Selected Collaborative Activities Since 1999:
• Established a statewide Fatherhood Advisory Council (FAC)
• Established FAC Workgroups and a “kitchen cabinet” (DSS Commissioner’s advisory group) to support initial program development
• Utilized experience and contacts gained from successful implementation of federally supported projects to inform the development of the Initiative (e.g. Voluntary Paternity Establishment Program, Access & Visitation Pilot Program and Child Care Collaboration Project)
• Published and regularly updated a statewide inventory of Fatherhood Programs
• Established Infoline 2-1-1 as statewide referral source for Fatherhood Programs
• Co-published “Fathers” brochure (English/Spanish)
• Co-sponsored service providers’ network and professional development seminars
• Established “Fatherhood Resource Center” at the Connecticut Clearinghouse
• Published quarterly Fatherhood Initiative Newsletter
• Co-funded (w/Judicial Branch) fatherhood components in Alternative Incarceration Centers
• Co-funded (w/DOC) the development of fatherhood curriculum for incarcerated fathers
• Funded three fatherhood research and demonstration projects
• Established Annual Fatherhood Community Recognition Awards
• Launched statewide media advocacy and public awareness campaign
• Co-sponsored five regional fatherhood public hearings
• Co-sponsored a statewide series of fatherhood community forums
• Using the vehicle of the FAC, supported awareness of special issues for fathers involved with the child support and court systems
• In collaboration with DSS Bureau of Child Support (BCSE) and with assistance and support of Judicial Branch Support Enforcement Services (SES), a variety of father supportive systems and policy changes have been made; some changes addressed problems routinely encountered by men who are chronically unemployed, incarcerated or institutionalized, including:
Statutory change to insure that support orders are based on noncustodial parent’s actual (as opposed to imputed) earnings
Regulatory change through the Connecticut Commission for Child Support Guidelines to insure fair initial support orders. The most recent Commission passed a variety of important changes, such as: additional allowable deductions to obligors net income; reduction of hours (52 to 45) used as the base contribution assumed when setting support orders; and no cash contribution toward state medical programs, such as Medicaid or SCHIP, is required from low-income obligors (low-income obligors are required to provide health insurance if available at reasonable cost); and the elimination of presumptive support obligations for noncustodial parents earning less than $50 per week
Legislation passed that expanded the hospital-based Voluntary Paternity Establishment Program to entities approved by the Commissioner of DSS; staff at five community-based fatherhood programs are currently offering paternity establishment services
Regulations were promulgated to establish an arrearage adjustment program to reduce past-due support owed to the State (sums owed to custodial parent are not changed) by an obligor in a Title IV-D support case when that individual is engaged in monitored fatherhood program activity, making regular child support payments to the family, maintaining employment, and meeting other identified criteria; the regulations also authorized liquidation of the balance of state-owned arrears upon lump sum payment of a percentage of the amount owed
SES launched an initiative to assist fathers who are incarcerated to seek modification of orders before arrears accumulate; SES developed an expedited process for review of over such cases and facilitated transport of inmates to court so modification matters can be addressed
In an effort to address the needs of support obligors who have no income and truly cannot pay support, SES is piloting the concurrent use of the application for contempt and motion to modify; this will allow family support magistrates the maximum flexibility for fashioning appropriate judgments at a single hearing.
• Co-sponsored (w/Commission on Children) several legislative forums on fatherhood
• Co-sponsored (w/DCF) a two-day training seminar to promote awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome for providers serving fathers/families and parents, featuring nationally known baby expert Dr. Harvey Karp
• Developed the Connecticut Fatherhood Program Certification Project to recognizing and certifying exemplary fatherhood programs and help ensure consistency and quality service delivery to low-income, noncustodial fathers and their families; through this statewide project fatherhood program operators can qualify to participate in the CT Arrearage Adjustment Program; currently there are six state-certified fatherhood programs across the state
• Received $25,000 from the Shanahan Family Foundation to support the goals of the Initiative
• Awarded a five-year, $5 million grant ($1 million/year) from DHHS - Administration for Children and Families; the grant supports the demonstration of methods to promote responsible fatherhood; DSS and its government and non-profit agency partners target and aim to improve life outcomes for low-income fathers and couples; the grant offers services to support healthy marriage, promote responsible fatherhood and foster economic stability; activities include statewide marketing and outreach and the project serves 500 fathers and 40 couples annually
Co-Parenting as a Father’s Day Gift to Our Children
Promising Futures: Supporting Fathers and Families Conference - June 14, 2002
Kyle D. Pruett, M.D.
