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New survey from McLean County Fatherhood Coalition finds room for improvement in father-friendliness

Jordan Arellanes and Dorothy Davis
Ryan Denham
Dorothy Davis from Brightpoint, the agency formerly known as Children’s Home & Aid, and Illinois State University professor Jordan Arellanes.

Fathers in McLean County are often underrepresented or marginalized within organizations and programs that serve children and families, according to the results of a new survey.

The survey of 140 programs and organizations in McLean County found that 85% of them do not offer father-specific programming, and only 4% have reviewed their policies and activities to consider their level of father-friendliness and how they can improve. Only 8% of those respondents have surveyed fathers about their needs, concerns and interests.

The survey was led by two Illinois State University professors, Kyle Miller and Jordan Arellanes, on behalf of the McLean County Fatherhood Coalition.

"On top of that glass ceiling (for women) is a layer of concrete that’s all the myths and stereotypes about men."
Jordan Arellanes, McLean County Fatherhood Coalition researcher

“There’s a lot of services out there for women and children in the community. But in saying that, that doesn’t leave room for fathers,” Arellanes said on WGLT’s Sound Ideas. “If the services themselves say ‘women and children,’ that doesn’t necessarily talk about the men who are involved in these families’ lives. There’s that part of it, and there’s also policies out there that favor women as part of the family relationships – maybe that’s divorce proceedings or the prison system. So there’s some level of bias against men in these situations, and so we want to be able and provide services for these men to be able to overcome these stereotypes.”

Local groups and programs are encouraged to conduct an audit of policies to determine their level of father-friendliness, and then identify changes that can be made, such as developing programs, groups or events that are specific to fathers. Fathers assume “family” programs and events are geared toward mothers, according to the researchers.

That’s an issue that impacts the entire family, Arellanes said.

“This isn’t just a pro-men idea. This is also pro-women. If you consider the glass-ceiling ideology, where women are working so hard and we've done such a great job of getting women to these top points in society – but on top of that glass ceiling is a layer of concrete that’s all the myths and stereotypes about men. And until we start to chip away at those stereotypes, then we also can’t fully support the lives of women as well,” Arellanes said.

McLean County Fatherhood Coalition launched in 2018. It’s an offshoot of Brightpoint, the agency formerly known as Children’s Home & Aid.

“There’s not enough fatherhood involvement,” Dorothy Davis, a Brightpoint staffer who works with the Fatherhood Coalition. “And a lot of that is because fathers don’t know they can be involved sometimes. They break up, divorce, separate, and they assume the mom will take care of everything and move about their merry way. But there’s a sad lack when a father is not involved. The kids tend to get in more trouble, more legal trouble. Their grades drop. They have social problems. It’s not a positive scenario for children.”

The coalition does regular events, including its Dad Talks series. The next one is 11 a.m. May 31 (virtual/online) focused on “How Reading To Your Children Developers Leaders,” led by author Khalid White. You can register online.

The Fatherhood Coalition is also hosting two other events:

  • Panel discussion called “Families, Fathers, & Substance Abuse: What Can We Do?” from 10-11 a.m. June 13, also on Zoom. Registration is open.
  • Learn-to-fish event from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. June 24 at Miller Park, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Registration is required.

You can also join the Fatherhood Coalition’s Facebook group.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.