The Importance of Co-Parenting and Relationship Skills: Helping Fathers Help Their Children

The Importance of Co-Parenting and Relationship Skills: Helping Fathers Help Their Children

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Operator: Good day everyone and thank you
for standing by. Welcome to The Importance of Co-Parenting
and Relationship Skills, Helping Fathers Help Their Children webinar. As a reminder, today’s webinar is being recorded. At this time I would like to turn the webinar
over to Nigel Vann. Please go ahead. Nigel Vann: Okay, thank you very much, and
again I’d like to welcome everybody to our National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
webinar for the day. As you can see, we are focusing on co-parenting
relationship skills, with the subtitle of Helping Fathers Help Their Children, which
is obviously a main goal of all fatherhood work. If we’re doing fatherhood work, we’re trying
to include child wellbeing. I think one of the hardest areas to help dads
in with this is often the co-parenting, particularly if they’re not in the same home as the mother,
and there’s not a very good relationship, and there’s often very complicated situations
and relationships involved. So, given the effect that this will have on
the children, it’s extremely important that we talk about this, and that’s what we’re
going to do today. Nigel Vann: So, first of all I’m just going
to give you a quick overview of the Clearinghouse. Well actually, before I do that, let me just
point out the boxes to you for those of you who are joining for the first time. I see quite a few folks have found the chat
box and you’re introducing yourself, and we do encourage you to do that and share information. Right below the chat box we have various web
links, mainly for the Clearinghouse, but there’s a couple of other ones under there as well. You can click on the website for the various
presenters that we have today, they’ve all got their websites up there. I was just checking to see what was there. Nigel Vann: And then we have various downloadable
resources that we’ll say a little bit more about in a minute, and then next to that you
have the ‘ask a question’ box, and this is where we ask you to put any questions that
you may have for the presenters, and then at the end of the webinar we will get to as
many of those questions as we can. If there are any questions that we don’t get
to, we will post some written responses to those as much as we can. The webinar is being recorded, and the recording,
a transcript and all the presentation materials will be posted on our website in the next
month or so. So, we always encourage you to check back
and review that, and all previous webinars. They’re all on the same website, fatherhood.gov/webinars. Nigel Vann: So, with that let me go to these
first two slides just to give you this quick overview of the Clearinghouse. We are funded through the health and human
services administration for children and families, office of family assistance, and they provide
the funds that support this Clearinghouse and the work we do to support fathers, fatherhood
programs, researchers, and policy makers. And if you haven’t found our website yet,
we’re at fatherhood.gov. I’m going to mention a little bit more about
our toolkit, which is at fatherhood.gov/toolkit. I’ve already mentioned the webinars link,
and that’s our email; [email protected] Any feedback you have for us, any questions,
feel free to send them there, and you’re going to hear more also today about our national
call center. I always stress this on our webinars; 1-877-4DAD411. We actually have a staff member from the call
center as one of our presenters today, so you’re going to learn a lot more about their
work, and as always you can engage with us on Facebook or Twitter. Nigel Vann: So, for today’s webinar, again,
we’re going to look at some of these complicated situations that fathers and mothers are faced
with. Often there’s a lot of frustration on both
parts. I’ve been through this personally myself,
I know what it’s like to go through a divorce and try and work out a co-parenting relationship. It can be done, but it’s not always easy. So, the more support that we can offer fathers,
be it personal relationship issues, be it any kind of legal issues, any child support
issues, fatherhood programs are well equipped to provide this, as are other family support
programs. Nigel Vann: So, we’ve got quite a lineup for
you of presenters today. I’m going to briefly go over their bios now. You can download the full bios from the downloadable
resources box. You can also download a helpful resources
list that has links to various resources that the presenters are going to refer to today,
also to other books and articles that practitioners and fathers may find helpful, in terms of
this topic, and then there’s a few handouts as well. You will see something called Parenting Apart
Communication Skills, Parenting Apart Packet, and some co-parenting tips. We’re going to refer to those towards the
end of the webinar, but you can click on any of these things during the webinar and download
them. They’re also going to be available on the
website to download when we post all the webinar materials, and you can download today’s slides
from that box as well. Nigel Vann: So with that, let me just briefly
introduce you to our presenters. So, James McHale has done an awful lot of
research in the field of co-parenting, he’s been writing on this topic since 1996. He’s a family therapist by training and he
is professor and director of the family studies center at the University of South Florida
in St Petersburg, Florida. Today he’s going to share a lot about his
work, and he’s also going to tell you about some ongoing work which he’s designed to help
expectant unmarried African-American parents build and sustain positive co-parenting alliances. Nigel Vann: So, James will be kicking us off
and then we’ll be hearing from Aaron Ivchenko, who I mentioned is with the national call
center, he’s also Child Find of America, they’re a subcontractor on this project. Aaron has over 16 years of experience in the
field of child safety and crisis management. As a trained mediator with Child Find of America
he provides conflict resolution services for parents and challenging parenting apart situations,
and he’s also, as I mentioned, a case manager for our national call center, where he responds
to calls, connects fathers with support and information, and provides mediation services
between parents when possible. Nigel Vann: Then we’ve got Carolyn and Philip
Cowan, who are [inaudible 00:07:24] professors at the University of California in Berkeley. They have written extensively on fatherhood
work, they’ve had a great impact on development of fatherhood and parenting programs, and
not just in California, but also across the country and in the UK. They co-directed two longitudinal studies
of how family relationships affect children’s adaptations. They’ve authored numerous journal articles
and written several books, and with Marcia and Kyle Pruett, they developed the supporting
father involvement project, and you see a website link for that project in the web link
box. That was a group intervention for parents
of young children and designed to strengthen parent’s relationships as parents and partners. Nigel Vann: And we’re going to be hearing
more about that from Carolyn and Phil today. And as part of their presentation, they’re
going to start, and then Marc will come in, and then Carolyn and Phil will come back,
because Marc’s program in Oklahoma, Marc Taylor’s program in Oklahoma called TRUE Dads is implementing
various aspects of the work that Carolyn and Phil have developed. Marc’s been leading the TRUE Dads program
since late 2015, and since then they have successfully served over 1000 fathers and
their co-parents. So, he’ll be sharing some very interesting
information on that program, and then after he’s done that Carolyn and Phil will come
back on and share some preliminary findings from their research into that project. Nigel Vann: So, with that, we’re going to
have a couple of quick poll questions, and then I’m going to give the floor to James. So, Enzo, can you pull up the first poll question? And we do this just to get a sense of who’s
on the webinar, so we can understand who we’re talking to here. Can we get that poll question, Enzo? It seems like we have a problem with that
right now, so let’s come back to that. So, let me give the mic to you, James, and
I’ll move to your slide here and then we’ll … Oh, I’m sorry. Enzo was waiting for me to do this, yeah. I thought I was going straight to James. I just wanted to point out that we do have
these resources available on the fatherhood.gov website, and I’m going to say a little bit
more towards the end of the webinar on what we have in the toolkit, but there is a section
there that’s very relevant to co-parenting, and we also have a brief that’s coming out
in 2019, where we will be talking about co-parenting relationships, and I’ll mention a little bit
of that later. Nigel Vann: I think my internet has gone down,
so I’m just going to … Enzo, are you there and able to put the poll questions up? If not, then I’m going to give the mic to
James. Okay, if you’d like to take over James and
move the slides. My internet has gone down, so I can’t move
them. James McHale: Okay. I’m actually seeing poll results on my screen. Nigel Vann: Oh okay, that’s why I wasn’t seeing
that. I’m very sorry, that’s because my Internet’s
gone down. So, as soon as [crosstalk 00:10:53]. Have we had the first question? Have we had the first question or the second
question up there? James McHale: I saw responses to the first
question, and it looks a like a diverse audience. There are folks who work with kids, there’s
folks who work with moms, there’s folks who work with fathers, and the greatest number
is folks who work with dads, but a fair number of people who work with kids and mothers as
well. Nigel Vann: Okay, great, okay. So Enzo, I apologize for not knowing you were
doing that. Could you put the second question up real
quick too, be James starts? Nigel Vann: Is that on the screen now James? James McHale: Yeah, the results shift in a
fluid way, so I think people are voting now. So maybe we hang on for about 30 seconds and
just see where things land. But it looks like about half the people are
