Helping Fathers in the Heartland – Coming To Your Small Town

Helping Fathers in the Heartland – Coming To Your Small Town

Good Dads is for all dads, but no one can reach everyone all at once. Unless you have unlimited resources to reach your ommunity, you will probably need to set small, attainable goals you can build on as you expand your influence. This is especially true when thinking about potentially bringing a Good Dads program to your small town. 

Many counties in southwest Missouri have a lack of resources typically found in larger cities. There are fewer treatment programs for addiction and substance abuse disorders. Many counties lack access to adequate health care. Rehabilitative programs of any kind are lacking.  Absence of reliable transportation—often a problem in more rural communities—exacerbates these concerns. Finally, a less dense population means fewer state or federal funds are available to address problem areas. Overtime, it became evident to us that if something was to be done to address father absence and the related problems, we needed to figure out how to expand Good Dads programming to reach small towns. This led to the development of this course, Helping Fathers in the Heartland.

Know Who and What You Are

One of the first steps in forming an effort to help fathers involves knowing who you are. For example, some good dads efforts are centered in the faith community, some in counseling centers, and others in a community-based group. How you see yourself and your primary purpose or mission truly matters.

A common thread in marketing and promotion is “knowing your brand.” Your brand lies at the heart of the organization, its mission and values. From it springs program development and the overall succss of the organization. Without the heart, a body, even with the brain, cannot function. Establishing your brand early on in the formation process will serve you well, giving you a firm base and direction. When considering who and what you are it may be helpful to focus your efforts in these three areas:

  • Know Your Heart/Mission – What is your mission in the community? Does a Good Dads program align with the mission? Who do you want to serve? 

  • Know Your Audience/Target Population – Describe the dads you want to serve. Can you describe a typical dad you hope to reach? What are his greatest concerns or issues? How can you best reach this group?

  • Know Your Community Resources – Avoid re-inventing what already exists unless what exists is being done very poorly. Gain an understanding of how you can leverage what is already there. Build bridges and foster relationships to include other like-minded people. 

As you consider your mission, audience, and community resources, you will be gathering ideas about what Good Dads in your small town could look like. In addition to these things, you may also want to consider the following:

  1. Accessibility: Is there a group of dads you might have access to or a group likely to responde favorably to your recruitment efforts? If so, this is typically a great place to start. It’s what is known as “low hanging fruit” and harvesting these participants will boost morale and enthusiasm right from the start.

  1. Community Champions: Who, in your community, might be most enthusiastic to support and assist you in the mission of helping fathers be more engaged with their children? A faith leader? A judge? A business owner who grew up without a dad and is passionate about helping others avoid the same fate? It’s difficult to know, but if you can identify these persons and get them together in the same room, you may just ignite several sparks you can fan into a flame. 

  1. Greatest Need: A common practice to starting something new is to conduct a “Needs Assessment” to evaluate potential for involvement and growth. In some cases, this is a very reasonable approach, but it doesn’t always work. We knew knew the research and statistics associated with father absence, but we found the importance of father engagement was not on the radar of many folks with whom we initially talked. Before we could make much headway with these folks, we had to make the case for why father engagement was essential to child well-being. Then the need became more evident.

There is a lot to think about when starting a Good Dads program and some unique challenges that come with launching a program in a small town. We are here to help support you in making your program location a success. We believe that Good Dads programs in small towns have a lot of potential to “help kids one dad at a time.”

For more information on how you can get a Good Dads program started in your community, let us know by going to and filling out our Helping Fathers in the Heartland interest form. 

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