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Fathers Matter!
Strategies for Engaging Fathers in Children's Learning

Discussion Guide

A live, interactive teleconference for educators and family service providers

Produced by the U.S. Departments of Education & Health and Human Services
Thursday, October 28, 1999,   2-4 p.m. Eastern Time

Below You Will Find:




KEN CANFIELD, Ph.D. is the Founder and President of the National Center for Fathering in Kansas City, MO.  Dr. Canfield serves as one of the founding members of Vice President Al Gore's private sector "Father to Father" Initiative.  For more information on the National Center for Fathering, please visit their website at:  www.fathers.com.

CAROL KENNEDY is the Principal in Residence at the U.S. Department of Education.  A teacher and school administrator for the past 36 years and a past president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, Carol is well known for advocating and creating family and community partnerships.

RAFAEL VALDIVIESO, Ph.D. is the Vice President and Director of the School and Community Services / Social Development at the Academy for Educational Development.  He was recently a consultant-member of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Design Team for the Neighborhood Transformation and Family Development.

VIVIAN L. GADSDEN is the Director of the National Center on Fathers and Families and an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.


JERRY TELLO is the Director of the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute in Los Angeles, CA.  Mr. Tello is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of family strengthening, community mobilization, and cross cultural issues.  He has served on numerous local and national advisory boards and committees.

JIM LEWIS is the Principal of Gene George Elementary School in Springdale, AR.  Mr. Lewis received the Arkansas Principal of the Year Award in 1996-97 and the National Distinguished Principal 1999 award from the U.S. Department of Education in conjunction with the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

DONNA GLAUSSER is the Director of Hillsborough County Head Start in Tampa, FL.  Ms. Glausser has served on the boards of many organizations working to support child development.  Under her guidance, Hillsborough County Head Start has won the National Head Start Association's Carnegie Quality Award for Program of Achievement.

DON ARMELL is the Program Commissioner of the National PTA, and for the past two years he has served as President of the European Congress PTA.  He also currently teaches Kindergarten at Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Kaiserslautern, Germany.  Don has taught all grades from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade in his 25 years with DoDDS.

JOE JONES is the President of the Center for Father, Families, and Workforce Development.  Mr. Jones is a community advisor to Vice President Al Gore on fatherhood issues and was a member of the United States Agency for International Development's delegation to Jamaica.  He is also a member of several community organizations.


FRANK KWAN is the Director of Communications, Los Angeles County Office of Education.  Mr. Kwan is the recipient of major awards from the National School Public Relations Association, the California School Public Relations Association, and the Public Relations Society of America.  A co-founder of the Asian American Journalists Association, he is also the president of the University of Southern California's Asian Pacific American Support Group.

NOEMI FLORES-RIOS is the Executive Director of the Mary Hooker Elementary School Family Resource Center in Hartford, CT.  The resource center is participating in a project to demonstrate methods of conducting outreach, education, and advocacy among predominantly Puerto Rican low-income families.

ROGER GLASS is a member of the American Federation of Teachers editorial staff in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Glass is also PTA president at Whittier Elementary School in Washington, D.C.  He is a founding member of "Dads of Whittier," as well as the Washington, D.C. chapter of Concerned Black Men.

KEVIN NIELSEN is the Director of the Family – School – Community Partnership Program for the Clark County Educational Association in Las Vegas, NV.  Mr. Nielsen was an elementary school teacher for 10 years before assuming his current position.  He has also served as the Director for the Louisiana Association of Educators.

DAVID HIRSCH is the President and Founder of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative and the Sr. VP of Salomon Smith Barney Inc., in Chicago, IL.  Mr. Hirsch is a fellow with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  He is also actively involved with Habitat for Humanity.  For more information about the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative, visit their website at:  www.4fathers.com.



What does the research tell us about the importance of fathers involvement in learning and what are its implications for schools and family service providers?

What can schools, Head Start programs, and other providers of services to children and families do to be more open and welcoming to fathers' participation?

II.  VIDEO:  "Restoring Fatherhood, Delaware Governor's Summit on Fathers"

III.  DISCUSSION:  The Big Picture — Why is it so critical to engage fathers in children's learning?

What are some practical ways for dads to be involved in their children's learning?  What special strategies should schools and service providers use for communicating with fathers?  How can administrators and educators make sure that people from other cultures are comfortable and have opportunities to participate in meaningful ways?  What does the recent survey data say about the current level of fathers' involvement in learning?

IV.  VIDEO:  "Voices of Children 1999"

V.  DISCUSSION:  Reaching out to Fathers

What challenges face schools and communities as they attempt to reach out to fathers?  What cultural and societal issues might be barriers to fathers' involvement in their children's learning?  What are some specific ways that schools, Head Start programs or other service providers can reach out to fathers?  What special considerations should be given to fathers who live outside their children's home?


VII.  DISCUSSION:  Reaching Across Communities

How can schools, early learning programs, community organizations, and colleges and universities work together to involve fathers?  What are the first steps for forming productive partnerships?  What support can schools, Head Start programs, and other organizations provide to help fathers of very young children to get involved in their learning?  How can employers, businesses, and community organizations support fathers' involvement in learning?  What is the role of professional development in helping teachers and service providers to work more effectively with fathers?

VIII.  VIDEO:  "Parental Responsibility" PSAs


What We Know About Fathers' Involvement in Children's Learning

Children benefit from positive fathers' involvement.  Greater involvement by fathers in such activities as eating meals with their children and helping with homework is associated with fewer behavior problems, greater sociability, and better school performance by children and adolescents.  The Department of Education's (ED) study, Fathers' Involvement in Children's Schools, demonstrates that children do better in school when their fathers participate in school activities, even when other possible influences, such as race and ethnicity, parents' education, family income, and mother involvement, are taken into account.  Children whose fathers are involved in their schools experience:

Fathers involvement matters.  Fathers' contribution to children's development over and above that of mothers is not yet well documented because there have been too few studies and because there are so many ways in which fathers may influence children's cognitive development.  There is evidence, however, that fathers are more likely to promote young children's intellectual and social development through physical play, while mothers are more likely to do so through talking and teaching while caretaking.  Cultural, economic, and individual circumstances also influence child-father interactions.

Helping children be ready to learn is critical.  Children's educational success depends both on educators who are ready to teach and on ensuring that every child is ready to learn.  From the prenatal stage through young adulthood, children benefit from having fathers and mothers – and schools and communities – engaged in keeping them safe and healthy.

Father-friendly environments are key.  ED's study also found that mothers and fathers are more likely to be highly involved in their children's schools if schools welcome their involvement and make it easy for them to be involved, although parental involvement still decreases as children grow older.  Schools, early childhood programs, and others are increasingly recognizing the importance of tailoring messages and practices to encourage the ongoing involvement of fathers and mothers in children's learning.

What can you do?  Innovative practices to support father involvement in children's learning at home, at school, and in the community include family literacy programs, parenting classes, school outings, father support programs, and after-school mentoring programs.  Additional strategies include use of evening and weekend hours, child care, mothers' support, and flexible work schedules to give fathers time for school visits and volunteering.  Finally, training and in-service programs can better prepare teachers and staff to work with fathers.

For more information:

Visit the Department of Health and Human Services’ Fatherhood Initiative web site at http://fatherhood.hhs.gov


The Partnership for Family Involvement website where you will find resources that include Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools and New Skills for New Schools:  Preparing Teachers in Family Involvement, Harvard Family Research Project.

Questions?:  CALL 1-800-USA LEARN

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