saying that they rarely work with fathers who have all their kids together in the same
household. So, there are folks who work with dads who
are co-residential with kids, but it’s looking like the majority of folks work with dads
who are not co-residential. Nigel Vann: Okay, yeah. And that is certainly what we expected, yeah. So, okay. Okay, well if you’re ready to get started,
James, I’ll let you take over, and I’m going to move to a different room here and see if
I can get my internet sorted out, but I’ll be listening. So the floor is yours, James. James McHale: All right. I appreciate that, and I also appreciate you
letting me use a photo that’s about 15 years old. If only I still looked like that, I would
be in pig’s heaven. But I wanted to say a couple words, just by
way of introduction about the funding for the work I’m going to be describing. I’ve been very grateful to national institutes
of help who have supported this work since 1996 through a series of grants, but we’ve
also received funding from a number of other sponsors, The Brady Education Foundation really
jump started the work that we’re going to be talking about today with African-American
parents. James McHale: Their mission is closing the
educational gap between black and white children, and this is the only project that they ever
funded where they were investing funds before the child was even born in closing that gap. So I think they saw the wisdom of trying to
start the child out in life on a path with strong co-parenting. And locally our juvenile welfare board at
Pinellas county has been incredible supportive of the work. So, we’ve been grateful for local, federal
sponsors and foundations as well in helping us move this work forward. James McHale: The family studies center that
I direct at USF St. Petersburg is a relatively unique center on the national scene. All of the work that we do at the family studies
center is concerned with promoting co-parenting alliances in families, and I deliberately
asked that we have the graphics that you’re seeing here, because we define co-parenting
as an every child construct. James McHale: So today we’re here to talk
about co-parenting between mothers and fathers, whether together or apart, but children are
also raised in co-parenting relationships and families where the co-parents are parents
and grandparents and multi generational families, kids are raised in families where one parent
is in one country and another parent is in another country but they’re still co-parenting,
fluid military families, families with kids have been placed in foster care and the co-parenting
relationship is between the biological and foster parents. So, we try to understand the family systems
that support every child, and that’s our mission at the family studies center. We’re going to be focusing specifically on
work today that involves fathers, but we understand that every child is co-parented, we just need
to understand who is in that co-parenting system. James McHale: I’m grateful for the opportunity
to start this webinar by taking a thousand miles up look at co-parenting. I know our other speakers are going to get
into the weeds in terms of ways of helping the families, and I’ll talk a little bit about
that myself, but I think it’s really important in order to do co-parenting work effectively,
to have a very grounded and thorough understanding of what co-parenting actually involves. If you think about what I said a moment ago,
that every child is co-parented we just need to understand the family system, then this
is really the only viable definition of co-parenting; the mutual joint efforts of adults raising
children for whom they share responsibility. This is a pretty inclusive definition that
I think would fit every family, every child, so we’re not just defining it in terms of
the romantic or committed relationship between the child’s biological mom and dad, but it’s
whomever is in the child’s family system. Those are the folks we want to get together
to work effectively on the child’s behalf. James McHale: So, this is the definition that
we use to define co-parenting, understand children and their family systems, and to
strengthen the co-parenting alliances that support their development. James McHale: So, this is a slide I want to
dwell on for just a couple of minutes, because regardless of who the child’s co-parents are,
if the co-parenting alliance is going to function effectively, these four things need to happen. These are the elements of co-parenting that
support children’s social and emotional development and health. The first is the one I think that everybody
was drawn to the webinar today to focus on; support and solidarity between the parenting
figures, and specifically between the child’s mom and dad, in the case of co-parenting that
involves fathers. And we will hear I think a fair amount later
on today about some ways to help promote problem solving communication between moms and dads
on the child’s behalf. But this is only square one, really it’s the
gateway in to make sure that the other three things happen, and these are also core elements
of co-parenting that it’s very important to be holding in mind. James McHale: What we’re trying to get is
consistency and predictability in the ways that the different caregivers are guiding
the child’s development. Every mom and dad have different ways of being
with their kids, and kids love that, they love the difference between their parents. That’s not what I’m talking about with consistency
and predictability. What I’m talking about here is the importance
that the parents have an agreement, especially with very young children, but with older kids
too, about ways that they’re going to go about parenting, and you can take something as simple
as the use of a pacifier in a young child who’s spending time in two different households. James McHale: If the child is using a pacifier
in one household and then is in the other household and gets upset and is not given
a pacifier, it becomes difficult for that baby, or young toddler to regulate themselves,
and the result could be sleep disturbances, it could be emotional outbursts, it can be
a number of different things. If that child is using a pacifier in foster
care and goes home for a visit with biological parents and the biological parents don’t use
a pacifier, the child gets upset, gets disrupted, goes back to the foster parents, and the system
says, “Wow, it looks like that was a failed overnight. I wonder if we’re going to be able to reunify
the kids.” And it was over a simple pacifier, the use
of a pacifier. Not simple, but the kinds of strategies that
we need to use; whether or not you’re going to respond to the baby when they’re crying,
where the baby’s sleeping, the kinds of things that help the child to learn how to regulate. James McHale: Parents do need to be on the
same page about that, whether they’re parenting together in one household or across different
households. So the consistency and predictability is something
that we really want to broker between co-parents so that kids are getting the best and most
predictable support that they can for their emotional and social development. James McHale: Security and integrity is another
thing that derives from positive co-parenting, and it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking
about the child living in a single household with mom and dad, or across multiple households. If the co-parents are working well together,
the child is going to develop a sense that my family is together, my family is unified,
my family is not broken. But if the co-parents are not working well
together, then the child begins to dwell upon the insecurities in their family base. We tend to think and talk about the security
of the child with mom, and the security of the child with dad, and absolutely that’s
a thing, but the family is also creating a sense of family level security through their
work together as co-parents. If they work effectively, the child feels
safe, secure, confident in their family system. If they’re not, the child feels that the family
is fragmented, and that affects the child’s development. So this is a really important component of
effective co-parenting work, is to build that sense of security in the family’s home base,
whether it’s one household or multiple. James McHale: The last one that’s on there;
accurate attunement to the child’s fears, needs, wishes and sensibilities. We know from a lot of work that in families
where co-parenting is not going well, mom and dad actually see the child differently. When they’re describing the child and their
adjustment and their problems, it’s almost like they’re seeing a different kid, and you
can imagine if the parents have different ideas about whether the child is depressed,
or the child is suffering from anxiety, or the child has ADHD symptoms, or whatever it
might be, and they can’t even get on the same page about that, the way that they’re going
to support one another in co-parenting that child is not going to be very helpful to the
child. So, I think that understanding the child,
not just, “I think he has ADHD.” “No, I don’t think he has ADHD.” But really being attuned to what’s going on
with the child, that’s what we mean by accurate attunement, and both parents need to be on
the same page about that. James McHale: So I spent a little extra time
on this one slide, and this next slide is one I just want to say a couple more words
about as well, and then I’ll move a bit more quickly. I’m not going to talk about the first point
here, that co-parenting affects children’s social and emotional development. We’ve got lots of research suggesting that
that’s true. What I did want to talk about is the importance
of understanding co-parenting as a triangular construct. James McHale: Every family in which a child
has a mom and dad there is that triangle, and I think most people, unfortunately, who
work with families don’t honor that triangle. They tend to see families more as a one plus
two system, and here’s what I mean by that; we tend to, for the folks who are on the line,
we work with moms and healthy start motherhood programs, we see the mother-child bond as
the primary bond, and then if dad happens to be out there and involved we involve him
and bring him in, but that’s a two plus one system. It’s mom and child plus dad if he happens
