Child- and family-serving agencies have traditionally served children who are raised by their mothers or other female relatives. However, many children have fathers who could be responsibly engaged in their care. Unfortunately, fathers may not feel supported when interacting with agencies that are not accustomed to working with them and that may have unintentionally developed policies or practices that limit their engagement. By removing these barriers and proactively engaging fathers, agencies can play a key role in expanding the network of potentially supportive adults for these children.
This Stoneleigh Fellowship enabled Rufus Sylvester Lynch to:
- Enhance the capacity of child and family serving agencies to include fathers in the delivery of their services to children and families. Rufus accomplished this goal by developing a comprehensive accreditation process for providers to become certified “Father Friendly Flagship Agencies” (3FA). He recruited more than two dozen service providers interested in participating in this intensive, multi-year certification process.
- Develop an online Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit in collaboration with the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Social Workers to equip child and family-serving agencies with specific tactics designed to engage fathers in their work.
- Establish The Strong Families Commission, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides an organizational home for the work Rufus began during his Fellowship. The overarching goal of The Commission is to make Philadelphia a national leader in father inclusion by eliminating systemic barriers that work against father involvement in all systems of care that address the well-being of children, youth, and families.
In early 2018, Rufus and The Commission awarded official 3FA accreditation to twelve agencies. They also published Accreditation Guidelines and supporting documents to encourage other agencies to become official 3FA organizations. The 3FA organizations are: Carson Valley Children’s Aid; Catholic Community Services; Congreso de Latinos Unidos; Delta Community Supports, Inc.; Institute for the Development of African American Youth; Episcopal Community Services; Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Greater Philadelphia; John Marshall Elementary School; Progressions Behavioral Health Services, Inc.; The Bridge Intensive Prevention Services; Turning Points for Children; and UIH Family Partners for New Jersey. These agencies are now engaged in an affirmative re-accreditation process.