Fathers Matter: An Update on Cuyahoga County’s Fatherhood Initiative

Fathers play an important role in our culture and our society. There are good programs across the country that are aimed at supporting fathers in helping them to be strong role models and examples in their family. However, there are not many public sector entities in which there is an entire division where the sole purpose is to support Fathers. Cuyahoga County is one of the few in the country to offer that support.  The Fatherhood Initiative helps fathers meet financial and emotional needs of both their children and themselves through programming and events, including the Annual Fatherhood Conference, as well as highlight the good relationships that don’t get publicized in the media. At the June 8, 2016, meeting of the Health, Human Services & Aging Committee of the Cuyahoga County Council, Al Grimes, director of Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initiative, provided an update and overview of his department, as well as a preview of his programming for the coming year.

In his testimony, Director Grimes told to the Committee that Fatherhood Initiative was not seeking an increase, but rather to convey all of the things that his division has done throughout the past year and the hope that he can continue those efforts into 2017. His department gets the message out to county residents by advertising on radio and television stations across the county. One of the programs that has been highly successful is Daddy Boot Camp, a one-day, free seminar that educates dads on the dangers of shaking a baby, as well as proper diaper change techniques and other important health information. The Boot Camps are hosted at sites across the county, including MetroHealth, the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Center in East Cleveland, Southwest General on the west side, and Hillcrest Hospital on the east side.

The Fatherhood Initiative talks to teens about safe sex, as well as about not becoming a father until they are emotionally and financially ready.

Director Grimes also shared good news that came from the State of Ohio: his department received an additional $200,000 as part of the effort to curb instances of infant mortality, such as education about the importance of having a baby sleep on his or her back. Council was very interested in knowing if there was any collaboration with the infant mortality and the early childhood initiatives, given that they are both strategic priorities for the county. Director Grimes said that there is and that Invest In Children and Starting Point are both represented on the Fatherhood Initiative Steering Committee.

When Councilman Miller asked how the Initiative measures success, the Director provided statistics of the constituents that have been served, as well as that each program has a pretest and a post-test to gauge how much knowledge the individual learned from the seminar.

  • The Fatherhood Initiative serves approximately 15,000 fathers per year:
    • 8,700 fathers served in “Fathers Walk to School”
    • 5,900 fathers per year served directly through other programs, including 1,100 dads who are involved in the Boot Camp
    • 560 directly served at the Fatherhood Initiative Conference
    • Additionally, the Office handles about 2,100 calls per year, some directly into the office and others from the 211 phone center that is staffed by United Way

The Center for Community Solutions will continue to keep track of the successes and support of this important endeavor.