Head Start programs partner with fathers to promote positive outcomes for children, fathers, and families. They help fathers develop their skills and interests and achieve goals for themselves and their families. They engage with fathers to support the parent-child relationship. Programs support fathers as advocates, lifelong educators, and first teachers of their children.
Explore this practical guide to learn more about how staff build strong, meaningful, and authentic relationships with fathers in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. It highlights strategies early childhood leaders can apply right away. It also offers ideas for practice and reflection.
Father refers to fathers and other males who play a significant role in raising a child. This person may be a biological father, adoptive father, or stepfather. He may be a grandfather, another adult male family member, foster father, guardian, or the mother's significant other. He may be the expectant partner of a pregnant woman.
Head Start refers to all program options serving pregnant women and children birth to 5, unless specified otherwise.
Father engagement is not a stand-alone program initiative. It's a vital and integrated aspect of parent, family, and community services. A systems-wide integration of multiple activities builds a comprehensive father engagement approach. Activities include:
- Creating father-friendly environments that are welcoming and comfortable
- Forming fathers groups that plan activities and build support networks
- Training staff to implement a parenting curriculum that develops the knowledge and skills of fathers
- Investing in professional development to strengthen staff skills and practices with fathers
- Including fathers in teacher-parent conferences and home visits
- Designing recruitment materials that appeal to fathers
- Collaborating with community partners to align and reinforce strategies that are responsive to fathers' strengths, interests, and needs
Effective engagement of fathers requires staff to demonstrate genuine curiosity and respect for their unique strengths, talents, cultures, goals, and circumstances. A trusting relationship is the foundation for partnerships where staff and fathers work together. Successful partnerships can lead to positive, long-lasting outcomes for children, fathers, and families.
This guide is designed for all Head Start staff who interact with fathers, from program leaders and managers to direct service staff and transportation providers. It may be useful for parent leaders, community partners, and training and technical assistance (T/TA) specialists.
- Strategies for Program Leaders to Support Father Engagement
- Professional Development Strategies That Promote Father Engagement
- Strategies to Use Father-Focused Data for Continuous Learning and Quality Improvement
- Creating Father-Friendly Environments in Early Childhood Programs
- Strategies to Build Partnerships with Fathers
- Program Strategies to:
- Promote Father Engagement in Their Children's Teaching and Learning
- Maximize Fathers' Connections with Community Partners
- Provide Access and Continuity of Services to Fathers
Topic: Family Engagement
National Centers:Parent, Family and Community Engagement
Last Updated: June 18, 2020