Click to view a video from the conference.
Lt. Gov. Colyer was among dozens of speakers and workshops during the four-day event hosted by the Focus on Fatherhood Network. The conference drew about 220 fathers, practitioners, policy makers, government employees, and faith-based and community organization staff interested in healthy father involvement.
The Lieutenant Governor, a practicing physician from Overland Park and a father to three daughters, opened the Thursday session of the event, which ran from June 14-17. Following Colyer’s remarks, George Williams, with the Kansas Department for Children and Families' (DCF) Faith-based and Community Initiatives (FBCI), spoke about how trauma affects men in their ability to parent.
Bubba Dowling, a program manager in DCF’s FBCI division, presented one of the many workshops of the event.
The State of Kansas is strengthened by the numerous faith-based and community organizations that promote strong families and encourage men to be the fathers and husbands their families need. Many of those groups were represented at the conference.
DCF has several programs to encourage fathers to be better participants in the lives of their children.
• Economic and Employment Services (EES): With an emphasis on intensive case management and career navigation, EES staff statewide has worked to raise the federal work participation rate for two-parent families from 38.6 percent in October of 2014, to 57.4 percent in March of 2016. Recognizing that employment and income are the building blocks to keeping families together and out of poverty is key to our clients achieving self-reliance.
• Child Support Services (CSS): CSS works with both parents to ensure an order is established and support is provided for the children. CSS offers arrears forgiveness plans to non-custodial parents who complete a degree program, take classes that will benefit themselves or their children, or put funds into a 529 child savings account for their child. CSS also works with fatherhood grantees who provide services across Kansas to encourage work readiness, build skills, and promote being a father, with all that entails.
• Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (FBCI): FBCI has two efforts that are reaching out to help fathers across the state. The first is the HOPE Mentoring program which is a voluntary one-on-one mentoring program for TANF fathers and mothers. The mentors provide support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement and constructive example, by helping the fathers reach their academic, career, social and personal goals. The other is the Kansas Strong Dads program, which has trained 55 new fatherhood practitioners (including six Spanish speaking trainers) across the state in the fatherhood curriculum Quenching the Father-Thirst: Developing a Dad. The six community trainers are providing classes in in Kansas City, Wichita, Hays, Topeka, Dodge City and Pittsburg.
The Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) has some limited family services, including a family specialist in parole in Wichita (through an interagency agreement with DCF); parenting classes in most facilities; and some family transition classes. The agency seeks to help fathers better engage in the lives of their children while incarcerated and as they transition back into our communities.
• Mentoring 4 Success: Pairs men and women as they prepare to leave incarceration with a successful mentor to help them with the reintegration process. They are advised on successful re-entry into the daily lives of their family members, as well as assisted in areas such as chemical dependency, employment, healthy lifestyles, etc.
• InsideOut Dad Parenting Curriculum: The National Fatherhood Initiative developed the InsideOut Dad curriculum to address a gap in quality fatherhood programs with proven effectiveness that help incarcerated fathers become better dads during their incarceration as well as when they return to the community. The program is based on the philosophy that supports the growth and development of fathers and children as caring, compassionate people who treat themselves, others and the environment with respect and dignity.
• Parenting Inside Out Curriculum: Parenting Inside Out is a cognitive-behavioral parent management skills training program created for incarcerated parents through a six-year collaboration of scientists, policy makers, practitioners, and instructional designers in Portland, Oregon. Both the information in the program and the way that information is presented were informed by knowledge derived from research and practice.
• Family Transition Class: The Family Transition Classes are offered to inmates who will be releasing to a family member or who have had difficulties with family members in the past. Each of the six sessions addresses a topic relating to family reunification such as expectations and communication. The objective of the Family Transition Class is to assist inmates who are transitioning back to their families balance their expectations with their family’s expectations upon their release.
(Bubba Dowling, left, and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer speak at the International Fatherhood Conference)