The Minneapolis-based FATHER Project (Fostering Actions To Help Earnings and Responsibility) was founded in 1999 as one of 10 national “Partners for Fragile Families” demonstration projects and became a program of Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota (G/ESM) in January 2004. The FATHER Project was founded on the mission of helping fathers to overcome barriers that prevent them from supporting and nurturing their children. The FATHER Project accomplishes this mission by offering multiple services in a closely coordinated, streamlined manner in one location. At the core of this program is the belief 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.
Coordinating service efforts across community and governmental agencies can best support fathers in learning to fulfill that responsibility. Collaborative Partners offer direct services and referrals to FATHER Project participants, while Steering Committee partners guide the overall mission of the FATHER Project, offer programmatic expertise and community representation and provide insight into strategic planning, project identity and sustainability. Through working with this extensive network of dedicated partners and with local child support agencies, the FATHER Project has grown to a large-scale, stable program within Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota recognized nationally for its efforts and successes.
Key factors to this success has been the “one-stop shop” approach of the project, offering coordinated case management through assigned Father Advocates/Caseworkers, Employment Counselors, Child Support Officers, and Attorneys. Key components of participation in the FATHER Project are:
- Completion of three-day orientation
- Development of a personalized “Fatherhood Plan” with the Father Advocate, stating goals for fatherhood and self development, employment, parenting skills, and paternity, child support and legal responsibilities
- Completion of parenting curriculum, offered in multiple languages in group-style educational setting
- Regular meetings and services from Hennepin County Child Support officers, including establishment of paternity and renegotiation and repayment of child support obligations
- Access to legal services at the project office
- Job club and employment services
- GED education and testing
- Fatherhood life skills Empowerment groups
- Citizen Father Project community action projects
The manual is intended to describe the history, components and philosophy of the FATHER Project. The goal is to articulate the development, lessons and successes of the program, with the intention of sustainability and replication.