to be out there. Every one of those children is also embedded
in a family triangle. So, children whose dads are incarcerated,
children whose dads have been deported, children whose dads are overseas in the military. Those are still triangles, and if we understand
the family as a triangle, then the work we do with the family on behalf of the child
will be very different than if we understand the family as mom and child plus a dad who
we’re trying to engage. James McHale: I could talk for an hour about
that concept, but I think it’s really important that we use the concept of triangles to understand
co-parenting and guide all of our work with families. James McHale: This slide, I insisted that
we include. This is a book that we published back in 2011,
Kristin Lindahl and I, and on the left is the original version of the cover of the book
that the American Psychological Association sent to me, and I refused to have the book
published with that cover, and we had a very prolonged discussion about whether co-parenting
was spelt with a hyphen or not. And the point that I made and finally won
was that when you have a hyphen in co-parenting it’s emphasizing distance, that people are
co-parenting at a distance. Coparenting, without a hyphen, bringing the
word together is what we want to achieve and accomplish with the child regardless of whether
the parents are living in the same household or not. Coparenting, hyphenless, is really what we’re
trying to create for kids, the actual solidarity of the family. So, I hope that we can move away from using
the hyphen. We’ve seen a big change on that in the published
literature over the last 15 years, and I hope that that trend continues. James McHale: With unmarried families the
challenges are great, and you all know that. Everybody on the line knows that. What I wanted to say about this though is
that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to working with these families. Enzo mentioned divorced families. Unmarried parents is whom we do a lot of our
work with, but unmarried parents differ greatly from one another as well. Some of them have never started a relationship
at all, but have a baby on the way, others are in a relationship they’ve been in for
a while and are more or less committed, even though they may not be living together, and
then other families that have never married it actually feels like a divorce because there’s
been an acrimonious split up, maybe one or both parents took on different partners, and
so there’s a lot of animosity. And the ways of working with these families
are going to necessarily have to be different. There’s not just going to be one set of principles
that works for all. James McHale: What we’ve developed is a focused
co-parenting consultation that I wanted to describe just very, very briefly, and I’m
not going to go through the whole model, but the notion of the focused co-parenting consultation
is that when you bring the parents together, they’re coming together to talk about co-parenting
and only co-parenting, and this is very different and distinct I think from what we’ll be hearing
from our other speakers. The parents make a pact with the folks working
with them that if they get off track, and they’re not talking about co-parenting anymore,
we’re going to bring them back onto co-parenting again, and if they can’t stay, we’re going
to stop doing that work, because the co-parenting work is sacred. Yes, the in-laws are important, yes, religion’s
important, yes, money’s important, yes, other things are important. But we’re there to talk about the kids and
about co-parenting. James McHale: So, the consciousness raising
phase of the work is the most important phase. I’ll go back to that in just a minute. The skill building, in terms of problem solving
and communication, I think we’ll hear more from Marc and from Phil and Carolyn about,
I think I learned a great deal from Phil and Carolyn about effective ways of working with
couples. More of what we do is not all that different
or distinctive from good couples work. But the consciousness raising phase about
why co-parenting is important is really crucial. James McHale: Our work most recently has been
focused on serving unmarried African-American parents, and when we began this work we spent
a great deal of time talking with folks in the African-American community, community
leaders who had been working with young parents for generations, and were assured by pastor
Murphy, Reverend Lewis Murphy, was the one who said, “Co-parenting is what we do in the
African-American community. This is a concept that fits and that works.” We know from other folks research that unmarried
African-American dads are very connected to their kids. James McHale: I think the myth of father absence,
particularly in the African-American community is way off base. African-American dads know who their kids
are and stay connected with them through time, and the doing of co-parenting work in African-American
communities is complicated because parents in those communities have often had some negative
experiences with programs in the past that were ostensibly going to be helpful to their
family, and then the families discovered after entering that, “No, in fact this is not helping
at all. These folks don’t really understand my family
at all.” And so there’s a wariness, a justified wariness
I think in the African-American community about taking part in programs. James McHale: Our tact is to really involve
the community in developing and designing interventions, so that not only was it culturally
competent, I think all interventions need to be culturally competent, but it also spoke
to the realities on the ground for families. We met them where they were, the things that
we were talking about; what’s happening with African-American children in our community
and how important it is to bring parents together, so that your kids don’t suffer some of those
same challenges, was really a message that resonated with families. James McHale: So, it wasn’t just that African-Americans
were part of our staff and were involved in building intervention, they helped create
it from the bottom up, and to deliver the message in the community; this program is
okay, this program’s here to support you. The desire to work together was there already,
it was happening in [inaudible 00:27:29]. What we were able to demonstrate in the Brady
Foundation funded study was that African-American parents did benefit greatly from taking part
in a focused co-parenting consultation intervention. This is published work, and I have just one
slide from the work here to show changes in problem solving and communication that took
place, following the sixth session; co-parenting intervention during the pregnancy. And again remember, these co-parents who were
largely non co-residential, were not married, may or may not have been considering a committed
relationship with one another, but came together to talk about co-parenting that shared child,
and we were able to see major significant changes in communication support, positive
affect cohesiveness, and also declines in coerciveness, negativity, argumentation, those
kinds of things. James McHale: So, dramatic changes after just
six sessions from parents who came together to talk about their shared child. We did not get into relationships, we didn’t
get into many of the other kinds of things that would ordinarily be talked about with
dads, but we focused specifically on their co-raising of the shared child. After the child was born we brought the families
back together, and this is some of the first imagery in the history of this country that
shows a triangle, a mother and a father and a baby together in an unmarried family system,
where the parents are not living together. But that triangle is developing, that baby
knows who both their mom and the dad are. We hear a lot about maternal gate keeping,
but following this intervention, when the family came to play together, not only did
the babies know who their dads were, but when they played together with their dads, they’re
in this triangular interaction, moms were supportive. So the moms were already supporting the developing
baby-dad alliance. This is a three month old you see in this
picture. James McHale: So, we felt that they were successful
in helping to cultivate the beginnings of a co-parenting alliance in families where
it may not have otherwise occurred without those co-parenting conversations during the
pregnancy. The slide on the right just shows, hey guess
what? When baby’s made a bid to dad, dads will respond. So, dads come into fatherhood with these intuitive
parenting skills that moms do, they do respond to their babies when the babies bid to them,
and the moms are supportive of those. So, this is published work with Erica Coates,
which folks can read more about. James McHale: This is, I think the second
to last slide. I know I’m out of time, but what I wanted
to say is that what’s very important about the consciousness raising phase of focused
co-parenting consultation, is the goal is to really help get both mom and dad on the
same page about why it is that they’re doing this, and the focus there is really on building
security for the child, for the shared child. This is something that you can get both unmarried
parents and high conflict post divorce parents to agree upon by doing some hard work and
staying focused on the child and the child’s emotions within the family triangle. It takes some work to get there, but that’s
what often will bring parents together. James McHale: The work that we’re doing now
is also come one come all, and the attitude’s been in our field to not do dyadic work. Our work is dyadic, I need to say that. It’s not group work, and it’s not individual
work with dads. We work with parents together, and it’s very
challenging to get them together, it takes a lot of pre work to make that happen. As part of that pre work, we’re also making
sure that mom feels safe being part of the intervention, and if mom feels safe, whether
there’s arguing and screaming and yelling, or we even have some low level aggression
in the family, but the goal is to try to get the couples together to work safely with them,
so that when the baby comes, that has been [inaudible 00:31:08] and helped with. James McHale: So we have seen 140 families
so far in our current NIH funded study. We were able to safely randomize 120 of those,
