Being a parent isn’t easy. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, for many parents – and that includes fathers - this job has gotten harder. Fathers are faced, once again, with higher threats of unemployment and the frustration of not being able to provide for their families. Fathers with few resources, such as technology in their homes, transportation and access to services, find themselves facing even more barriers. Fathers who had difficulty seeing their children before this public health crisis are now further apart because of social distancing and isolation. These are tough times for fathers and their children.
Despite these trying times, the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families and its six fatherhood organizations across the state haven’t stopped programs and services. The center is using technology, creative solutions and old-fashion one-on-one outreach to keep fathers connected to their families, the support and guidance of staff and to other fathers in the center's programs. Here are some of the ways the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families continues to serve and stay connected.
Prior to stay-at-home orders were necessary, peer group sessions continued while practicing social distancing, but as health guidelines tightened, they transitioned to virtual group sessions. Technology provided a relatively easy transition to keep group discussions engaging and productive. Because there are companion PowerPoints and workbooks with its curriculum, fathers find it easier to follow along. Discussions have remained lively and engaging, and participation has remained steady and even increased in some cases.
Intervention specialists have maintained contact with enrolled fathers through phone calls, emails and social media, continuing to work with them on old and new goals while providing emotional support during these stressful times.
Because family courts and many of the center's referring agencies have been forced to suspend services, the center is receiving fewer referrals and is limited in its traditional community outreach and recruitment. However, the center has ramped up its social media presence and virtual outreach and is still enrolling fathers in the program.
Program participants receive encouragement and education through online videos, e-news, text messaging and social media to keep fathers informed and focused on their goals.
To emphasize the content of its Parenting and Co-Parenting curriculum, the center coordinated a statewide effort to assemble and distribute more than 280 father/child activity bags to enrolled fathers who have access to their children. The bags were packed with a variety of items, including card games, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, bubble wands and seed pods to plant a mini garden. Parenting tips, along with a note of support, were included for fathers who picked up the bags through curbside distribution by staff of local fatherhood organizations.
Statewide job coaches are working one-on-one with fathers who have lost employment to get them re-employed as quickly as possible with companies like Amazon that are currently hiring. The center is also positioning fathers to obtain online job skills training that will help prepare them for new employment in the post COVID-19 environment.
The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families supports six fatherhood programs in 12 communities across the state to strengthen families through fatherhood engagement. The center is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.