Dad Central Ontario: My Dad Matters

Photo Credit: Pixabay Stock photos baby

Photo Credit: Pixabay Stock photos baby

Dad Central Ontario have operated for nearly two decades producing evidence-based resources to build fathering capacity.  Building from the original fathering toolkit, My Daddy Matters, produced for the Nobody’s Perfect program in 2002, which was widely used across Canada, Dad Central’s My Dad Matters was developed to address the changed circumstances of programming for fathers in today’s Canadian society.  It was first issued in 2014 and has now been re-printed in a second version, released recently.

As Tim Paquette, the coordinator of the original toolkit, comments, the original toolkit “was created at a time in which many daycare and early learning programs and services were starting to see men and fathers showing up at their centres and these centres had very few father-friendly resources to provide to fathers, as well being unsure what to do with the fathers themselves! … The toolkit quickly became an influence in every part of Canada and also in other countries (notably, Japan and Australia).

Times have changed since the initial toolkit was created and the current needs of service provider organizations have largely been identified as the need to build meaningful, sustainable activities, services, and programs for various groups of fathers and to have an array of choices that service organizations can pick from.”

My Dad Matters is designed for new and experienced practitioners who are interested in engaging fathers effectively within their communities. It is intentionally a descriptive approach that systematically guides in the planning and delivery of father-focused services.

Issues addressed include:

  • The importance of engaging fathers
  • Steps in building a strong father engagement action plan
  • Assessment of strengths and ways to deal with barriers in reaching fathers
  • Development of effective community partners and networks
  • Help in discovering ways to recruit and maintain father participation
  • Staff development, training and recruitment
  • Resources to support efforts to engage fathers

The toolkit is designed to assist program developers to:

  • Apply new knowledge of fathering and father engagement to their practice.
  • Clearly tell the vision and purpose of their action plan.
  • Be familiar with the action steps, who will do them and by when.
  • Assess their personal attitudes and how these impact practice.
  • Explain activities and resources that support father engagement.
  • Tell of the benefits of father involvement programs.

The toolkit is available online, along with videos, webinars, and other supplemental materials at

The toolkit outline is as follows:

  1. Principles of Welcoming Fathers:
  • Definition of Responsible Father Involvement
  • Being Welcoming to Fathers
  • Guiding Principles of Welcoming Fathers
    1. Welcoming fathers keeps children first.
    2. Welcoming fathers acknowledges the importance of both parents.
    3. Welcoming fathers affirms and values responsible father involvement.
    4. Welcoming fathers expects social responsibility and engages society as a whole.
    5. Welcoming fathers acknowledges diversity.
    6. Welcoming fathers seeks to empower men.
    7. Welcoming fathers seeks collaboration.
    8. Welcoming fathers seeks sustainability.
  • Need for Innovation
  • Benefits of Welcoming Fathers
  1. Initial Considerations in Welcoming Fathers:
  • Highlights of an Effective Father Involvement Program
  • Agency Commitment and Solid Leadership
  • A Strength-based Framework - Fathers have the desire and ability to:
    • Commit – to provide physical and ongoing support and involvement with the child through his/her lifetime.
    • Choose – to make day-to-day decisions for and with their children that meet each child’s needs.
    • Care – to attend to the important transitions in a child’s life and to work to provide the optimal conditions that maximize their growth.
    • Change – to adapt as children grow older and the father matures in his relationship with his children.
    • Create – to provide resources for material wellbeing and the resolution of problems that allow opportunities for the development of emotional wellbeing.
    • Connect – to form lasting and healthy attachments with their children and other significant people. These attachments will change over time to meet their child’s evolving needs.
    • Communicate – to relate with children by sharing meaningfully with them, both verbally and non-verbally.
    • Understanding Fathers talks about how “the context of the bond between a father and his child is activation (Paquette, 2004). They often do this in unpredictable ways that children love and tend to seek out.”  Implications of a father’s style of bonding include:
      • Developmental considerations. Men are often not socialized as boys to be nurturing of children.  Boys are expected to play rough, get dirty, and be independent.  These help a man learn to play, but he may not get experience in the ‘softer’ skills of parenting.
      • Risk-taking. Fathers encourage risk-taking behaviours that encourage children to stretch their abilities, learn about their limits, develop emotional regulation, and have the confidence to try new things.
      • Safety: Fathers are often very aware of the safety of their children.  Men tend to be involved in the risky play that may seem unsafe, but by being involved fathers are closer at hand to deal with potential harm.
      • Play is the main context for bonding between fathers and children.
      • Wait and see. Men tend to wait when children show some stress and see if they can work it out.
      • To the point. Men’s talk with children is often direct and to the point.  They tend to not use emotion words and instead focus on details (who, what, when, etc.)
      • Men have the ability to engage children well.  At the outset, this may seem like a struggle for a father, but most men learn through experience.  Fathers benefit from as much time with their children as possible, right from the start.
      • Men pay attention to their children’s needs, and are looking for ways to help them along with their development.
      • What Fathers are Seeking
      • What’s Coming - contains an overview of the process in developing an action plan.
  1. Preparation: A group of worksheets to use in the development of programming, including:
  • Important Decision-point: Father-Friendly or Dads-Only
  • Readiness Questionnaire
  • Barriers to Welcoming Fathers
  • Count the Cost
  • Community mapping
  • Defining a Purpose Statement
  • Crafting a Purpose Statement
  1. Organizational Assessment: A variety of assessment tools, including:
  • Programming
  • Environment and Resources
  • Staff Development
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Agency Support and Buy-in
  • Community Engagement
  • Priorities
  1. Overview of Best Practices: A range of assessment tools and worksheets, including:
  • Planning
  • Environment
  • Programming
  • The Line Up
  • Recruiting
  • Partnerships
  1. Strategic Planning: Tools and worksheets, including:
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Dotmocracy
  • Action Plan
  • Communication Plan
  • Develop a Logic Model
  1. Evaluation: Detailed evaluation worksheets for the following areas:
  • Programming
  • Environment and Resources
  • Staff Development
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Agency Support and Buy-in
  • Community Engagement
  • Assessment:  Before and After