Father’s Day: time to acknowledge the unique and irreplaceable contribution dads make to their children’s lives. Fathering is, of course, a year-round job, but unfortunately, changing family dynamics following a divorce often negatively affect the access or tools fathers need to stay fully involved with their families and children. To stem this paternal drift, and its negative consequences for both children and fathers, "co-parenting" can help keep both parents involved in a healthy, supportive partnership.
Co-parenting is a process divorced, separated or never-married parents can use to avoid putting children in the middle. It’s not easy for couples with children to divorce amicably, given the sense of loss and ready potential for anger, resentment, disappointment and pain. Parents can be tempted to use their kids as precious but effective weapons to control the other parent’s access to the children or their financial support. Children can be pumped for information about the ‘other’ parent or witness to disparaging adult interchanges. This kind of behavior puts children at greater risk and may add to the burden that many children of divorce already face.
Parents can avoid some of these pitfalls by concentrating again, as they probably once did, on the needs of their children and the partnership they formed with their former spouse to meet those needs. Research shows cooperative parenting 1) reduces the levels of stress that reverberate through the entire family system, and 2) reduces the conflicting communication that hurts the child stuck in the middle as go-between. The science is unambiguous: children benefit from having a positive and supportive relationship with both parents. Achieving that healthy balance requires sensitivity and some technical savvy.
Do not use your child to hurt the other parent. Resist the temptation to have your child deliver hurtful or manipulative information or to "spy on" the other parent. In the same respect, don’t deny the other parent access to your child as a means to "lash out," or as a strategy to obtain other things from him or her such as more money, child care, or transportation services.
Communicate with your child’s other parent in a positive way. Avoid blaming the other parent for troubles your child may experience, or for the inevitable difficulties, social or academic he or she may encounter in school. Instead focus on the problem at hand and how, together, you both can work to solve it.
Avoid bringing up the past. No matter how tempting, it is guaranteed counterproductive to dredge up ancient pain - - it only serves to cloud current problems, and their solution. Often a parent is tempted to say, "if you hadn’t left us, we wouldn’t be in this mess, or "if you had only done X five years ago, Johnny would be different now." That kind of antagonism does not help in the present, it only causes pain and renewed anger for everyone, and make the child feel guilty.
Encourage your child’s relationship with the other parent. Encourage him or her to spend time with, and rely on, the other parent. Avoid capitalizing on your child’s activities, sports and hobbies as excuses to lessen time with the other parent. Similarly, do not withhold phone calls to your child from the other parent. It will most assuredly backfire as a control technique.
Communicate generously about the events in your child’s life. This includes sharing information about doctor’s appointments, school schedules, social events, day care schedules and extra- curricular activities. Remember, the ultimate beneficiary is your child. He or she needs the support of an informed mother and father.
Find common ground, especially around discipline. Make it your business to find out what’s being imposed, reinforced and why. Provide as common a front as possible so the child understands that the consequences of his actions will carry over to each household. They are for his benefit, not the households’.
Co-parenting is far more than a "grin and bare it" response to a difficult situation. It’s your best opportunity to show your child that you each care deeply enough about him to put aside your differences. That’s a critical life lesson for everyone involved. After all, it’s how you’d like to see your grandchildren parented, right?
So, happy Father’s Day, dads. And moms, support his place in the shared life of your kids. The courts can force compliance, but they can’t mandate love, sacrifice or genuine participation.
Dr. Pruett is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Yale Child Study Center, an active member of the Connecticut Fatherhood Advisory Council, and author of the award winning book: Fatherneed (Free Press, 2000) and several other fatherhood-related publications. Dr. Pruett has been active nationally in the Zero to Three: Center for Infants, Toddlers and Their Families, is a former Good Housekeeping columnist, host of the Lifetime television series "Your Child Six to Twelve", an editorial advisor to Child Magazine, and a frequent guest on Oprah.