EXPLORING THE EXPERIENCES OF AFRICAN
AMERICAN WOMEN WHO PROVIDE DIRECT
SERVICES TO AFRICAN AMERICAN
NONRESIDENTIAL FATHERS
International Fatherhood Conference
June 16, 2010
Latrice Rollins
Women in Fatherhood, Inc.
DEFINITIONS



Nonresidential fathers: Fathers who do not live in the
same household as their child. This is a diverse group
of fathers that includes divorced, teen, and unmarried
fathers (Dudley & Stone, 2001).
Responsible fatherhood programs: These programs
encourage “personal responsibility of nonresidential
fathers to their children and increase the participation
of fathers in the lives of their children” (SolomonFears, 2005).
Fatherhood service providers: Individuals that work to
“meet discrete needs and provide specific services for
different kinds of fathers” (Mincy & Pouncy, 2002).
RESEARCH QUESTIONS



What are the common motivations of African American
women who are fatherhood service providers?
In what ways do gender, race, and socioeconomic
status (power issues) affect their ability to create
successful helping relationships with African American
nonresidential fathers?
How do African American women who are fatherhood
service providers negotiate issues of power and
authority in their professional relationships with
African American nonresidential fathers?
Women in Fatherhood
Predominance of women in helping professions
 Outsider-within perspective
 Essential Voices. Collective Mission.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY



African American nonresidential fathers are a
population at-risk.
African American nonresidential fathers are generally
excluded from social work education, practice,
research, and policy.
There is a lack of research on power relations within
African American female practitioner-male client
relationships.
METHODOLOGY





Critical qualitative research:
 “Tool that serves dual purposes: knowledge
development and promotion of change”
(Banks-Wallace, 2000)
Theoretical framework: Womanist and postmodern
theories
Semi-structured interviews
Data analysis: Constant comparative method
Research sites: Atlanta, Alexandria, Baltimore,
Milwaukee, New Orleans, & Washington, D.C.
Research Sites
City
Population
(%)
Median
Income
(dollars)
High School
Graduation
(%)
56.8
23,128
41.5
Milwaukee
38
24,403
35.8
Baltimore
City
Washington,
D.C.
64
26,202
31
55.5
35,622
50
Atlanta
Research Sites
City
Alexandria
New
Orleans
Population
(%)
54.7
Median
Income
(dollars)
17,861
High School
Graduation
(%)
40
67
21,461
55
PARTICIPANTS
 Age
Range: 25 to 61 years of age
 Marital Status: 7 married, 4 divorced, & 2 single
 Children: 9 have children
 Educational Background: Social Work, Psychology,
Human Services, Criminal Justice/ Law, & Political
Science /Business Administration
 Area of Focus: Child Support, Fatherhood, Healthy
Marriage, Parent Education, Domestic Violence,
Access & Visitation, Private Practice
 Years in Current Position: 1 to 10 years
FINDINGS-JOB MOTIVATION

Fostering Equity
 Equity
in Services
 Equity in Parenting

Fostering Change
 Individual
 Children
& Families
 Community & Society
FOSTERING EQUITY
After ten years of working in
child support and seeing
that the issues don’t changethe noncustodial parent has
all kinds of problems that
are never addressed- I
figured that would be a good
place to start trying to make
a difference.
Queen, Alexandria, LA
FOSTERING CHANGE
In the back of my mind,
there’s always the thought
and the feeling that I want to
see my community grow
stronger. To build it up. I
have a sincere desire to be a
help to families and to
fathers. When you help
fathers, you are helping
families, which helps the
community, helps the region,
and helps the world.
Lola, Atlanta, GA
Fostering Equity- Equity in Services

Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing (2003):


38 percent did not graduate from high school, 50 percent
have been incarcerated, and 6 percent report drug/alcohol
use that interferes with work/family responsibilities
Some of the current study’s participants reported:



Atlanta- 31 percent did not have a high school diploma or
GED, 91 percent had criminal records, 71 percent reported
substance abuse issues, 23 percent reported mental health
issues
New Orleans- 80 percent had criminal backgrounds
Baltimore- 78 percent did not have a high school diploma or
GED
Fostering Equity-Equity in Services

Handler and Hasenfeld (1997):
“…we target for treatment the worse cases-teenage mothers
who have dropped out of school and are probably living in
independent households-and we ignore most of the young
women who live in high-risk conditions. We do so because of
the symbolic value of such programs. They demonstrate our
commitment to uphold dominant family values while showing
that we are doing something abut the worst offenders.
In fact, we design policies and programs with built-in selffulfilling prophecies. Such programs that target the difficult
cases as we have seen produce little success and reinforce the
image of teenage mothers as incorrigible deviants.”
Fostering Equity- Equity in Parenting
I would be considered a fatherhood advocate- probably one of
a few women. I really believe that men, especially men of color,
have been given a bad rap in a lot of cases. I would listen to the
negativity around when fatherhood programs first came out.
People would say ‘Male involvement? Well, what about
mothers?’ -Hope, Milwaukee, WI
“It’s not just about the mommas…” (Julion et. al., 2007)
 In fact, participants shared that some mothers acted as
barriers to father involvement.