20 of the moms felt they didn’t feel safe. The other 120 did feel safe, and once enrolled
we only had to withdraw five of those 120 moms. So we’re going to be able to provide some
data in a couple of years on the possibility of doing this work in families that often
have not been engaged in the work, because people wonder whether it’s safe to do so. Safety always comes first. We would never put couples together where
we were increasing the likelihood of violence, but what we’re discovering is that it’s possible
to work with many families where there’s high conflict in a way that’s safe, effective,
and it supports the baby. James McHale: So, folks who want to learn
more can visit the family studies center website. It’s located on the slide right here; usfsp.edu/fsc. Thanks very much for the time today. Nigel Vann: Okay, well thank you very much
James, yeah, and thanks for helping me out there at the beginning. I’ve actually been back on the internet and
I’ve lost it again now. I’m going to look into another possibility
here, but in the meantime let me just pass this over to Aaron, and Aaron, tell us all
about the great work you’re doing there please. Aaron Ivchenko: Okay, sounds good. Hi everybody, my name is Aaron Ivchenko, and
I will be talking very briefly today about our program Child Find of America, and the
[inaudible 00:32:33] program. I’ve had the privilege of working for Child
Find of America for 10 years now, and every day I am learning something new, and I see
that I cannot flip this slide here. I do not see the arrows on my … Oh, thank
you. Okay, in essence this is Child Find of America
and the services we provide. We are a missing children’s organization,
essentially, and have been so since our founding about 39 years ago. It was founded in 1980 by the mother of a
missing child in upstate New York, which is actually where we’re currently located, following
a contentious custody battle. At the time there was really limited law enforcement
response to this kind of situation, really no laws regarding parental family abduction,
little was understood about the impact that such a thing would have on a child, so Child
Find was founded. Aaron Ivchenko: You can see our mission is
really to provide professional services designed to prevent and resolve child abduction, and
the family conflicts that can lead to them. Over the years through time Child Find has
evolved in many ways. You can see down near the bottom we essentially
have four arms of Child Find of America. Of course, in regards to missing children’s
issues, whether it’s a parental abduction, which is most common with us, or runaway,
we have location services. You can see in the middle though we have what
we call the Parent Hope Children, this developed mid-nineties, really to try to be a preventive
service and to try to get out in front of these issues. Essentially addressing parenting apart and
co-parenting through the lens of conflict skill management mediation. Aaron Ivchenko: Our services are free, they
always have been. They are confidential, they are phone based. They are open ended, people can call us once
or many times, it could be a brief call or it could last a month if not years over time. We’re talking oftentimes with mothers, fathers,
grandparents, relative caregivers, you name it, young fathers, fugitive fathers, and essentially
we are constantly seeking any opportunity to improve on the co-parenting relationship. Our focus is essentially, however, on the
child and seeking stability and improvement on the conditions surrounding that child’s
life. Our mission is to keep children in a safe
and legal environment. And again, we really look at our work through
the lens of mediators. On average, we receive about 750 cases a year. Since our founding we’ve talked to nearly
20,000 families. So we’ve pulled a lot of information over
the years and used that to improve our work. Aaron Ivchenko: Next slide. Then part of the evolution of parent help
is to find connections, or actually assist fathers who call 4DAD411. 4DAD411 is NRFC helpline, which essentially
we answer, we partner with the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse to answer these calls,
and we’ll often be speaking with fathers who are looking for support in a number of areas. It could be assistance with family court,
they might call regarding paternity, child welfare issues, financial needs, child support. Often first step as a 4DAD411 representative
we will look for any resources and information on the website. We will connect callers with programs that
might meet those needs. However, when their needs are outside those
services provided through 4DAD411, we will also connect callers with parent help programs. So that would include challenges with parenting
apart, family court, child welfare, as I just mentioned. Aaron Ivchenko: We receive about 500 calls,
more emails per year, and I think on average we get … parent help receives about 350
referrals from 4DAD411 every year. So you can see there’s certainly a need out
there. Also, I would mention that we receive a lot
of calls from practitioners in the field, those who are looking to develop or enhance
they’re responsible fatherhood program, often talking about the responsible fatherhood toolkit. I would encourage you all to check it out. And of course just helping anyone with questions
regards to research, that’s also available on the website. Okay. Aaron Ivchenko: Okay, so this slide is full
of information, it essentially serves to represent our process in trying to understand the whole
human that we are speaking with on the phone. People come to us with not just co-parenting
issues, but any number of challenges in their life, and we just try our best to get a good
sense of what’s happening, before we make any attempt to address whatever the goal is. Our process is just, through our intake, to
gather information and understand what challenges might get in the way of co-parenting, and
if possible to address those first. And we would do so not exclusively, but by
always seeking to surround the parent, mother or father, with any local services, any supportive
programs that can address those concrete needs. Aaron Ivchenko: Okay, next slide. Okay, this slide really, we use in some of
our presentations. It’s from Howard Yahm’s book, Divorced Induced
Emotions and the Healing Paradigm. Essentially, it serves to demonstrate how,
when encountering parents who are separated or have experienced some level of loss, that
that emotion you might be encountering might not be representative of that person in general. These experiences, whether it be separation,
loss, unfulfilled dreams, or an adversarial system such as family court, these can cause
emotions to escalate. It can turn anxiety into panic, disappointment
can become betrayal, suspicion to paranoia. So it’s just important for us as direct service
providers to keep that in mind, and also be seeking to find ways to deescalate, so that
we can at a problem solving mode with a parent. Aaron Ivchenko: Okay, next slide. So, as you can see we really like spectrums
at Child Find. Here’s another spectrum. This is family conflict continuum, and as
I said before, we’re always seeking for opportunities to improve on the co-parenting relationship. We do that through conflict skills resolution,
mediation. We’re all trained mediators here. We look at all these relationships in terms
of not only conflict, but the degree of conflict that is present, and what impact it could
have on the child. So, of course there is some which they present
a greater risk, some levels of conflict to a child than others. On the left hand side you have transformative
conflicts. Aaron Ivchenko: In our view, conflict is not
a bad thing, in fact it’s a good thing. In healthy relationships it offers opportunity
to improve on our understanding of each other. It only exists because of differences we have,
but each conflict is really an opportunity and a review. However, you can see that running down the
spectrum you can move into chronic conflict and high conflict situations, and prolonged
exposure of this kind of conflict, of course, can lead to harmful results with children. On the far right you’ll see the phrase ‘adverse
childhood experiences’, or ACEs, I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with ACEs, but
that doesn’t form our work, and certainly we seek to avoid those at all costs. Aaron Ivchenko: Next slide. And we also like to recognize that because
of systems like family court, or child protective services, that there are occasions where co-parenting
may not be possible at the time, or that we just have to find ways to improve the co-parenting
situation through other means. This is a simple spectrum that shows how you
can move to many opportunities on the left by agreement to less, to restricted situations,
to supervised visitation, to denied access to children, as you become perhaps involved
in situations where there’s an increased risk to the child. And we receive calls across the spectrum,
and we have to always keep our ears open for those opportunities, but also for those risks
to the child. Aaron Ivchenko: Next slide. And we are mediators, as I said before. This is a very simple slide defining mediation. As the slide says, it’s a process that’s impartial,
it involves a third party, it exists to facilitate communication. We’re trained transformative mediators, another
spectrum you could think of is on one side mediation being very hands off non facilitative,
that’s transformative mediation. We essentially seek to identify what’s important
to the parents, what their values are, seek to find common ground for those values. Aaron Ivchenko: On the far end of the other
side, you’d find more facilitative mediation, or arbitration, and oftentimes you’ll find
that level of mediation connected to a court. We’re not connected to family court in any
way. We don’t tell people what’s in their best
interests, we’re here to just help clarify what those are. It’s voluntary, it’s thoughtful, it’s respectful,
and it’s confidential, and that is certainly one element of our casework that we find really
helps, is offering confidentiality, because oftentimes the conflict that we’re discussing,
these are very personal and emotional issues, and it really allows for a thorough explanation
of what’s going on. And that might be it. Oh, okay. Aaron Ivchenko: This is a resource that we
