When enrolling moms into the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children, better known as WIC, less than 30% of state agencies in Connecticut were asking for the father’s name. We don't encourage dads to step up and then we wonder why they don't show up.
In support of its Fatherhood Initiative to address programmatic barriers to dads’ engagement with their children, the Connecticut WIC program partnered with Real Dads Forever, a fatherhood strategies development organization.
We trained staff around the theme of partnering with family men to understand dad’s specific value, especially as it relates to child development and to address any unconscious bias folks may have. We talked about what dads do to support children socially, emotionally, and economically and to identify the skills and assets unique to dads in their relationships with children and family.
Breastfeeding is one good example. We work to better prepare dads in their breastfeeding journey with moms; we want both parents to understand the value in terms of bonding, nutrition, and the breastfeeding process.
Communication is key in reframing Women, Infants, and Children to make it obvious that WIC wants to include dads as well. What were the challenges WIC staff had with conversations with moms about family men? When mom comes in without dad, is it okay to ask if dad’s involved? Is it okay to show that we really want dad to come in if he's available?
We looked at the physical environment of the WIC offices, their marketing materials, policies, and practices. Recommendations included things like putting a space on the chart for dad’s name, making sure there is a chair for dad at the appointment, calling both of their names to come in, and updating marketing materials to include dads also. It’s often a lot of simple things that can cause a dad to feel out of place, and it’s relatively simple to change things up to be more representative and welcoming.