Dad Matters

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Dad Matters is a research-based program that provides information for fathers about what it means to be a dad and engages mothers in strategies for inclusion of fathers in a child’s growth and development.

Dad Matters educates, supports, and encourages fathers to be involved, responsible and committed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – and has been proven to significantly increase protective factors shown to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect.

This 12-session course is delivered individually through personal family visits and in group settings and encourages strong attachment with both parents, more effective co-parenting skills, and the inclusion of fathers in their child’s daily routines. Dad Matters is a universal access program, open to any father looking for support; there are no income guidelines or cost for enrollment.

Related Information & Statistics

  • Youth with an active father figure express better social-emotional and academic function, and are less likely to engage in criminal behavior
  • Pregnant women without the support of the father are more likely to experience pregnancy loss
  • A disengaged father figure is a strong predictor of behavioral problems starting as young as 1 year of age
  • A recent study of 835 juvenile inmates found that fatherhood absence was a significant disadvantage, with inmates from father-absent homes being 279% more likely to carry guns and deal drugs than their peers living with their fathers
  • Over 17 million children live in father-absent homes in America
  • One Pew Research Center study reports that of fathers who live apart from their children, 41% are in touch daily with their children, 28% communicate at least once a month, and 31% talk with their children less than once a month

Positive Impact

"I started seeing Kari during her junior year of high school. I’m proud to say she beat the statistics and graduated high school. Four years later, she and the baby’s father are married, with an additional child in their family. They meet with me regularly to discuss child development and have begun home preschool with their 3-year old, using various online resources and workbooks I was able to help them find. When their preschooler completed his most recent testing for readiness for kindergarten, he scored well above average for his age and is in the highest percentiles for motor, concepts, and language domains."

MHANWI Parent Educator

"I’ve been seeing a mom for more than a year who has struggled with depression due to an abusive relationship. Together, we created a safety plan to help her deal with her feelings, and she continues to work through difficult times. She keeps this safety plan on her fridge so when she recognizes that she is having difficulty coping, she can read through it and try one of the activities that help her or call a friend for support. When we met, she had nowhere to turn for help. During our visits, we were able to talk about healthy relationships and about resources and safe places she could go to get out of her situation. After a few months, she decided to follow through with the plan we created, utilizing resources I was able to provide. Today, mom is thriving in a new environment and focusing on her personal growth and the development of her child."

MHANWI Family Support Specialist

“One of my most memorable impacts was when I entered a home for a first visit and saw a baby (4 months) laying on the floor on a blanket in front of the TV in the living room. Mom and I sat on the couch talking for a few minutes; the baby had hardly moved and the mom had not mentioned the child at all. I decided to ask a few questions and engage with the baby. The baby barely engaged with me. Mom told me his name and that he was 4 months old and a good baby because he hardly cried. I started to get worried because the baby had a blank stare like I have never seen before. I started to ask questions like what was her favorite game to play with him or favorite activity in general. Her response was “uh, he doesn’t play he is a baby.” I asked her favorite story or song for him, and she looked at me and said again, “I TOLD you he is just a BABY. He doesn’t talk or sing or anything.” Through more discussion, I came to find out that Mom had some special needs and was raised in many foster care settings and institutions and did not have any knowledge of basic motherhood or infant care. She had no family and had just had the baby and come home to her apartment. She fed baby, changed baby and then baby was “good”. Mom and I held our weekly Home Visits and I shared parenting information and actively involved Mom with baby through a variety of activities. By the time the baby was 10 months old, Mom and Baby had a favorite song and book - and Mom was always excited to show me the new things he was doing. Baby became a smiling, laughing, engaging little guy, and Mom told me that she was glad that she had me to teach her that she could talk to her baby and play with him to help him learn. She was very proud of him and I was very proud of her!”

MHANWI Program Supervisor

"From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was nothing but anxious. At around 4 months, I found out I was having twins, and anxious became an understatement. Financial responsibility was the least of my worries; my worries were more about the psychological, mental, and emotional part of parenting. Knowing that my every decision now played major roles in the part of two innocent lives became consuming. I ended up delivering my twins at 32 weeks due to complications, and both children ended up in NICU. I had no idea what to do, how to feel, or quite frankly, if they were even going to make it. I started the Healthy Families program before my boys even came home from the hospital. At first, our main focus was me - helping balance my feelings & emotions to be the best version of myself for my children. Then, we moved on to some baby basics. Then, I started to learn about the safety and development of babies and started to gain a little confidence. I have weekly visits with my Family Support Specialist, and every week, I’m learning something new and exciting. I am much more confident than I was six months ago. It feels good knowing that when provided the right knowledge, techniques, and activities, we can succeed in this intimidating world called Motherhood. I would definitely recommend this program to any expecting mother or new mom. I have learned so much and am continuing to learn more each day. My twins are almost 6 months old, and I can proudly say that they are happy, healthy, and right on track with development."

