Values and Principles


The mission of the FATHER Project is to assist fathers so that they can provide for the emotional and economic support of their children. Embedded in this mission is the value that all men who choose to father a child, whether within or outside of marriage, assume equal responsibility with the mother for supporting and nurturing their child. This project meant a collaboration of community and government organizations that encourage low-income, unmarried, non-custodial father to participate fully in their children’s lives.

Guiding Principles:

  1. The positive involvement of both parents is important to the healthy development of children and increases their chances of leading a safe, happy childhood. Thus, the importance of healthy fatherhood is universal and crosses cultures
  2. Collaboration is essential to effectively serving and empowering families: the project needs to invest at the leadership level in closely coordinated services in a asset-based, non-hierarchical, strengths-based approach to service, that seeks to emphasize not only the private part of parenting and family life, but also positive involvement as citizens in the community
  3. Space and location matter; including access, the physical environment and the culture
  4. Cultural differences are important and must be accounted for and integrated into the FATHER Project model to engage and serve fathers
  5. Current systems are often ineffective: community and government services not integrated effectively, despite impacting the same communities and families
  6. Participants will want to “give back” and staff have a role to play in opening doors to leadership development, personal development, and actively creating change in our communities

Throughout the history of the FATHER Project, this mission and the resulting program model have remained the core foundation from which decisions and collaborative partnerships emerged. Central to this model is voluntary participation on the part of the fathers. The FATHER project does not serve participants on a court-ordered basis which has historically helped to maintain a positive environment within the program. Potential enrollees are also immediately informed that involvement in the FATHER Project includes proactive participation with the child support agency, including payment of child support owed, as a part of the project’s definition of Responsible Fatherhood.  In this way, the project builds on the existing strengths of fathers, reduces barriers to employment, teaches them the skills to become better dads, includes activities to connect them with their children and families, and provides training and opportunities for fathers successful in meeting their goals to provide leadership and supports to other fathers with similar barriers.
Another core element of the success of the FATHER Project has been the direct involvement of the collaborative partners, integrating services, both government and non-profit, in a truly complementary way. In this “one-stop-shop” both staff and participants can communicate in an immediate, direct manner. In addition, the FATHER Project’s design of coordinated case management means that staff representing different agencies are made aware of participants’ progress in other goal areas.

Most important Outcomes:
Fathers increase interaction with their children and enhance parenting skills

  1. Fathers stay engaged/involved in the lives of their children long-term
  2. Fathers learn effective parenting skills, and develop/endorse healthy parenting skills

Fathers become stable healthy, members of society and develop as leaders in their family and community

  1. Support children financially, including paying child support
  2. Fathers are empowered to identify community resources for support and develop confidence in engaging systems, as well as the independence to become less reliant on resources

Fathers feel valued as parents and see themselves as important in the lives of their children

  1. Fathers work to change societal and institutional perceptions of unmarried fathers


“What works” in fatherhood programming and the FATHER Project
In 2008, the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse released a study that identified several rigorous evaluations of fatherhood programs and compiled them to analyze ten common features of effective programs. The FATHER Project incorporates these ten common features of “what works.”

Incorporate teaching methods and materials that are culturally appropriate for fathers and populations being served.

FATHER Project classes and groups are culturally competent and linguistically diverse. Staff and collaborative partners also represent the diversity of the people and communities the FATHER Project serves. 

Select teachers and facilitators who believe in the program being implemented and provide them with relevant training and coaching.

By utilizing collaborative partners, the FATHER Project teachers and facilitators are experts in their own curriculum. Staff recruitment seeks team members who share the passion and values of the project.

Effective programs have a high staff-participant ratio.

There is a high ratio of FATHER advocates to participants, compounded with coordinated case management across all program elements, which ensures high levels of communication and participation,

Target curricula and set clear goals to be achieved by the program.

FATHER Project participants have clearly defined goals, outlined in the FATHER Project manual and

Use theory-based approaches that have been effective in influencing parenting behaviors in other contexts.

Curriculum and service delivery design are based on empirical research and are continually monitored, evaluated, and reported

Employ a variety of teaching methods designed to focus on fathers as individuals and, in doing so, personalize the information.

The FATHER Project offers various types of classes and groups, personalizing parenting and personal development to each father’s situation.

Allow sufficient time to complete important core program activities.

FATHER Project Participants never reach an “end point” and can instead utilize different aspects of the FATHER Project with continued access even after completion of certain project elements

Have staff who engage in one-on-one relationships with fathers.

FATHER Project Participants are matched with a FATHER advocate who manages their progress in coordination with other FATHER Project staff

Provide incentives to engage fathers and families.

Project participants are offered referrals to a multitude of other services, while also receiving a wide variety of service in a single coordinated location. Additional incentives include child support modifications for some participants.

Replicate curricula with fidelity.

The FATHER Project has maintained its core values and program goals since inception. In addition, the FATHER Project replicates tested and evaluated curriculum for its programming, ensuring best practices are utilized.

From: Bronte-Tinkew, J., Horowitz, A., & Metz, A. (2008) “What Works in Fatherhood Programs? Ten Lessons from Evidence-Based Practice.” The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. 

The FATHER Project works closely with the Minnesota Fathers and Families Network (MFFN) to learn from research about fathers and families. MFFN keeps an updated list of resources on their web-site.