Family Engagement

Building Community Partnerships to Support Individual Fathers

Head Start and Early Head Start programs partner with community organizations to support goals that parents may set for themselves and their children. A father may set unique goals for himself, and for his family, as part of the Family Partnership Process. He also may plan action steps with staff.

Staff can connect this father, and others, to community partners to address those specific goals. For a father who wants to start out on a new or different career path, staff may recommend an apprenticeship program. For another father looking for housing for his family, a housing services agency might be the appropriate referral.

Community partners may include health and mental health providers, social service agencies, workforce development offices, language instruction programs, banks and asset development programs, faith-based organizations, schools, libraries and museums, parent-led organizations, children’s theaters, and others.

Tips for Building Community Partnerships That Enhance Father Engagement

Explore these tips to facilitate community collaborations that serve fathers’ individual interests and needs:

Engaging with Fathers

  • Recognize that each father is unique. Start from a strength-based perspective to build relationships with individual fathers. Just as your program individualizes services for each child, so are a father’s contributions unique to his child's and family’s needs.
  • Plan regular opportunities, whether formal or informal, to discuss a father’s goals, interests, and needs. This process may take time if a father isn’t used to participating in these kinds of conversations with staff.
  • Talk with a father about available community resources. Match resources to the father’s personal interests and needs. Consider introducing a father to the staff person at the organization whose personal style might be most welcoming to this individual father.

Engaging with Community Partners

  • Invite frequent and open communication with potential and current community partners that engage fathers as a primary focus. Consider developing or revising memoranda of understanding (MOUs).
  • Use data to make decisions about improving MOUs or community partnerships, and review community assessment data. Ask fathers and community partners for feedback about how the community collaborations are effective and how they could be improved.
  • Foster a “caring community.” Make it clear that the fathers, families, and children in your program are part of the whole community. The community shares responsibility with your program to nurture them and invest in their well-being.

Man and woman discussing paperworkPractice Scenario

Explore the scenario below. Reflect on opportunities to strengthen community partnerships that are responsive to individual fathers’ interests and needs.

Example: Richard is a new father who dropped out of high school. He wants to contribute financially and help raise his child. He doesn’t live with the mother of his child. He likes working with people, but he has difficulty finding and keeping a job. He talks with Joan, the family services advocate, in Early Head Start.

Richard: I really care about my son, and I want to take care of him. But I’ve had a difficult time on jobs. I get confused if I have a lot of directions thrown at me.

Joan: These are such important feelings—to want to be a part of your child’s life and to help support him.

Richard: Yeah, but how do I do this? I have to find work soon so I can provide for my son.

Joan: There is a workforce development program in our county. They are there to help people find jobs that match their skills. Have you ever had a skills assessment that identifies what you’re good at doing?

Richard: No, I’ve never heard of that. But I hate paper and pencil tests because they’re hard for me. I don’t know what the tests are asking.

Joan: There can be adjustments or accommodations to the test. You might qualify for the test to be read to you in person or from the computer. Some of the tests involve physical tasks, too, like lifting packages or sorting items.

Richard: I just don’t know where to begin with all this.

Joan: We’ll work on this together. If you agree, we can call the director of the program and schedule an appointment. He’ll tell us all about the program. If you like what you hear, then we can schedule an assessment.

Richard: Okay; I guess we could start with a call.

Joan: This agency also provides job coaches. They help prepare a person for job interviews. They are pros at making sure the job is a good fit for the employee. For example, if you need visual aids to help you learn what to do on the job, they’ll make that happen.

Richard: I’ve never had this kind of chance before. I definitely want to check it out. Let’s get started so I can start providing for my son, and he won’t have to go through the difficulties I went through.


Reflect on how community partnerships support individual fathers:

  • How does your program learn about the interests and strengths of individual fathers?
  • How does your program access community resources to meet fathers’ needs? If fathers use these resources, do they think they are effective and useful?
  • What languages do fathers speak? What cultures do they represent? Are the community partnerships responsive to the languages and cultures of the fathers in your program?
  • What steps does your program take to create new partnerships, or revisit existing ones?

Additional Resources

For Staff

For Educators

Last Updated: October 26, 2019