Involving Fathers in Hawaii

By Greg Farstrup
Parents & Children Together

Loretta Fuddy
Family Health Services Division
Maternal and Child Health Branch
Hawaii Department of Health

The Hui Makuakane Father Support Program was an innovative effort in which Father Facilitators provided home-based support services — with an emphasis on father-child involvement — to families with young children.

Hui Makuakane (Fathers’ Group) began in 1997 with support from the Hawaii Children’s Trust Fund to Parents and Children Together (PACT), a nonprofit agency. In 2001, with support from the State of Hawaii Department of Health and Maternal and Health Branch, Hui Makuakane was incorporated into Hana Like, a Healthy Start Home Visitor Program, also operated by PACT. The Healthy Start model uses a hospital-based screening process to identify families whose children are at risk of child abuse and other adverse health outcomes. Trained home visitors help parents enhance their parenting skills and utilize services that improve family life as well as reduce the risk of child maltreatment.

Hana Like serves low-income families in urban neighborhoods and public housing projects in Honolulu. Hui Makuakane was developed in response to a need to fully engage fathers in the program. Greg Fartrup, a PACT staff member and Hui Makuakane Father Facilitator, said that the fact that the home visitors were women led some of the fathers in Hana Like families to assume that the activities being promoted by the program were the responsibilities of the mother. When Father Facilitators were added to the Hana Like teams, fathers were more likely to get and stay involved with the program and with their children. The fathers were also more likely to actively adopt activities — such as getting down on the floor and playing with infants — when the activities were modeled by a man.

Hui Makuakane provided specialized support services to fathers to help them:
• fully participate in Hana Like activities
• improve their understanding of child development
• increase the time they spend caring for and playing with their children
• learn how to set limits for their children and use positive disciplinary techniques to enforce these limits

Father Facilitators also help participating fathers set and reach educational and vocational goals, refer them to other community resources when necessary and engage fathers and children in group outings to family-oriented recreational and educational activities.

Hui Makuakane increased fathers’ participation in the Hana Like Program.  Hawaii has experienced a reduction in revenues available to support excellent programs like Hui Makuakane.  The program will continue to function at a reduced level with efforts to increase funding through the use of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) appropriation.

For more information on Hui Makuakane, contact Greg Farstrup at (808) 841-2245.