Engaging Fathers in Home Visiting for Long-Term, Culturally-Aware, Family Involvement

The Partner Parent Network provides an example of how parents can fit into the governance structure of a Home Visiting program.

The Commonwealth of Northern Marianna Islands (CNMI) Data Analyst, Jodina Attao, was asked the following question – “Why do you think parent involvement is important, particularly father involvement, in the home visiting program, and from a cultural perspective what it is that you need to address to engage them?”

Jodina Attao’s response: “In my opinion, parent involvement is an essential element in any child’s success in life. I truly believe that if our ultimate goal is to empower parents to develop positive beliefs about their role as a parent we need to work WITH them and not FOR them; just as they need to shift their paradigm to working WITH their children, not just FOR them. In our culture, however, this has always been deemed a challenge. Although we try to approach the family as a whole, it always seems like later down the line of services, engaging fathers becomes a bit more difficult. This is because we have always practiced matriarchal dominance in the CNMI. Fathers tend to lean toward being the sole breadwinner, and their beliefs have been set that their only parenting role is to provide FOR their family. Mothers, on the other hand, have to work WITH everyone in the household to ensure their success, and address the lack thereof. Fathers are usually seen as the disciplinarian, compared to mothers being the more nurturing parent; which has eventually encompassed a set of beliefs that parenting a child needs to be done separately instead of building the family as a whole.”

Other factors that come to mind according to Ms. Attao when thinking of father involvement are things like: insecurities that a parent may have, both the mother and father’s viewpoints; many fathers not be used to giving and receiving the type of attention (and compliments, for that matter) a child/mother usually gets.” Another factor is the native language; Ms. Attao feels that it always appears to come with negative connotation, due to the way the sound emerges – very firm, harsh, and “brush it off” kind of tone – which leads to the perceived attitudes and behaviors of fathers.

Quotes from Fathers

“I have always wanted a family of my own, now that I have them, I never take them for granted and I always make sure I make time to spend quality time with them.”

– Jose Reyes, Program Participant, Tinian site

“A father’s engagement in their children’s lives is important for their social and emotional well being. Teaching them to be responsible and able to make the right decisions and choices also helps us to build relationships with our children from the day they are born, into their teenage years, and when they become adults. The 5 foundations in our home for communication are: Love, Trust, Honesty, Respect, and Understanding.”

– Nestor Catbagan, Program Participant, Rota site

“Being an active father and having a strong bond with my son is important to me because mothers will always be too fragile with their children. It isn’t bad, they just need a father who will allow them to explore more, so they can be strong and learn to do things on their own instead of always seeking help.”

– Brandkief Castro, Program Participant, Saipan site

“I appreciate our home visitor for supporting us in our daughter’s cognitive and language development. Without the program, I wouldn’t have known how to go about raising my child. It’s important for me to learn so that I am able to teach my own child. I want other father’s to know that we are responsible to teach our children responsibility and respect. The way I was brought up I never had emotional support from my father, so I want my daughter to grow and feel that I have supported her in every way. I believe that fathers who interact with their babies they will grow up to be very humble and compassionate. To all fathers out there, I encourage you to embrace your children, read to them, play with them, be with them, so they are able to make better choices because all they really need is you.”

-Kevin Taitano Kapileo, Program Participant, Saipan site

“I think it is important because being engaged in their life makes the child have a bond with their father, and being engaged will benefit the child in many ways. Being there for your children should be your number one priority. This shows your child/children that they can count on you and that they have your full support.”

– Willis Kani, Program Participant, Rota site

Contributed by: Suganya Sockalingam
Share your thoughts…

Posted on Categories Blog Post

Being Female in a Safe and Supportive World

Safety…Early childhood experts say it is critical to successful development through those early ages and stages. Safety is the first trauma-informed principle and some might say that it is the foundation upon which the other principles rest. As we listen to #metoo stories and #timesup messages and consider that safety isn’t a given for girls, it becomes apparent that girls and women do not feel safe. It is estimated that 25%  of girls will experience sexual assault[1] and and 25% experience[2] dating and domestic violence in their homes and in other environments. We can’t help but see that girls and women feel unsafe in their homes, in their communities, in their schools, and in their workplace, and it is not hard to imagine how that impacts their levels of stress and mental health.

What does it say about our collective sense of safety when parents of girls feel the need to prepare their girls to protect themselves by walking with another person (preferably male) at night, carrying protective devices like mace (or a gun), or putting their keys between their fingers? And of course, there is the guidance about safety at parties. Don’t drink anything that you did not pour or see poured. Never put your drink down. Why not? Because you are not safe.

There are also the environments where our lack of safety is not as clearly visible. But we still feel it. In school, girls stop participating in class because, as girls, they have been taught directly or indirectly to be respectful, to not be too attention-seeking and not to fail. The traits they have been taught as young girls can create self-doubt in girls in school and inhibit participation that is crucial to engaged learning. In the workplace, women make daily choices to accommodate, stay neutral, or confront behavior that promote the identity of women as primarily sexual beings and not intellectually equal. The problem is, if she speaks up, she is seen (or viewed as) aggressive or difficult, and if she doesn’t speak up, then how can it be that big a deal? This constant negotiation with the world about female identity and corresponding power, or inequity, for women is exhausting and many times scary. It is unsafe.

And so here we are at another point in time when conversation seems possible. Some would say that we (#metoo) are at risk for being so extreme and black and white, that our progress could be compromised. This is a nuanced and complex conversation that is based upon thousands of years of history. It deserves thoughtful, participatory, and respectful exploration of healthy relationships, how we show up as men and women and our relative power rather than knee-jerk reactions.

The hopeful part of this point in time is that men are having this conversation as well. Several articles have emerged describing the uncertainty that men also feel about what it means to be a man or what it means to be masculine. There seems to be an effort to explore masculinity and femininity in a way that may lead to mutual respect, equity, and the freedom to choose what that means individually, in relationship to one another, and in our society.

Research underscores the role that gender inequality and rigid gender roles play in lack of safety felt by girls and violence experienced by girls. So what does it mean for us who are working to support states, communities, organizations and individuals to provide access to services and supports that lead to healthier people and environments? For one thing, as we are probing questions of cultural and linguistic competence, a focus on gender that includes LGBTQ and cis gender children and youth should be included. Everyone deserves a space to determine who they are and what that means in a society where individuals respect and care for each other. Everyone deserves to feel safe walking to their car, interacting with peers, raising their hands and achieving professional success.

[1] The Center for Family Justice

[2] National Domestic Violence Hotline

Contributed by: Elizabeth Waetzig & Peg O’Neill, executive director of WISE of the Upper Valley in New Hampshire
Share your thoughts…

Posted on Categories Blog Post

Cultural and Linguistic Competence Checklist for Reviewing Trauma Related Documents

There is a vast array of publications related to trauma-informed care and practices. However, most of these documents and publications have not necessarily addressed trauma through a cultural lens. For educators, trainers, and presenters who want to use the literature to inform their own work and to share resources with others, it is important that they ensure that those resources are also culturally informed. This checklist offers guidance on identifying culturally-responsive trauma informed care and practices.

Contributed by: Suganya Sockalingam
Share your thoughts…

Posted on Categories Blog Post