use oftentimes in reaching out to the other parent, it’s called a Parenting Apart Packet,
and includes just quite a few tools, I would call them, for using in essentially creating
a parenting plan. There’s a parenting time calendar, there’s
also a communication skills worksheet, and child’s fundamental rights. We might discuss this a little bit later in
the presentation I think, but I put this here just to demonstrate that we have tools that
we can reference throughout the process. They don’t apply to every parenting apart
situation or co-parenting situation, but it is available, especially in cases where we
are reaching out to the other parent and inviting a discussion about the conflict. Okay. Nigel Vann: Okay, well thank you very much
Aaron, and we will if we have time at the end spend a bit more time having a look at
that Parenting Apart Packet. It is available there in the downloadable
resources box, along with communication skills, which is just one page from that packet. So, we do encourage you to take a look at
that. So with that, let me bring up Phil and Carolyn,
and the time is yours, and then as you’re done with your first few slides, please pass
it onto Marc. Thank you. Carolyn Cowan: Thank you. Phil and I are delighted to be part of this
webinar today. Based on James McHale’s plea today, we think
we’ll take the hyphen out of our co-parenting title from now on. We have debated about it back and forth, and
he was quite convincing. So, we’re going to be talking about parenting
interventions that we’ve had experience with, but with an eye to facilitating children’s
development, and one of the things that struck us many, many years ago when we began this
work was that parenting classes are attended almost entirely by mothers, and now many home
visiting programs also are directed primarily to mothers of children. Carolyn Cowan: There have been now a number
of father involvement projects across the country, and across the world really and … woops. And usually it’s men meeting with men, and
what this does is it ignores the relationship between the parents, both as couples and as
co-parenting teams, yet we know now from much systematic research and clinical work that
in married, cohabiting and divorced families, the most important predictor of fathers involvement
with their children is the quality of the father’s relationship with the child’s mother. Carolyn Cowan: So, our approach has been a
co-parenting approach to enhancing father’s involvement with their children, and with
the mothers of their children or their co-parents, and we realize that the idea of groups for
both parents may be quite a different approach from the kind of fatherhood involvement interventions
some of you on the webinar are undertaking, and some of you may be dealing with fathers
who’ve been separated from their families for a long time, which is a really hard way
to go. But our idea was to intervene earlier, preventively
before the fathers become disconnected from their children and from their partners, and
their problems seem too difficult to resolve. Carolyn Cowan: So, and our experience has
been, arguing against people who say fathers won’t come, is that if you believe in the
co-parent approach, it is possible to get both parents to come if you get in early enough,
and if you really work at it. For example, using male staff to recruit men,
and being clear that this program is to help foster the positive development of their children,
which many, many people will respond to. Carolyn Cowan: So, in most of the work we
do, we’re working from a family systems model where there are five aspects of family life
that we focus on in our work with fathers and mothers, or fathers and co-parents. How they’re doing as individuals, how each
of them is doing in their relationship with their child or children, what’s going on in
the relationship between them. We spent quite some time on family of origin
stories, and what they’re trying to carry over from the past, and what it is they want
to change, and then we also focus on their actual stressors and the supports they have
in their lives. Carolyn Cowan: So, I’m going to start by talking
mostly about the supporting father involvement project, which for 10 years was funded by
the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention, and this work we did with Marcia Kline Pruett
from Smith college, and Kyle Pruett from Yale University, and you’ll see there’s a link
there to a website where you can get more information about our published work. We love this logo. We took this as our logo, it’s a sculpture
by an Israeli sculptress, because if you look very carefully you’ll see who the baby is
clinging to, and it just spoke to us. Carolyn Cowan: So, I’m going to talk about
just one phase of three in the supporting father involvement project, and near the end
Phil will come back and talk about how that’s related to the new project in Oklahoma that
Marc Taylor’s going to tell you about, but here there were 289, almost all low income
Mexican-American, European-American couples in four California counties. Three-quarters of them were married, and most
of them had incomes below the poverty level, and we randomly assigned them either to a
single meeting, which was our control group, it was with a group of couples we met just
once with them, or a fathers only group, or a couples group, and here having that control
group and a fathers group pitted against a couples group taught us some things. Carolyn Cowan: In both the fathers and the
couples groups the fathers become more involved in their children’s care, and the children
with the problem behaviors, over time after the intervention did remain stable. But in the fathers only groups, the father
satisfaction as a couple declined, whereas when we were working with the couple the satisfaction
remained stable and the parents also reported less parenting stress. So, we were getting more bang for our buck,
so to speak, by working with both parents. Carolyn Cowan: Now, Marc Taylor is going to
describe a project in Oklahoma City called TRUE Dads, where some of these principles
in action, and then Phil will come back at the end and tell you a little bit about the
very preliminary results from that project, because it’s modeled on these ideas that I’ve
been discussing. Over to you, Marc. Marc Taylor: Yes, all right. Thank you. Yeah, this is Marc Taylor, with TRUE Dads
out in Oklahoma, and I’ve had the privilege to be working with the Cowans over the last
three and a half years, as we created this new project called TRUE Dads. And True stands for trustworthy, responsible,
united, and educated. Those are the traits that we like to foster
in our program. And I’ve just realized in my presentation
coming up to talk about our random control trial that we’ve just gone through, or we’re
in the middle of. We just finished recruiting and we have a
year followup, but that’s where the outcomes that Carolyn was mentioning are coming from. We actually have a control group and a treatment
group and are going through a rigorous study there. But, let me tell you a little bit more about
our program, and then get off to our questions and answers as quick as we can. Marc Taylor: So, TRUE Dads, like I said, it’s
based in Oklahoma City, and our strength based program focuses on building a working alliance
with dads to help them achieve family success. Fathers and father figures must be 18 years
or older, and we emphasize on the 18 to 24, and they have to have a child 12 years or
younger, and we emphasize on zero to four. Again, what Carolyn was saying, we try to
get them as early as possible. The father must have a co-parent attend the
program with him, and we define the co-parent as the other adult helping to raise the child. While this is usually an intimate partner,
we have seen grandmothers, grandfathers, and other friends and family members step into
that role, because the father and co-parent aren’t always in an intimate relationship,
we call them parenting teams instead of couples. Marc Taylor: TRUE Dads program services are
primarily delivered through a series of workshops beginning with 18 hours of core curriculum
that parenting teams attend together. Research shows that the greatest number, or
more significant impacts are achieved when fathers participate in workshops with a co-parent. For this reason, we created TRUE Dads and
designed it for fathers and co-parents to proceed through the core content groups together,
that they share learning experiences that help them align their expectations, learn
skills to improve communication, create a stronger commitment to shared parent. Marc Taylor: So, approximately 15 dads and
15 co-parents are assigned to each workshop cohort, and participants are encourage and
incentivized to make up missed sessions. In addition to core content, TRUE Dads offers
three supplemental tracks. We have parenting, we have healthy marriage
and relationship education, and we have employment. The supplemental tracks all build on the lessons
delivered during the initial 18 hours of the workshops. The services are bundled and presented together
at intake to create a seamless transition from one to another, reducing attrition that
could become an unintended consequence of this kind of specialization, and potentially
supporting take up rates from the supplemental [inaudible 00:56:16]. Marc Taylor: So they can change their preferences
while completing their core workshops, during intake dads preliminarily select one of these
tracks for their end focus. On an as needed basis, parenting teams also
have access to individualized case management/coaching, referrals to mental health and substance abusive
services, and specialized job training opportunities. So, our cuticulum is … we have an adaptation
of On My Shoulders, which is produced by PREP; prevention and relationship enhancement program. On My Shoulders is a unique interactive curriculum
designed to equip men with the skills needed for healthy relationships, especially between
co-parents and with their children. Marc Taylor: Themes include communication,
stress, co-parenting, commitment, discipline, and gratitude. In consultation with the program’s research
team and partners, PREP re-envisioned the On My Shoulders curriculum especially for
TRUE Dads, creating a unique approach to a fatherhood intervention that engages both
