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Survey asks fathers how state agency can better serve them

Press Release Date:  February 8, 2005
Contact:  Ruth Huebner, (502) 564-3703;
Stacy White, (859) 292-6632;
or
Anya Armes Weber, (502) 564-6180

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 8, 2005) – Fathers across the state who are involved in child protection cases with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services are having their say about how the agency meets their needs.

The cabinet’s Department for Community Based Services, which conducts child protection and permanency casework – including child removals and adoptions, is in the first stage of a survey asking fathers to rate the cabinet’s service to them and to suggest services that would assist them better.

“Fathers tell us that they often feel neglected and sometimes mistreated by the system,” cabinet researcher Dr. Ruth Huebner said.

Cabinet leadership wants to change that.

“It’s well worth the investment to survey fathers,” said Dr. Eugene Foster, undersecretary for Children and Family Services. “Results will be used to enhance service delivery to fathers, which in turn will improve the safety and well-being of Kentucky’s children,” he said.

The first phase of the survey began last month. Approximately 3,700 fathers will be asked to complete and return the mailed surveys, which include questions about their experiences and satisfaction with the agency. 

Although many states are seeking to engage fathers in the care of their children, the survey is the nation’s first statewide effort to get feedback, Huebner said.

“We want to find out if fathers are regularly invited to case conferences and family team meetings, if they feel their opinions are valued and if the services provided strengthen their skills and family safety,” she said. “We need to know if there are barriers to fathers accessing and interacting with the agency.”  

Huebner said disruptions of the father-child relationship are detrimental for all children but especially for boys. Positive interactions between children and their fathers benefit them both by creating bonds that protect against adult criminality and child abuse.

The father-child relationship is critically important in building skills and psychological competence for children,” Huebner said. Despite these important relationships, the father-child bond has too often taken a backseat to focus on mothers, she said.

Stacy White, a supervisor in the cabinet’s Campbell County protection and permanency office and a social work student at the University of Kentucky, is coordinating the survey as part of her master’s degree practicum.

White said fathers who haven’t returned the survey will get reminder letters in the coming weeks.

The surveys are anonymous, White said, and their postage paid return envelopes will be mailed to a Frankfort post office box.

“It’s totally confidential,” she said. “The only codes on the survey are regional designations.” Fathers can call a toll-free phone number listed on the survey letter if they have questions.

White said the cabinet is appreciative of the participating fathers.

“They’re really helping us – and their children -- by letting us know where we need to improve services,” she said.

Cabinet staff will be asked to take a Web-based survey with questions about how they engage fathers in case planning, what barriers they face in helping fathers and if they have ample local resources for referrals, White said.

The department has already made changes to better include fathers. Staff involved with child protection cases statewide are finding fathers and inviting them to family team meetings, identifying paternal relatives for placement and providing referrals and services to improve parenting skills. Procedural changes emphasize expectations to include fathers as active partners in the care of children and with the agency.

Fathers are getting more recent attention both across the state and nationwide.

In late April, the University of Kentucky’s College of Social Work will host a fatherhood initiative conference in Lexington. The theme of the event is “helping fathers keep their children safe, educated and healthy.”

And in a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors were encouraged to urge fathers to increase their role in their children’s health care, typically thought of as a mother’s responsibility.

For more information on the survey, contact Huebner at (502) 564-3703, ext. 4060.

 

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Last Updated 2/9/2005