Tallahassee, Florida – After 31 years of supporting pregnant women and families with young children in Leon and Wakulla counties, the Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition (CAHSC) is increasing its reach to support an underrepresented population: Fathers.
About 18.4 million children in the U.S. – one out of four – live without a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
When fathers are involved, children thrive, families prosper, and communities are made safer and stronger. When their influence and presence are absent, the impact is huge — costing the United States an estimated $100 billion a year in the form of poverty, substance abuse, and juvenile delinquency.
To address the fatherhood crisis in Florida, House Bill 7065 was passed last year with bipartisan support. The $70 million statewide initiative will award grants to expand community initiatives and existing mentorship programs aimed at strengthening fathers’ parenting skills. CAHSC was among those organizations that received funding.
In 2020, a 23-member team consisting of professors, healthcare workers, child educators, and activists developed a five-year plan to improve their delivery of community services. The group identified multiple barriers that negatively affect the health of infants and their families in our local area, including access to healthcare, fatherhood involvement, racial disparities, and child development.
Because of this, the “Sister Friends Tallahassee Birthing Project” and the “Community Doula Training Program” were established in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Both are evidence-based programs that have been shown to reduce infant and maternal death.
Last year, Capital Area Healthy Start also secured funding for “Parents as Teachers,” a program that promotes optimal early development, learning, and health of children by supporting and engaging their families and caregivers.
Their newest program focuses specifically on improving the health and well-being of infants and their families by empowering fathers and father figures to be knowledgeable, involved, and emotionally engaged with their children. Many new fathers struggle to figure out their role when their wife or partner has a baby. This program will offer education, training, and support to help men become the responsible, engaged, and empowered fathers their children need them to be.
CAHSC’s Fatherhood program recently started enrollment to help fathers with parenting and co-parenting education, workforce development and economic stability, personal development, and building a healthy family and community relationships.