training.
Provide education and support to young men whose pregnant partners are also receiving care at public hospitals. The City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation will encourage young women to involve soon-to-be fathers in the birth process and parenting classes. To complement this effort, the City’s Aging Office will launch an intergenerational mentoring program at the public hospitals to connect expectant fathers with experienced fathers and grandfathers.
Expand the Department of Education’s Living for the Young Family Through Education (LYFE) program, which supports student parents enrolled in a New York City public school by providing childcare and referral services, to focus on helping young fathers graduate from high school. LYFE will implement promising practices from model programs citywide, implement a research-based fatherhood curriculum, and launch a mentoring partnership to pair student parents to mentors.
· Expand the Responsible Fatherhood Curriculum to all young fathers currently enrolled in the transitional employment program – Parks Opportunity Program. This nationally recognized curriculum combines professionally facilitated discussion and peer support on topics including personal development, life skills, responsible fatherhood, relationships and healthy lifestyles. Beginning in July, the Parks Department will also launch adult education classes specifically targeting young fathers. Classes will include traditional and web-based learning components, complemented by job readiness and parenting workshops.
Create additional children-family visiting centers throughout Department of Correction facilities to encourage active parenting, where appropriate. The centers will enable incarcerated fathers to maintain a relationship with their children in a kid-friendly facility with books, art materials and toys. The City will also expand its recently launched fatherhood workshop and offer parenting classes to young fathers detained in Department of Juvenile Justice facilities and offer training in child and adolescent development and parenting skills to probation officers so they can and hold family meetings when juvenile and adolescent offenders are at risk of violating their probation.
Revise screening and intake procedures across all agencies so fathers can be identified and then fully integrated into any strategies and plans involving their families.
Actively engage all birth fathers whose children become involved with the City’s Administration for Children’s Services and provide a best practice guide for pregnant and parenting teens to foster care providers working with adolescent youth.
Establish specific programs through the Human Resources Administration to connect single men with children who are receiving cash assistance to employment, to their children, and to the formal child support program so they can support their children both financially and emotionally.
Offer parenting classes in City Shelters for expectant fathers and fathers of children two and under. These classes will teach dads how to change diapers, hold and feed a baby, effectively discipline a child, and other important skills. Homeless Services will also provide educational materials in shelters on parenting and the negative effects of a father’s absence.
Launch effort to connect city workers who are expectant fathers to fatherhood classes and other parenting resources available through City agencies.
Produce an annual calendar of events and activities in the City that are appropriate for dads and their children. This calendar will draw from the citywide calendars currently available and will include events developed through new partnerships with cultural institutions.
Publish a comprehensive guide to help young fathers navigate city agencies and take advantage of services to help them enrich their children’s lives.
“Since 2002, the Department of Youth and Community Development’s Fatherhood Initiative has helped fathers reconnect with their children and develop essential parenting skills,” said Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Jeanne B. Mullgrav. The initiative also helps fathers access employment opportunities while receiving family counseling and other support services. DYCD will continue to be a resource for fathers across the City and the new services will only enhance DYCD’s capacity to help fathers become better parents.”
“One of the most important things we can do to support student-parents and their young families is to ensure they graduate from high school,” said Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein. “By specifically strengthening and expanding the LYFE program’s services for young fathers, we hope to provide safe spaces where young fathers can interact, access social support, and embrace parenthood while keeping them on the path to a high school diploma.”
“As we observe and celebrate Fathers Day, CUNY is committed to working with prospective and current student fathers to help ensure they have the academic skills to realize their aspirations for themselves and their families,” said City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. “We will continue to work closely with the Mayor’s Office and our educational partners to contribute to the success of this vital initiative.”
“New York City’s parks offer fun, free activities for the whole family, and now it is easier than ever for fathers to engage in their children’s lives,” said Parks Commissioner Benepe. “Dads can spend time with their kids in parks across the five boroughs and play ball, take a hike, go camping, and more. As part of our agency’s outreach to fathers, we are expanding free family activities at recreation centers, connecting Parks Opportunity Program job training participants who are non-custodial fathers with appropriate resources and offering courses on responsible parenting.”
“The New York City Department of Correction is committed to doing all it can to foster the connection between incarcerated fathers and their children,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro. “The Department of Correction provides parenting classes with excellent results. Parents who are separated from their children miss them very much, and when offered the opportunity to participate, learn and grow as parents and providers for their families. Their success benefits all New Yorkers.”
“Most of the men on probation are fathers but historically little has been done to improve or strengthen their ties with their families or their parenting skills,” said Probation Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi. “Encouraged by the Mayor’s initiative, Probation will make a renewed effort to encourage probationers to maintain and strengthen family ties, while reducing their barriers to doing so.”
“We at Children’s Services recognize the importance of fathers in the healthy development of children,” said Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner John B. Mattingly. “In all of our work including prevention, child protection, foster care, and juvenile justice, we acknowledge the benefit and impact that a father’s involvement has in the life of a child and routinely seek to engage fathers with their families.”
“When fathers positively contribute to their children’s lives, it leads to positive outcomes for families,” said Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond. “Parenting and fatherhood programs offer families in shelter the additional support they need to transition into stable homes.”
“New York City’s welfare policies have led to big gains in employment and earnings for mothers – and reduced child poverty. But to further reduce poverty, we need to focus on fathers, too,” said Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar. “A father is vital to his children’s emotional and financial stability – and men who father children have a fundamental duty to provide for their children. Their financial support can lift children from poverty, and their advice, love and encouragement is essential as well. I am extremely grateful to Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Gibbs for making this issue a high priority.”
“Fully engaged fathers build strong families and healthy children,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “Through programs like the Nurse-Family Partnership and the Newborn Home Visiting program, the Health Department works actively to involve fathers in their children’s lives. We look forward to working with other City agencies to expand these efforts, and to support men in their vital role as fathers.”
“The Department for the Aging is excited to partner with the Health and Hospitals Corporation, and match young men with mentors who can teach them the keys to being a successful father,” said Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, Commissioner of the Department for the Aging. “The men who so selflessly contribute to DFTA’s Foster Grandparent program will make perfect role models.”
New Yorkers interested in learning more about parenting and resources for fathers should call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov.