University of Pittsburgh
May 7, 2001

PITT AND FOUR AGENCIES ANNOUNCE NEW PROJECT TO ASSIST NON-CUSTODIAL FATHERS

Contact: 

Sharon Blake

412-624-4364

Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH, May 8 -- Five local agencies will use a $500,000 grant from the State Department of Public Welfare to launch a first-of-its-kind Fathers Collaborative -- a comprehensive program of supportive and intervention services to improve the lives of hundreds of non-custodial fathers and their children throughout Allegheny County. The latest census data shows that 80,000 children in Allegheny County live in fatherless households.

The Fathers Collaborative is administered by the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, which is partnering with the Healthy Start, Inc. Male Initiative Program; the Single and Custodial Fathers Network, Inc.; Goodwill Industries of Pittsburgh; and the Parental Stress Center. It is the first strength-based collaborative effort for fathers to be funded in Allegheny County, and has the potential to become a national model for this type of project. Approximately 300 local fathers are being recruited for the first phase of the program.

The Collaborative will offer a unified "father-friendly" system of services that will increase the opportunity for non-custodial fathers to become involved with their children, to develop a physical and emotional presence in their lives, and to improve their ability to fulfill their financial responsibility. Services include legal assistance, visitation services, job placement, mediation, and counseling sessions that are participant-focused and family-centered.

The Healthy Start, Inc. Male Initiative Program will serve as the single point-of-entry for participants. "Instead of having 30 people in one person's life, there will be a single case manager," explained Jay Darr, Male Initiative Program manager, who added that the Fathers Collaborative will accept referrals from the Domestic Relations Office of the Family Division, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, as well as other sources.

Recent data shows Allegheny County with a single-parent family population that exceeds 140,000, most of them women, in the inner city and suburbs. "This problem is not limited to at-risk families," said Kathy Rudy, Pitt Office of Child Development Human Services coordinator and manager of the new program. "It crosses all socio-economic and cultural barriers."

Rudy sees the Collaborative as one of the important cornerstones or building blocks for other efforts to help fathers. Approximately 30 agencies throughout Allegheny County assist non-custodial fathers, and the Collaborative will refer participants to these programs as well, when necessary. "These programs all provide excellent support," said Rudy. "I look at this as promoting active fatherhood, while recognizing the importance of the contributions these agencies make."

The $500,000 grant is one of six Pennsylvania Parenting Program (PPP) grants recently announced in Harrisburg. The PPP represents a new, community-based, grassroots effort on the part of the Commonwealth to recognize the importance of fathers' involvement with their children.

For more information about the Fathers Collaborative, call Kathy Rudy in Pitt's Office of Child Development at 412-624-7428, or Jay Darr at the Healthy Start Male Initiative Program at 412-247-1000.

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