Review and apply these tips during public health emergencies, natural disasters, and other crisis situations. At the beginning of the school year, staff will work with some fathers they know because their children have previously attended the program; other fathers have children who are just beginning the program.
Most of the tips apply to work with all fathers. When tips apply primarily to newly enrolled fathers, an asterisk (*) is used.
Tip 1. Continue building relationships with fathers.
- Use strengths-based attitudes and relationship-based practices in your virtual work with all fathers. Share what you know about their strengths, skills, and hopes. Emphasize their resilience. Remind them of how they have overcome challenges in the past.
- Let each father know you are thinking about him and his family. Find out how he is feeling and doing. Listen with empathy and understanding. Connect with nonresident fathers.
- Ask about strategies that fathers use during stressful times. Ask who they can turn to for support. Value their cultural supports. Remind them that you can connect them with support services.
- Allow time to get to know a new father. Ask about his interests, skills, goals, and aspirations. Ask him to tell you about his child. Explore what he hopes to get out of the Head Start experience.*
Tip 2. Reach out to fathers in a variety of ways.
- Find out how each father prefers to stay in touch — by phone or video calls, texts or emails, written cards or notes, or group messages. Check in with nonresident fathers to find out whether they have access to technology. Consider lending mobile devices.
- Check that fathers have privacy before talking about sensitive subjects, such as safety concerns or personal parenting challenges.
- Help fathers connect to other fathers in the program or to local or national parent networks. Explore ways to continue your program's fatherhood programs, parenting curricula, parent cafés, or parenting groups in a virtual format.
- Understand that you may need to reach out to new fathers several times before you connect. Consider more than one way to contact them. Pair a new father with an experienced father who can act as a "program buddy."
Tip 3. Offer supports to fathers to address their urgent needs and biggest stressors.
- Check in with fathers about their basic needs, like food, medicine, and rent. Use your program's resources and refer them to local community programs and agencies as needed. Check hours, availability, interpretation services, and any requirements beforehand.
- Share your knowledge about local, state, and national resources with fathers. Look for services for nonresident fathers who may feel very isolated.
- Make a warm referral by offering to organize a call with a new father and the agency. Try using three-way calling, web conferences, video chats, or other ways to have a group conversation. Follow up with the father and the contact person after the referral.*
Tip 4. Stay connected with program staff.
- Schedule reflective supervision meetings with your supervisor. Talk about your professional development needs, such as training on how to work virtually with fathers and families.
- Make a plan with other key staff to address individual fathers' interests and needs. Alert staff to the needs of nonresident fathers and groups of fathers who may lack access to support services such as transportation, child care, or support networks.
- As a team, discuss questions like: What do we know about this new father and his interests and goals? How do his needs and goals correspond to those of other family members, including his Head Start child? How can we collaborate with each other to support the father in achieving his goals?*
Be kind to yourself as you begin to establish relationships with fathers in a new way. Remember that for many people, interacting in a totally virtual environment is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Ask for support from colleagues and supervisors when you need it and, in turn, offer your support to them. Be patient and celebrate small successes.
Explore these resources for strategies to support your virtual parent, family, and community engagement service provision with families:
- Strategies for Family Engagement: Attitudes and Practices
- Supporting Families in Uncertain Times: Social Media Messages
- Tips for Family Services Staff Working Remotely with Families
- Birth to 5 Father Engagement Guide
- Parenting Tips for Dads During the COVID-19 Crisis
Resource Type: Article
National Centers: Parent, Family and Community Engagement
Audience: Family Service Workers
Last Updated: October 27, 2020