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Citation:Kroeger, J. & Barbour, N. (2005). The fatherhood initiative, Head Start, and involvement implications for school partnerships. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada.

This study examines the "Fatherhood Initiative," a program supported by an urban Head Start agency with the purpose of sustaining fathers' involvement in their children's lives and education. The program serves high-poverty urban fathers and families. The main purpose of the research is to assess current father involvement practices, to understand better what stands in the way of father involvement, and to recommend strategies for the future. Barriers to and salient issues of father involvement included the following: time constraints, adult males' influence on child behavior, roles and skills of fathers versus mothers, changing roles for home-school involvement, communication problems, fathers' feelings of intimidation and unease in educational settings, and variation across the agency regarding resources and sponsored activities. Findings suggest that it was not necessarily the case that fathers were absent; sometimes teachers and administrators overlooked significant, important relationships between males and children because they had no systematic method to explore them or because their models of involvement were too narrow. Results indicate that further research should be conducted to understand fully and to accommodate the specific needs of high-poverty urban fathers. Data came from focus groups (N=95), an environmental audit (ratings of classroom/center spaces for father-friendliness), and a demographic analysis. This study provides valuable information about the role of fathers in early childhood education. The authors conclude that the assumptions behind the initiative should be reevaluated. In addition, they recommend that the deficit model of high-poverty fathers must be changed. Future research, including randomized controlled trials, should focus on intervention strategies that are used to increase father involvement strategies.

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