In September 2013 the state’s Fatherhood Initiative partners, under the leadership of Department of Social Services’ (DSS) Commissioner Roderick Bremby and his staff, began the development of a statewide strategic plan to strengthen the Fatherhood Initiative’s infrastructure and enhance its sustainability. The resulting Strategic Plan outlines recommendations for short- and long-term strategies to address program, policy and system barriers to dads’ engagement with their children, expand promising practices already being implemented, and establish new and strengthen existing partnerships at the state and local levels to support the result statements: “Connecticut children grow up in a stable environment, safe, healthy and ready to lead successful lives” and, “All Connecticut fathers are engaged in the lives of their children.” The result statements are supported by a set of population indicators that quantify the various conditions of wellbeing associated with the results. The indicators present the most relevant population data currently available. A major focus of our work is the need to collect uniform data on dads and their relationships with their children. Obtaining these new data will lead to new or more focused indicators.
Connecticut’s Fatherhood Initiative partners have long recognized that noncustodial fathers look a lot like the custodial mothers who access services through our state and local systems; they have similar social service, educational, and employment needs. The economic stability of fathers, which includes education, employment services, and supports like affordable housing, transportation, nutritional assistance and child care, is the focus of one of the domains of the Strategic Plan. Reform to child support and family court systems is the focus of another domain. While we have collaborated on such projects as the Problem Solving Court and Employment Pilots, these great efforts to help fathers support their children have not been brought to scale.
At the Strategic Plan kickoff over a year ago, partners were provided with an overview of the planning process, explanation of roles and responsibilities, and expectations for participation during this process. DSS contracted with Charter Oak Group to support the Plan’s development using a Results-Based Accountability (RBA) framework and assembled a Strategic Planning Workgroup and various committees to carry out the work. These groups were comprised of members of the Initiative’s numerous partners, including state and local agencies serving fathers and families, advocates for women, men and children, and new partners such as the CT Data Collaborative and other research institutions.
The committees worked in the six domains to identify critical missing partners, develop strategies, and present recommendations to the Connecticut Fatherhood Advisory Council’s Executive Team. The domains for which strategies are recommended include: fathers economically stable; fathers in healthy relationships; young people prepared to be responsible parents; men involved in the criminal justice system supported in being responsible fathers; policy/public awareness; and data.
Also included in this Plan is the outline for a Service Delivery System, with partners’ recommendations in such areas as governance, sustainability, accountability and performance measures (for programs and common measures for the system), connecting with partner systems, capacity-building for father-serving programs, public awareness, the implementation of proposed strategies/and the development agenda, and a process for updating the RBA model and strategic plan regularly.