Home / page 182


Black father carrying daughter on shoulders on beachBy Kenn Harris – National Healthy Start Association, Dads Matter Initiative, Armin Brott – Mr. Dad

We all know (or at least we should know) how important fathers are in their children’s lives. Children with involved fathers get better grades and are more likely to graduate high school. They’re less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol or to get involved in criminal activity. They’re more independent, manage their emotions better, are less violent, and have higher levels of empathy than kids whose dads aren’t involved. Boys with involved dads learn how to treat the women in their lives, and girls with involved dads learn what they should expect from the men in their lives.

However, none of this happens if dad isn’t around—a scenario that’s especially common in low-income communities where families tend to be younger, unmarried, less educated, and resource deprived. Most of the services available to these families (prenatal care, new parent classes, and so on) are actually targeted at mothers and for the most part, completely exclude fathers. Dads get the message that they have no role in their children’s lives. Too many take that message to heart and simply back away.

The National Healthy Start Association (NHSA) is committed to changing that dynamic and to giving men the tools and support they need to become the fathers they truly want to be—and their children need them to be.  We know from our research that men don’t access services in the same way as women do, and that men and fathers experience great challenges in navigating systems that weren’t designed for them, systems, which traditionally have ignored them.

Recognizing the need to help fathers overcome those obstacles, NHSA developed the Core Adaptive Model© (CAM©) to reach fathers across urban, rural, border, and tribal communities. Building on lessons we’ve learned after 20 years of implementing the federal Maternal Child Health (MCH) program, the goal of our fatherhood programs is to ensure the creation of father-friendly environments that respect the diverse needs (cultural, financial, emotional, and otherwise) of the men and fathers we serve.

One of the most important elements of NHSA Fatherhood programs is training providers and staff about how to approach, engage, and serve men and fathers. Putting a few sports or car magazines in the office waiting room helps but isn’t nearly enough.

Father and teenage son standing outdoors

NHSA Fatherhood programs are race- and culturally responsive and are designed to promote impactful engagement and focus on inclusion, involvement, investment, and integration. Most importantly, our programs view each father as a unique and valued member of a family, and emphasize his roles and responsibilities across the life-course (before, during, after, and beyond pregnancy).  One of our interventions, “Dads and Diamonds are Forever,” is an 11-week curriculum that aims to restore a man’s sense of value to himself, his child(ren), the mother of his child(ren), and his community.

But since fatherhood is just one facet of men’s identity, we also educate our fathers (and their partners) about “men’s health,” in the broadest sense, including mental, physical, social, emotional, and financial.  A man’s health influences his ability to successfully engage with his family, and we know that the healthiest fathers—the ones who take charge of their own health, who support their children and the mothers of their children—have the potential to be the best fathers, and to become the most positive contributors to their communities.

To help us achieve our goal of meeting the needs of at-risk fathers nationwide through best-practice and evidence-based programming, we often partner with other organizations that share similar goals and whose expertise complements our own. June is Men’s Health Month, and as men’s unique health needs become more widely known and documented, we’ve partnered with Men’s Health Network (the organization responsible for helping pass the legislation that created National Men’s Health Week) to increase the health literacy of the men NHSA serves and the health providers who deliver those services.

We also recently partnered with MrDad.com on a “Texting with Dads” program that delivers engaging, educational messages about pregnancy, infant and child development, family planning, age-appropriate activities, partner support, and men’s health directly to the dad’s cellphone.

So this week, the National Healthy Start Association and our partners wish each and every father a happy, healthy Father’s Day. We recognize that most dads today aren’t Jim Anderson (Father Knows Best), nor are they Cliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show), and we recognize that although many dads today face tremendous obstacles—cultural, educational, financial, and legal—to being as involved as they’d like to be, they care about their family and love their children just as passionately as those idealized TV fathers do, and all of us need to do everything we can to support them.

To learn more, go to:

National Healthy Start Association – www.nationalhealthystart.org

Mr. Dad – www.mrdad.com

Men’s Health Network – www.menshealthnetwork.org

Men’s Health Month – www.menshealthmonth.org

Men’s Health Resource Center – www.menshealthresourcecenter.org

Faith-Based Organizations Lead the Way to Mental Wellness for African Americans in the San Bernardino Area

HP-PIC-green-ribbon“Mental Health Friendly Communities” event kicks off a new statewide initiative in San Bernardino County, harnessing the power of the faith community to address stigma and discrimination.

WHAT: The stigma and discrimination faced by African Americans with mental health concerns will be addressed at the San Bernardino kickoff of Mental Health Friendly Communities (MHFC). The event brings together mental health consumers, providers, and faith leaders to foster the faith community’s important role as a center of support for African Americans. MHFC is being introduced in four regions across California including San Bernardino/Riverside, Sacramento, Solano and Kern counties. It provides culturally focused trainings and resources that dispel misconceptions about mental illness, provides skills for faith leaders as first responders, and speaks directly to the mental health needs of African Americans. The MHFC initiative is administered by CalMHSA, which is funded by the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63).

WHY: A statewide survey of more than 2,600 respondents reports that “72% of African-American mental health consumers and family members across California believe it is appropriate for the public mental health system to address spirituality as a part of mental health care.” Studies show that many African Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental illness but don’t seek help because of fear of judgment, isolation and discrimination. Additionally, mental illness has long been a taboo subject among African Americans and the result is that serious needs for support and treatment often fail to be recognized and addressed.

WHERE:  INGHRAM COMMUNITY CENTER, St. Paul AME Church, 2050 North Mt. Vernon St., San Bernardino, 92411

WHEN: Saturday, June 14, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Program begins at 9:00 a.m.)

WHO: The MHFC Training Team, faith leaders, mental health consumers and community leaders are available for interviews throughout the program.

About CalMHSA

The Mental Health Friendly Communities program, administered by CalMHSA, is funded by the voter approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63). The California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) is an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. CalMHSA operates services and education programs on a statewide, regional and local basis. For more information, visit www.calmhsa.org.

Rep. Negrete McLeod Praises President’s Executive Order To Address Student Loan Debt

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) released the following statement in support of President Barack Obama’s new action to help millions of student loan borrowers better manage their debt.

“Our economy is weakened when a generation of college graduates is burdened by large amounts of student loan debt,” said Rep. Negrete McLeod.  “This is why I agree with the President’s new plan to help millions of people across the country pay off student loan debt. We must make college more accessible and affordable for the sake of our nation’s economy and its future.”

The executive actions the president took earlier this week will allow millions more borrowers to better manage their student loan debt, directing the Department of Education to expand the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) program.   PAYE enables student loan borrowers to cap their loan payments at 10 percent of their monthly income.  The new rules will open the PAYE program to borrowers who are currently ineligible because they have loans that originated before October 2007.  The administration estimates that these new rules will mean that an additional five million borrowers can cap their monthly student loan payments in relation to their income.

In addition, on Saturday, President Obama urged Congress to pass the Bank on Students Emergency Refinancing Act (H.R. 4582; S. 2292), legislation cosponsored by Rep. Negrete McLeod that would help 25 million borrowers nationwide refinance their existing federal and private student loans to lower interest rates, similar to those that are currently available to new student loan borrowers. In total, American families would save around $55 billion under the legislation, which they can then reinvest in their local economy.

“I urge House Leadership to bring the Bank on Students Emergency Refinancing Act up for a vote.  Passage of this legislation would help millions of struggling borrowers pay back their student loans at reasonable accommodations,” concluded Rep. Negrete McLeod.

Learn more about the Bank on Students Emergency Refinancing Act here.