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The County of San Diego Expanded the finding for a Behavioral Science Program that is focused on culturally appropriate programming to strengthen the relationship between fathers and their children to bolster their parenting skills. 

The Behavioral Science Program identified the need to implement an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Prevention Parenting Program for Fathers, to expend effort to support the engagement, participation, and parenting skills development for fathers with children up to the age of 18. This Board approval signals an eight-fold expansion of these services.

“Evidence shows earlier interventions in the lives of young people is the best way to support resilience and wellbeing,” said Dr. Luke Bergmann, director of Behavioral Health Services at the County Health and Human Services Agency. “Parent or caregiver engagement is vital for the mental health development in children.”  

Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as ACEs, and toxic stress are associated with nine out of the 10 leading causes of death in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACEs can include physical and emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver mental illness, and household violence. 

BHS’ Positive Parenting and Father 2 Child programs provide support to families and help break the cycle of trauma. The Positive Parenting Program, which has been operational since 2009, provides a variety of programming options from in-person to virtual meetings, as well as group or individual skill-building classes for parents, father figures, and caregivers to build positive relationships, improve better management, and reduce stress. 

The Father 2 Child program has provided services to underserved families in the central region since 2012. It produces culturally specific programming for fathers of all ethnicities and seven priority populations, including underserved Asian, Pacific Islander, Latino, and military families. Activities include curriculum-based group education, counseling, outreach, and flexible funds to support employment and recreation opportunities. The program teaches fathering techniques and skills, in addition to increasing awareness of the importance of active and engaged father figures.  

According to county officials, for the current contract year to date, the Father 2 Child Program has reached 137 children and 95 fathers. fathers. Follow-up surveys indicated participants had increased interaction time with children, awareness of fathering knowledge and positive attitudes towards fathering positive parenting experiences, and healthier interactions with the child’s mother.

Scientific consensus demonstrates that cumulative adversity, in the absence of protective factors, is a root cause for poor health and social outcomes that can be passed down from generation to generation, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parenting and caregiver skill development and strengthening engagement of fathers have been demonstrated as practices that support positive childhood experiences and reduction of the impacts of ACEs.  
County officials said it will build upon these existing programs and expand parenting program services to focus on fathers countywide while providing greater access for underserved communities, with a focus on removing barriers to participation like transportation services and child care. 

The projected annual costs for parenting program services will increase from $250,000 to $2 million.

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