fathers and their co-parents. With the adapted curriculum branded TRUE Dads
On My Shoulders. A little smart there with our words, but not
only did the adaptation acknowledge a co-parent will be present for workshops, it also added
employment/economic stability and additional parenting topics to fully address the three
main focus areas needed for a father to succeed, and to meet the requirements of the Office
of Family Assistance, through who we receive our funding. Marc Taylor: TRUE Dads On My Shoulders is
offered to program participants in three hour sessions over six weeks, totaling 18 hours. Though the supplemental parenting intensive
was specifically designed for TRUE Dads with the idea of providing additional support for
the co-parenting relationship at the request of fathers, based on evidence from the supporting
fatherhood involvement program/study, doctors Phil and Carolyn Cowan, as we’ve heard, guided
public strategies in developing the curriculum specifically for TRUE Dads to be delivered
to parenting teams. The curriculum is an adaptation of the Cowans
supporting father involvement curriculum. Marc Taylor: Our supplemental relationship
intensive utilizes the evidence based PREP 8.0 HMRE curriculum, and is designed for fathers
and their significant others to improve essential relationship skills, such as communicating
effectively, working as a team, solving problems, managing conflict, preserving and enhancing
love, and commitment and friendship. Dads participate in this intensive with a
romantic partner, so in some cases the co-participant is not the co-parent who joined the father
in the core content. In those cases, there’s an onboarding session
for the romantic partner to teach the core skills needed to engage in the workshops. Marc Taylor: Only fathers will participate
in our final supplemental track, which is the employment track. If chosen as their intensive focus, fathers
are enrolled in work forward, an up to 60 hours work preparation workshop, and it lasts
up to two weeks in duration, developed by a collaboration called Work Ready Oklahoma. A new cohort begins every two weeks, it’s
offered during day time hours. As a participant in work forward individuals
receive an assessment of their education, job skills, engage in vigorous job readiness
training, and access a job placement team with robust employer network, representing
in demand occupations, and strong track record of connecting participants with job earning
higher wages. Participants also have access to onsite resource
and are stocked with computers, office supplies and other materials to aid in their job readiness. An employment development specialist is also
available to assist participants in improving work readiness skills, such as developing
an effective resume. Marc Taylor: Fathers can participate in the
employment intensive track while they’re concurrently participating in TRUE Dads On My Shoulders
workshop, our core content. For the parenting and the relationship tracks,
those follow the six sessions of On My Shoulders core content, and they build on the information
learned in that core. Offering the intensives on this schedule adapts
TRUE Dads services to real life needs that low income fathers experience as they face
different priorities, challenges. Marc Taylor: So, a little bit about our coaches. Each dad is assigned a fatherhood employment
coach, an FEC. The primary functions of an FEC are to encourage
participation and curriculum completion. They reinforce curriculum concepts, support
the employment goals, needs of fathers, and make appropriate referrals to services we
do not directly offer, with a special emphasis on specialized job training and mental health/substance
abuse services when appropriate. FECs engage fathers and their co-parent in
an initial case management office visit, during which time FECs help dads set goals and create
a plan for success according to their specific needs and desires. They also discuss a workshop schedule, the
importance of consistency in their participation, and the goal of completing all workshop sessions. Based on the initial assessment/case management
meeting, FECs are responsible for coordinating referrals if there are any additional needs
that we, IMCI, that’s our parent company, or if there’s another community partner can
meet. Additional office visits are scheduled depending
on specific goals, and the needs of the father. Marc Taylor: Throughout their involvement
in TRUE Dads, FECs maintain weekly contact with fathers to support the program engagement
and to remain accessible should additional case management or referrals be needed. FECs make workshop reminder calls the day
of the workshop, if a parenting team misses a session the FEC contacts them the following
day to discuss the barriers that prevented them from attending. The FEC will assist the father in problem
solving and identifying appropriate resources and supports to promote successful completion
of the workshop series and achievement of their stated goals. Marc Taylor: TD educators, so our TRUE Dads
educators, those are the facilitators of our workshops, they can also refer fathers back
to the FECs, if they determine there might be need for additional assistance, learning
the skills taught in workshops, or if they see or express any case management needs during
workshops, pass that on to the coach. So the FECs and our educators also utilize
the unique opportunity to meet fathers during meal time in conjunction with our workshops
to promote a positive working alliance, encourage ongoing participation and provide support
as needed or requested. Both the educators and the coaches provide
linkages to community services, utilizing our IMCI’s robust network of community partners
to help address a range of family needs. Marc Taylor: Then finally, we have our program
supports understanding the difficulties of our target population faces in the wide geographic
area od Oklahoma City metropolitan area. We work intently on supporting each father’s
ability to attend workshops consistently and meet their stated goals. To remove potential barriers to workshop participation,
fathers are offered various supports, such as transportation assistance in the form of
gas cards, or scheduled transportation to and from workshops. We also have a small stipend to help defray
the cost of childcare. We capitalize on our community relationship
and have procured additional free offsite childcare options that parent teams can utilize
while attending our workshops, which has been very valuable. Fathers also earn incentives in the form of
re-loadable cards for completing surveys, reaching program benchmarks. These incentives are highly regarded by participants
with many facing significant economic challenges and barriers. We believe they are critical to maintaining
consistent participation in our voluntary program. Marc Taylor: My last couple of slides are
tips that I would give to fatherhood programs or just fathers in general. But I’ll pass on those so we can get onto
the … finish up with the Cowans and get to the Q&A at the end. Philip Cowan: Thanks Marc. I’m just going to talk a little bit about
what we’re finding so far in TRUE Dads. What Marc talked about is the incredible team
at Oklahoma has recruited more than 1000 parenting pairs over time, over a couple of years. 600 of them have been randomly assigned to
the intervention about, and 400 to the controls. They fill out a lot of questionnaires at the
baseline, they fill them out on iPads so we can get the data directly. Then a year later they’re followed up. There’s some government questionnaires in
the middle, but I’m not going to talk about that. And as Jamie said and Marc said, about 85%
of our people are [inaudible 01:06:09] partners of one kind; unmarried, wives, ex partners,
but 15% of them are a very different array, dad and his mother or father, a friend, a
brother or sister, etc. So the groups are pretty heterogeneous. Philip Cowan: Here are the interim results,
and I’ve been cautioned to say that these are interim, they’re the first 300 couples,
or co-parenting teams that have been recruited. They’re not the final answer, but here’s what
we’ve said, we’ve compared them. The people who participated in these workshops
Marc described, and the people who didn’t. The people who participated in the workshops
described themselves as less depressed, less angry, less anxious than they were when they
came in, and then the control group people were, I’m going to skip the child for a minute,
they also report more constructive communication, they report less violence in their relationship,
which we think is really important, more collaborative parenting, greater job satisfaction, less
harsh parenting, and they described their child as less shy and withdrawn. Again, all compared to the control group a
year … well, eight months after the intervention ended. Philip Cowan: So, our general conclusion is
that when you work with co-parents and couples, we’ve seen program effects on parenting and
the couple relationship, but it’s more successful when you work with both parents together,
than when you work with dads only. Now, I understand we’re at the prevention
end and so we’ve been able to get dads, although we’ve been also able to recruit couples in
our third go round of supporting father involvement, who have been referred from the child welfare
service for reasons of abuse and neglect. So we can get those parents to come to groups
too, once we’re assured that they’re not currently committing abuse or neglect, or intermit partner
violence. We also think that a curriculum shouldn’t
just address parenting and co-parenting relationships and couple issues, but also cover the outside
stresses of life, how to enlist social support, how to think about what you want to take from
the families you grew up in, and what you want to avoid. So, I will stop here and turn back to Nigel. You can get more information on our website
or by emailing us directly. Nigel Vann: Okay, well thank you very much
Phil, and Carolyn, and Marc, and Aaron and James. So, we’ve got a few questions that have come
in. We are hoping to have a little bit of conversation
about some specific questions, but before we do this I’ll put those questions up there
now, just so the presenters can be having a look at those, and we’ll talk about these
for a few minutes. But before that I do want to make sure that
