FINDing new ways to connect with fathers

Children’s Home Society of Washington is always looking for new and unique ways to work with families. Recently, we have been exploring how to better connect with fathers. Science tells us that fathers play a unique and critical role in a child’s development, yet there are very few programs designed specifically to help fathers of young children become more effective parents.

In 2014, we partnered with Holly Schindler, assistant professor at the University of Washington College of Education and expert in the field of fatherhood, to conduct a pilot of the video-coaching model called FIND (Filming Interactions to Nurture Developing) with fathers.

FIND, developed in partnership with the Oregon Social Learning Center and Harvard Center on the Developing Child, is a video coaching program that records a caregiver’s interactions with their young child. A FIND coach shows the parent clips of positive interactions with their child, which helps support healthy brain development.

FIND was one of the first innovations we piloted through Frontiers of Innovation, which is the research and development platform for the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Frontiers of Innovation works to accelerate the development and adoption of science-based innovations that can be expanded to serve more young children and families.

FIND has been mostly used with mothers to help improve parenting skills and boost children’s brain development. Holly wanted to use FIND, but this time, study how FIND could be beneficial to fathers.

Before launching the pilot, Children’s Home Society of Washington worked alongside Holly and College of Education doctoral candidate in school psychology Cindy Ola to interview fathers who were receiving our services. We applied what we learned from these interviews to adapt the FIND program to the unique needs of dads. We then piloted the model with 15 fathers.

The results of the pilot were very positive for both the father and the child. For fathers who completed all six sessions, 80 percent reported lower stress and showed improvement in their parenting skills. We’re currently working with Holly and Cindy on a second FIND project, further adapting the FIND program for Latino fathers.

Partnerships are important to Children’s Home Society of Washington. We appreciate being able to work with researchers like Holly and Cindy to help us translate the latest brain science into our programs for the benefit of children and families.

Jason Gortney is the director of the Office of Policy & Innovation.