Enrolled Parent in MHANWI Program

"I have a family that will be graduating from the Excel program next week. The mom has been through a lot since she was a young girl; and in all my visits, she still manages to have a smile on her face and show nothing but love and affection to her baby and two older siblings. Initially, she was hesitant about entering the program - not only because she had no support from her family, but also because she was also told by a member of her family that she was not going to finish and there was no purpose to her efforts. I began by praising her for wanting to give it a try and also explained to her that she could accomplish anything she set her mind to do. She said she kept my words in mind, and she thanks Healthy Families for coming into her life and giving her the push she needed to finish school and not only prove it to herself, but also prove to her family that she could obtain her High School Diploma."

MHANWI Family Support Specialist

"I started with the program shortly after my daughter was born. With each new visit, I learned that I did not know everything I thought I did about parenting. I didn’t notice the impact the program had on me until people started to comment frequently on my parenting and how well my children behave. I didn’t notice because it happened gradually; it takes time, patience, and most of all, dedication. I learned that every single thing your child does tells you everything you need to know about their development - whether they are doing well or need help in certain areas. Any time I have a concern, I let my home visitor know and she brings me information that helps me understand what my children are going through and helps me engage them in activities and exercises that help. I’m grateful for this program and would recommend it to all moms."

Enrolled Parent in MHANWI Program

“At the beginning of the school year, I started working with a pregnant teen who has a disability. She was able to follow through on many referrals with my help in the first few months in order to receive prenatal care. She also joined a teen mom support group to double services for her and the baby. Throughout the first few months of working with the pregnant teen, I was unable to communicate with the teen mom’s parent(s) to see what the plans were for this pregnancy/baby. This made things tremendously difficult, and I wondered if she could take on her own care for the baby. Months passed, during which I supported the teen mom through doctor appointments and hospital visits, thanks to the great support I have from my employer, MHANWI. One day, an emergency happened, and while I was at the hospital with the teen mom (who was being admitted), I was able to wait until her mom came to check on her and was finally able to bridge the gap of communication between the mom and teen. The mom was unaware that the teen wanted to keep the baby, and she fully supported her daughter’s decision. It is by far one of my favorite success stories with a family thus far in my career. Allowing them to take the time to communicate openly and see the support the teen’s mom was willing to provide was amazing! The baby was born the next day, and I’m pleased to say that the teen’s mom reports that she is in love with her grandson and supportive of her teen in caring for her child. The family is proactively joining additional programs to ensure proper care for the infant and the teen’s mom is supporting both of them at doctor’s appointments now. They still have improvements to be made, but they have come such a long way from the start of the teen parent joining the ETAP program in her school alone.”

MHANWI Parent Educator

“I am currently working with a teen parent who was expelled from school due to absences related to maternity leave this year. She was only four credits shy of graduation at the time. In support of her goal to graduate, I was able to work with her to complete the necessary applications and she is currently waiting to start classes at the Excel Center to complete her high school diploma! In addition, I worked with her on her goal of getting a job to support herself and baby. I’m happy to report that she will soon be a working mom and student completing her education!”

MHANWI Parent Educator

"I’ve been working with a family for the past two years and Mom has a traumatic background. She experienced molestation at the hand of relatives early on in life and has been shunned from her family due to her sexual preference. Throughout our work together, I encouraged Mom to seek mental health services due to heightened depression screens, self-identified anxiety, and anger issues. Each time, she refused, stating they would not tell her anything she didn't already know and it would be a waste of time. As her home visitor, I respected her wishes; but every now and then, when the opportunity would present itself, we would discuss how beneficial it could be, not only for her, but for her baby as well. Over time, Mom’s life began to improve: she found a job, got her own apartment, and even purchased a car. However, she was still struggling with her mental health. After the holidays, Mom sent a message asking for tips to reduce stress and for a mental health referral. Upon visiting, Mom shared that she could finally recognize how her mental health was playing a major role in her ability to pretty much do anything. Mom shared she would be much further in life, have better relationships, and be a better mother if she was able to work through her own issues. Mom shared she was ready to receive help and would do whatever it took to be in a better space and be a better mom for her baby. I provided Mom with a mental health referral to several neighborhood mental health facilities, and she continued to call and reach out until she received an appointment. While it seems small, it was a pivotal point in Mom’s success as a parent - and in life."

MHANWI Family Support Specialist

Proven Results!


Youth who have earned competitive employment using skills learned at our Adolescent Skills Centers


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Youth who have earned competitive employment using skills learned at our Adolescent Skills Centers
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