we respond to some of the questions that have come in. So, if I could just actually quickly follow
up with you Carolyn and Phil, there was a couple of questions for you. One was asking about the research that you
cited on one of your early slides about the involvement of the father with the children
being dependent on the relationship with the mother, and I believe the resources you had
cited there were Carlson et al. for 2011, and Pruett and Johnson for 2004. Philip Cowan: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Nigel Vann: Can you add anything on that? I mean, if not then the person who’s asking
the question, they can find that resource by downloading the slide. Philip Cowan: One of the ways, they can either
look at the slides or directly email. I don’t have the whole full reference, but
we’ve published that fact. The Carlson reference is from the fragile
families project at Princeton. The Pruett reference is an early one. But we can add it to the materials, or email
us. Nigel Vann: Okay. That’s fine, yeah. So, whoever wants anymore information on that,
you can email Phil and Carolyn directly, you can also email the fatherhood helpline and
we can help get that information for you. Let me see, what else have I got here? So James, Marc talked a little bit about the
incentives that the TRUE Dads program has been offering for couples to participate. Have you got any incentives for the couples
who have been in your studies, to encourage them to come in? James McHale: We do, and I would just say
I’ve learned a lot from our foundation for a healthy St. Petersburg, that we ought to
be thinking more broadly about, not just calling them incentives, but about actually compensating
parents for their time and energy. We all get paid when we go to do these things,
and the expectation that folks are going to show up for free is pretty disrespectful. So, it’s a different way of thinking about
things, it’s not like a carrot, it’s like we respect you enough that you’re coming here,
and we’re being paid, and you all should be compensated as well. So, that’s a philosophical statement, that’s
not a statement of, “Well, what are your gift cards?” Or that sort of thing, but I like that way
of thinking about things, because it helps us to balance the playing field, and see families
as having their time being as valuable as ours. James McHale: So yeah, we do provide all the
things that Marc talked about. If they have got other kids from other relationships,
and they can’t come because they’ve got nobody to watch them, there’s childcare, there’s
Uber service to get them there if they don’t have transportation. There’s an incentive [inaudible 01:12:29]
system before completing the surveys as part of the research, and then there’s a very small
compensation, $50, for completing all six of the intervention sessions. So mom gets $50, dad gets $50, and an investment
of $100 in a family to take advantage of a program that’s helping to shape the co-parenting
relationship with their kids, I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. So, I think we ought to be thinking more broadly
about how we work with families in that way, and it’d be wonderful to see these kinds of
funds being made available, not just to lure parents into our project, but compensate them
for the time, energy and effort they’re spending on behalf of the kids. Nigel Vann: Yeah. Okay, yeah. No, and I think that is the big difference
between asking people to be in a research project, and asking them just to come to a
program that’s going to be a general help. So Aaron, a couple of questions on the call
center. First of all, do you have anyone on the line
who can speak in anything else besides English, or is it English only when they call in? Aaron Ivchenko: We do have a Spanish speaking
case worker who’s in. Lately he’s been in three times a week, but
at least once a week, and for those occasions we’ll absolutely make all efforts to connect
a caller with him. Nigel Vann: Okay. So, can people leave a message if they call
and he’s not there? Aaron Ivchenko: Yes. Nigel Vann: Yeah, okay. Aaron Ivchenko: Yes. Nigel Vann: Okay, yeah. And then there’s one- Aaron Ivchenko: [crosstalk 01:14:03] Nigel Vann: Great, yeah. No, I know you all are, yeah. And then there was one inquiry here that was,
this may be a little bit tongue in cheek, I’m not sure. But it’s a general question that you can respond
to, but the question is; will you all be able to help me be able to see my children? Do you want to say a little bit about what
you would do when you get that kind of call? Because obviously that’s the kind of call
that people call for. What do you do to help people see their children? Aaron Ivchenko: Sure. Well, yeah, I mean I would say to the person
that asked that question that I just would want to learn more about what’s going on. Similar to the presentation I just made, I’d
like to learn more about what’s happening, what’s the unique situation that you’re facing. Probably it sounds like this would be a referral
to parent help, and parent help would again just try to get all the details and then work
from there, meeting the caller where they’re at. So, as I was saying before, everybody’s situation
is different, there’s just any number of different situations I could picture the questioner
to be in, so I guess that’s how I would have to respond, is just with curiosity. I certainly would want to hear more. Nigel Vann: Yeah. No, and I think that’s exactly why the work
you do there is so invaluable, because you do here the story, and then you help walk
them through and figure out what steps can be taken and what resources are available. Aaron Ivchenko: Exactly, we’re [crosstalk
01:15:44]. Nigel Vann: Sorry, go ahead. Aaron Ivchenko: Oh no, I was just going to
say, I mean after that I guess in a sense we’re just always exploring options. Any options available to the caller is where
we will go in the discussion. Nigel Vann: Okay. Let me see, there was one more question for
Carolyn and Phil about how you measure the dads improved involvement in the family life. Can you just speak to that briefly? Philip Cowan: Right. Each partner fills out a scale of about 15
items that list common things that fathers and mothers do with their kids; bathing, dressing,
taking them to the doctor, things like that, and they’re asked to fill out on a one to
nine scale. One means she does it all, nine means he does
it all, which is kind of unlikely, and each of them fills it out and what we find is that
they generally agree, and what happens is that it moves significantly towards the dad
doing more than he was doing before. Nigel Vann: Okay, great. Okay. Philip Cowan: Who does what, it’s called. Nigel Vann: Pardon? Okay. So, Marc, we’ve got a few questions for you,
I’m not sure we can get to all of them, but let me see here. First of all, is the TRUE Dads curriculum
available for review, or for other people to use? Marc Taylor: I think that would probably be
a question for PREP, since it’s their product. I don’t know the answer to that. I think it is, but I’m not sure. Nigel Vann: Okay, well I would encourage anyone
who’s interested then just to email Marc and we’ll have his contact up at the end, and
he can connect you with whoever’s the person. Marc Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. Nigel Vann: Now, and you may have covered
this in your presentation, Marc, but somebody asked how the fathers get referred to your
program. Marc Taylor: Yeah. So, our number one referral source right now
is radio. So, we found a local radio partner that really
speaks to our target demographic, and so we do radio ads, we do an interview once a week,
which is probably the most beneficial thing. So, it’s anywhere from two minutes to five
minutes, and we have one of our intake workers that goes, and sometimes one of educators,
they’ll go and have an interview with the on air host, and they’ll just talk about what
TRUE Dads is and go through that. One thing we did notice when we first started
advertising, we had a male voice for our ads talking about TRUE Dads, and we experimented
with doing some with male voices and some with female voices, and we noticed that we
were getting more responses from the female voice than we were from the male voice, and
the messages were pretty similar. Marc Taylor: So that was an interesting thing
we stumbled across, but so radio is by far the number one, and then number two, it’s
just family and friends word of mouth that is referrals. We get out into the community through our
parole and probation office, we go to schools, WIC, because we do go to recruit, the co-parent
will go to WIC classes as well, if we can find a mother there that thinks the father
of her child needs some further assistance with being a better father, then we can do
some recruitment there as well. Nigel Vann: Okay, okay. And there was also a question about where
your funding for the incentives come from. I assume that comes from the LFA responsible
fatherhood grant that you have, right? Marc Taylor: Correct, yeah. All of our funding comes from LFA, and they
have a small allowance that we’re allowed to use to pay for those incentives and program
support kind of things. Nigel Vann: Okay, and just one more question
for you. There was a question about the fact that you
are recruiting for a control group, and the question is; how do you plan on recruiting
with the age limits that you have, and what do you do with fathers who don’t fit the criteria? Do you refer them out to other resources? Marc Taylor: No. So, as long as they’re 18 or older, they can
be included in the study, and so the Cowans are going through and they can do their analysis
on different age groups when they have that, but we try to focus on that younger. So, when I say that, that means when we’re
doing our recruitment efforts we keep in mind the person we’re trying to get is that 18
to 24 year old father. If we have a 32 year old father that comes
in, and he still qualifies, he has a child that’s 12 and younger and has a co-parent,
then we’ll still accept him, it’s just they have to be 18 or older is the only qualification. Nigel Vann: Okay, okay. Now I’ve got a couple of general research
questions, so this is probably something that James or Carolyn and Phil could respond to. So, first one is, where can practitioners
find resources about co-parenting for families who have experienced intermit partner violence,
