The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is spending $9.7 million on a new federal program that seeks to identify why fathers don’t spend time with their children and how to provide them with fatherhood training to remedy the problem.
A program called Providing Opportunities for Parental Success (POPS) will be launched in Indiana by Centerstone, a community-based mental health and substance abuse treatment facility. The grant from the Administration for Children and Families division of HHS will be focused on biological fathers, stepfathers, and soon-to-be fathers from Bartholomew, Brown, Lawrence, Monroe, Morgan, and Owen counties in the state, says Richard Kosmala, the program manager, reports The Republic.
According to Kosmala, POPS will target the three major barriers that prevent fathers from spending time with their children: economic – child support and employment issues; parenting skills – to assist those fathers who had poor role models themselves as children; and family wellness and basic skills to assist the relationship between the father and mother of the child.
The grant allows Centerstone to extend its services to men who need training in how to father their children, regardless of whether they have mental health or substance abuse problems.
“Research from places where fatherhood initiatives have been tried has shown important benefits for the child’s relationship with their father and also a significant increase in child support payments,” Monroe County prosecutor Chris Gaal said.
The POPS program aims to assist 25 fathers this year, with increases in the numbers of fathers served in the second and third year going forward, until 500 fathers are provided assistance within the service area.
Kosmala says Centerstone is now attempting to find fathers who will fit the criteria for the POPS program by working with social service agencies, probation departments, child support courts, and the Indiana Department of Corrections.
“We can start the programming in jail, but once they’ve served their sentence, we need to think about how we are holding them accountable to finish the program,” Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers said about fathers who may be incarcerated for fewer than 90 days. “When they’re released, there’s no accountability to continue. We may need to do that through the courts with probation or as a part of their sentence.”