Best Practices for Inclusion of Men and Dads in Children’s Health

Posted March 15, 2016 by Josh Grant

In this occasional Innovation Showcase feature series, NICHQ highlights nonprofits and unique initiatives that are having an impact on children’s health.

Dad Toolkit
The toolkit details what WIC agencies and organizations can do to encourage dads’ involvement in their children’s lives.

Children greatly benefit from having active paternal figures in their lives. According to the State of the World’s Fathers report, it leads to improved mental health in children, higher immunization rates and support for women who are breastfeeding.

The creation and availability of educational resources that encourage male involvement are crucial to achieving that. Knowing this, the California WIC Association (CWA) created Engaging Men & Dads at WIC: A Toolkit to help the local WIC (Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program) organizations better connect with dads. This particular project was developed as a collection of recommendations so many groups have better access to information on fostering male involvement in parenting.

“It makes sense that many clinics have not had the time to reach out dads in a program that is, first and foremost, for women, infants and children,” says Maggie Rasnake, the toolkit’s developer. “Rather than everyone having to comb through the research on their own time, this toolkit compiles many resources in one place and provides straightforward, actionable items that clinics can use in order to create a more welcoming environment for men and dads.”

The toolkit details what WIC agencies and organizations can do to encourage dads’ involvement in their children’s lives. Through environmental steps like hanging posters that show men and dads in a positive light or including them in conversations about their children, healthcare professionals can establish stronger relationships with male caregivers.

“Over time, we expect more of an intentional inclusion of men in live, person-to-person interactions at the clinic, and more immediately, making sure that the clinic environment has aspects that speak to men,” says CWA Executive Director Karen Farley.

The toolkit also provides a comprehensive look at how dads can be educated on key aspects of children’s health, including how to support breastfeeding and how to bond with babies. Instead of just listing the benefits of both, the toolkit lays out how organizations can clarify the impact of bonding and breastfeeding to dads. There are also lessons and talking points so clinicians know what to expect when speaking with men.

For instance, the breastfeeding section includes a table of men’s common concerns about breastfeeding and some appropriate responses. The latter helps start discussions about how breastfeeding fits in a family’s life so that dads can become knowledgeable, active participants.

Including All Dads, Not Just Fathers
CWA ensured that the toolkit was as inclusive as possible. Because biological fathers aren’t the only men who might be involved in children’s lives, it was written to speak to any and every potential male caregiver.

This broad view of paternal figures goes a long way toward reaching non-nuclear families. Ultimately, it’ll help ensure that all male caregivers, not just biological fathers, will be equipped to give children the best care possible and participate in healthy family environments.

CWA isn’t stopping with the toolkit; Farley also spoke about starting a learning collaborative, conducting webinars and running events to further the conversation about men’s inclusion in children’s lives. All of these efforts will help organizations refine their resources so that men and dads can learn how to be active partners in supporting the health of their children.


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