or child abuse and neglect? Have you got any sources where people could
find more information on that? I know you’ve talked about it a little bit
James, in terms of how you’re trying to move the needle on that [crosstalk 01:21:44]. James McHale: Well, we’re trying to build
that knowledge base, Nigel. Honestly, Phil and Carolyn, they have a better
sense than I do. But I think historically what we’ve done is
when there’s been aggression in the home, it’s been to keep parents apart, focus on
the custodial parents, try to do some remedial work with a non custodial parent, if there’s
going to be visitation or he’s going to be seeing the child, or she’s going to be seeing
the child, but to actually build a co-parenting alliance during that period of time, co-parenting
specific materials are relatively slim. But Phil and Carolyn may have some creative
connections that [inaudible 01:22:26]. Nigel Vann: Yeah, and it’s obviously an area
where one has to tread very carefully. I know you worked with the child welfare population
quite a bit in California, Phil and Carolyn, so have you got anything to add to that? Philip Cowan: Two things. One is that we do a very careful screening,
if we ask them to refer to us, which we do, they have to assure us that this is a family
who’s been through at least some services, and so they’re not violent at the moment. And then we do our own careful screening,
separately interviewing the dad and the co-parent, if there is instance of ongoing violence and
abuse, we refer them immediately to other services. But I do want to say that even though we were
concerned at the beginning, and our staff was concerned, that when you bring people
who have experienced family violence into a group, it doesn’t escalate the conflict,
in fact it brings it down, and we’ve had a lot of success with people in the child welfare
system who have been part of violent families. In other words, it’s not always that you need
to refer them out. Nigel Vann: Okay. Carolyn Cowan: We’re trying yo be careful
about taking them in the first place, as Phil was saying. If there is a concern about something violent
or abusive going on right now, then they would not be appropriate, for example for the supporting
father involvement projects, and I think for TRUE Dads as well. And we hook up with other programs who are
in a place to work with families who are at that stage. When Phil referred to the fact that in our
last trial, supporting father involvement, we did have some families referred by child
welfare services to our program, because they thought it might be helpful to them. They were always families where those things
had been addressed first. Nigel Vann: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, okay. James McHale: And I’d like to just join in
too, Nigel. Nigel Vann: Okay. James McHale: I really want to equal with
Phil and Carolyn where they’re emphasizing here. I think that the growing point for us is to
really try to do all we can to engage families, where they haven’t reached the point, there
may be situational aggression or violence going on in the home, but to be very cautious
and careful, you don’t want to bring anyone in where there’s this controlling dangerous
stalker kind of violence, but some of the other aggression we see comes from an inability
to communicate and problem solve, and you want to help folks develop better ways of
working together. Carolyn Cowan: Exactly. James McHale: So, my co-investigator on our
project is Carla Stover, and [inaudible 01:25:26] with Carla’s work, she’s done some work with
dads and then tried to build co-parenting from the work that she’s doing with the dads,
and has had some mixed success with that, but she’s done a little bit of writing on
that, and her work’s really terrific as well. So, S-T-O-V-E-R is her last name, for folks
who want to look into something that she’s … Nigel Vann: Okay, and just one quick question,
which is also for the three of you researchers. But it says, do you believe that following
an evidence based father only program can be used as a beginning point prior to a co-parenting
curriculum for great results? Have you got any opinions on that? Philip Cowan: I love that question, I think
it’s a terrific question. I believe yes. I believe that you start with where your sample
population is, and that you can reach fathers only, and we get some groups with fathers
only and they have some benefits. Then, a next step would be to introduce them
to their work with them and their co-parents. Nigel Vann: Okay, perfect. [crosstalk 01:26:39]. Philip Cowan: Go ahead Carolyn, go ahead. Carolyn Cowan: Well, what I would say is it
depends a little bit on the orientation of the people in the community who are going
to offer a program, and if the idea is to work with fathers only because that’s simpler
and not so complicated, then I would think let’s talk some more before you do that. If you don’t have a choice, then I agree with
what Phil said. We did test the two against each other in
the very same communities, that is fathers only or couples, and did find, as Phil said,
that there were more benefits if we could work with both co-parents. So, it depends a little bit on your orientation,
and the orientation that you approach people with has a lot to do with what they respond
to. James McHale: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I know it’s the end of time, I want to get
in a last 15, 20 seconds. Building a co-parenting alliance, I completely
agree with Phil and Carolyn, it’s a process. We’ve seen 140 families, none of them fell
from the sky. There had to be work done with mom, and some
preparedness work done with dads, in terms of preparedness and then the bringing together
once they were both entertaining the possibility of co-parenting. So, it’s not something you can microwave,
it’s really something that has to play out over time. So, I think that’s really important for people
to recognize. Nigel Vann: Yeah, okay. So, I brought us back to this slide here. I had hoped that we’d have a few minutes to
get everyone’s input on this, but unfortunately we are at time. So, I’m just going to quickly run through
these slides and say a few things that I think are relevant and we will be talking about
this in the brief that I mentioned that we’re working on at the Clearinghouse that’ll be
published some time in the fall, because obviously a lot of you are working with programs where
your primary target audience is the non-residential father. So, how do you pull him in? Nigel Vann: And I know that there’s quite
a few programs out there that have got staff who are specifically reaching out to the mother,
for instance, the father support center in Saint Louis, they have social workers who
go and talk to mom, and then help her see that they’re not just on the father’s side,
that they are actually helping this father change so that she can perhaps trust him a
bit more. And if she’s been the one that’s the problem
as well, then they can help talk to her as well, but to bring the focus to the child
for both of them, and there’s a program in fact, I see Harold Howard is on the call today
with us, he’s with Talbert House in Cincinnati, and they have just recently hired a female
staff person who has been doing the same thing, going out and meeting the mothers and bringing
them in, and they’ve been very careful about the way they talk about this. Nigel Vann: They’re talking about it as services
that are intended to improve things for the child, and they want to work with both parents
to the extent they can to make that possible. I know the center for families in Baltimore,
they also have staff who encourage mothers to come in and see what they’re doing in the
center, so they get a sense of how the father is growing, what he’s learning. Nigel Vann: So, what we have on these last
few slides, and then I will let you all go here. This is the Parenting Apart Package that Aaron
mentioned, there’s some really good stuff in there. You can download it from the box, if you haven’t
already, but be quick because we’re going to be leaving this pretty soon, and you can
also look at the page that has some specific communication skills, things you can work
on with dad. So, if you’re only working with dad, and you
can’t get to mother, then you can at least help him think about ways to represent himself
to her to show that, “Hey, I am trying to change.” But to talk to her in a way that’s not going
to be confrontational, and there’s some similar tips from Carolyn and Phil that we have on
two slides here, but they’re also available to download there, and they will be available
on the website within a few weeks after this. Nigel Vann: If you don’t have time to download
them today, email our fatherhood helpline and I’ll make sure you get those. Just send your email to me. This is an activity in the toolkit that I
think is particularly helpful, you can download that from our toolkit, it’s in the activities
section. On reflection and awareness, we’ve got a number
of things there that can help fathers to put themselves in the shoes of their kids and
think about … and often a lot of fathers in the programs have been through this themselves
as kids, but to put themselves in the situation where they can see this from the perspective
of their kids, and if mom and dad are continually arguing, that’s not doing the kids any good. Nigel Vann: So, anyway, that was a real quick
look at that. I apologize that we didn’t have more time,
but if we did get other questions coming in we didn’t answer, I will ask the presenters
if they can send us a written response. Here you do have their emails, and again you
can download most of the slides, if you haven’t got them yet, and send us a message to [email protected],
and we will send any materials that you missed, we’ll respond to any questions that you missed,
and we look forward to seeing you at the next webinar. In the meantime there’s going to be a survey
popping up after this, we encourage you to give us your feedback and any suggestions
for further webinars. We’ll be doing our next one on September 18th,
so we hope to see you all then. Thank you very much for your time, and goodbye,
and thank you very much to the presenters, excellent presentations. Operator: And that concludes today’s webinar,
thank you for your participation.

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