Fostering Change
Individual
Children & Families
Community &
Society
Fostering Change- Community & Society


“We know that at the end of the day we are making a
difference in somebody’s life who is going to make a
difference in someone else’s life.”Pudin, Washington, D.C.
Generative aspects of fatherhood (generative
fathering)
 Fathers go on to meet the needs of their children,
the next generation, and engage other men in the
community.
(Dollahite & Hawkins, 1998; Vann, 2007)
FINDINGS-ISSUES OF POWER

Being Women
 Advantages
Feminine Perspective
Mother Nature
 Challenges
Initial Resistance
Raw Truth
ADVANTAGES
They always try to bash the
women and [the male
facilitator] always agrees
that it’s important for me to
be there to shed light on the
woman’s side and for him to
stay focused because he will
fall into that [bashing the
women] too.
Drucilla, New Orleans, LA
CHALLENGES
I think the most negative
experience that I’ve had was
a father who just could not
stop calling the mother a
bad word. I mean even if he
was saying something goodwell it was never good. But it
was “that ‘b’, that ‘b’.” It was
never my baby mother or her
name. There was just
such…anger .
Pudin, Washington, D.C.
Being Women-Feminine Perspective
Some fathers might have a fear of losing face
when working with male practitioners.
 Majors et al. (1994) coined the term “cool
pose”

 Brothers
say ‘Hey brotha,’ still trying to be cool. So
fathers put on that mask…That’s the advantage
that we have as sisters, we help them deal with
that [pain behind the mask]- Hope, Milwaukee, WI
Being Women- Mother Nature

Gender transferences and
countertransferences
 Clients’
unconscious reactions to practitioners
 Practitioners’ subjective treatment of clients

Maternal transferences and
countertransferences
 Mothering
described as “powerful versions of
nurturing” (Beauboeuf-Lafontant, 2002)
 Clients’ independence has to be a consideration
Being Women- Initial Resistance
All new relationships with persons in authority
or positions of power begin tentatively
 African American men have a justifiable and
“healthy mistrust” of practitioners and
programs
 Respect and trust are some of the keys to
overcoming this initial resistance

Being Women- Raw Truth


A strategy in working with overwhelmed populations is
called “truth saying” (Hopps & Pinderhughes, 1999)
Participants helped fathers address issues around:
 “Raw” language
 Anger/ “Rage”
 Domestic Violence
 Homicide
 Childhood Trauma/Abuse
FINDINGS-ISSUES OF POWER (CONT’D.)

Being Familiar
 Engaging
 Modeling
ENGAGING

Because I am of the same
race, I look like their mother,
their sister, their brother or I
resemble somebody that
they can connect to…I think
that’s significant and I think
that’s one thing that
resonates with them…Our
spirits connect, our souls
connect on whatever level.
Pudin, Washington, D.C.
MODELING

Its funny because a lot of my
guys will say ‘I just want to
do what you do Ms. Dawn. I
just want to do what you
do…’ I say, ‘Okay, here’s
what it takes…I’m willing to
help you do it.’
Dawn, Baltimore, MD
Being Familiar- Engaging
Similarities in race tend to help clients trust
and self-disclose.
 The diversity of African American experiences
must be recognized in practice.

Being Familiar- Modeling
Practitioners who are “know who they are” and
have “got themselves together” serve as
effective practitioners and role models for
clients
 Differences in education and socioeconomic
background did not distance the women from
their clients

FINDINGS-NEGOTIATING POWER

Finding Balance
 Compassion
& Confrontation
 Personal & Professional
COMPASSION & CONFRONTATION

I think you have to be
somewhat firm in dealing
with men. But I think we also
have to have some
compassion for them and
kind of balance it because
you can’t be too friendlyKnow what happens. And you
can’t be too…stern or too
strict either. You have to find
a combination of compassion
and nurturing with firmness
and making sure that they’re
following the rules.
Queen, Alexandria, LA
PERSONAL & PROFESSIONAL

…you really have to learn to
separate what you personally
feel from what you actually do
professionally. That’s probably
more difficult to do than to say
but it’s crucial and it’s critical to
working with a disadvantaged
population in general.
Dawn, Baltimore, MD
Finding Balance- Compassion & Confrontation


Compassion through active listening and assistance
Too much compassion can lead to:



Not being taken seriously
Erotic transferences
Confrontation through accountability once the helping
relationship is established


The practitioner’s vested interest in the client’s wellbeing
has to be clear
Clients cannot be viewed as overly fragile
Finding Balance- Personal & Professional
Women discouraged an inappropriate use of
self and emphasized that practitioners must
“keep their personal stuff at home” and/or
“deal with their own stuff”
 At the same time, personal experience is
valued.

FINDINGS-NEGOTIATING POWER (CONT’D.)

Meeting Them
 Social
 Spatial
SOCIAL

You have to relate to the
people. If you can’t relate to
them and understand where
they’re at and meet them
where they’re at, then your
chance of helping them
move forward is null to none.
Angela, Milwaukee, WI
SPATIAL

The majority of the fathers
here are African American
men. I would have to say that
about ninety percent of the
men are African American
because I believe where
we’re located is African
American.
Carmen, Milwaukee, WI
Meeting Them- Social
Fathers will participate in services if it meets
their needs
 Understanding the social, economic, cultural,
historical contexts that impact clients’ lives
 Flexibility is one of the keys to effective practice

Meeting Them-Spatial
Marsiglio, Roy & Fox (2005) developed a
spatially sensitive perspective on fathering
 Responsible fatherhood programs are
considered “safe spaces” for fathers
 The majority of the women in this study worked
in community-based programs

 Street
outreach
 Trusted locations
IMPLICATIONS



Education: Continuing Education & Curriculum
Content
Practice: Supervision, Support, and Staff
Development/Assessment
Policy: Justice-based policies
QUESTIONS?
Latrice Rollins
[email protected]
Women in Fatherhood, Inc. website:
www.womeninfatherhood.org
Facebook: Friends and Cause pages
Twitter: WmninFthrhood
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Responsible Fatherhood Program Strategies and Techniques