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 Including Dads in Teen Pregnancy and Parenting Support Initiatives

By Andria Cornell
Program Manager, Women's and Infant Health, AMCHP

MCH programs have a broad focus on protecting and promoting the health and well-being of women, infants, children and families. This focus has inherently included fathers; however, as Title V programs continue to integrate the life course approach into program planning and policy development, topics like father engagement, paternal involvement, and men’s preconception health take on new meaning and urgency. For example, teen pregnancy and parenthood has historically been considered a ‘woman’s issue.’ Today, state and local programs (and partners outside of MCH) are evolving to include teen dads as targets of intervention efforts. Such programs recognize that young men not only play a vital role in the emotional, psychological, and physical health and development of their children and partners, but that these young men have life course histories of their own.1 These factors all come together to influence the critical – and often unplanned – transition from boyhood to fatherhood.

Below are a few examples of programs and initiatives at the state and local level that focus on engaging teen fathers in pregnancy and parenthood support. These programs focus on building the capacity of young men as fathers, nurturers and supporters.

  • The John S. Martinez Fatherhood Initiative of Connecticut has a state-certified Teen Fathers Program that uses a group and mentor format to provide educational, emotional, mental and financial support for teen dads. This March, the initiative posted a testimonial on its website that details the experience of one teen dad who went through the program. Milton shares his journey from ‘lost troubled teen father to a man who sets a legacy as a father.’
  • Young Fathers of Central Florida recently hosted the first ever National Teen Fatherhood Conference Feb. 28-Mar. 1, 2013. The organization features an expansive list of programs – including a Teen Fatherhood Academy, parent training workshops, and a father support group and mentoring program, as well as targeted programs for pre-teens ("Gents to Gentlemen").
  • Focusing on the links between family breakdown and social issues facing a community, the Richmond Family & Fatherhood Initiative includes a focus on teens and adolescents in their work connecting, equipping and empowering men with the essentials for positive lifestyle choices.
  • Highlighted in more detail in this edition of Pulse, is the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Child and Family Health Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF) grant initiative to support both male and female students enrolled in institutions of higher education who are pregnant or parenting young children.

Further, the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse published a report entitled, Elements of Promising Practice in Teen Fatherhood Programs: Evidence-Based and Evidence Informed Research Findings on What Works. This summary categorizes teen fatherhood programs into model, promising and emerging practices based on evaluation findings. MCH programs and partners may wish to use this resource in guiding program planning and considering key elements to evaluating teen fatherhood programs.

In addition to programs focused on teen pregnancy and parenting support, young men are increasingly included in preconception, sexual and reproductive health programming. Among the grantees of the HHS Office of Adolescent Health featured in this newsletter is EngenderHealth. The program from the organization, Gender Matters addresses gender norms as a key determinant for risk for teen pregnancy; its interventions in Austin, Texas target both young men and young women in a synchronized approach that addresses traditional attitudes towards masculinity and femininity. Additionally, in their April Newsletter, AMCHP partner Every Woman Southeast included a special emphasis on promoting the preconception health of men with a spotlight on Delta Health Partners, a reproductive life planning community grant project in Marks, MS, focusing on at-risk males ages 10-25 years.

As MCH programs expand their engagement of fathers, we want to hear from you! At the 2013 AMCHP Annual Conference, individuals came together at a Knowledge Café on father involvement to discuss barriers to, and supports of, father involvement in MCH. Please share with us how your MCH program or organization engages fathers from across the life span. E-mail your projects, ideas or reactions to acornell@amchp.org.

1 Lu MC, Jones M, Bond MJ, Wright K, Pumpuang M, Maidenberg M, Jones D, Garfield C, Rowley DL. (2010). Where is the F in MCH? Father Involvement in African American Communities.Ethnicity & Disease 20: 49-61.