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The Fatherhood Project

Empowering and supporting fathers so that they may positively impact the lives of their children and families.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
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The Fatherhood Project

The Fatherhood Project, Connecting Fathers and Children, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital

The Challenge

Millions of fathers today – some by choice, others out of necessity – are taking on larger and more diverse roles in parenting and family life. Recent research shows that fathers not only have the capacity for care giving, but that children benefit directly from dads’ parenting contributions.

Yet, more children than ever are growing up without a father in their lives.....
A lack of involvement of fathers is associated with negative emotional, social, academic and behavioral outcomes for children. These outcomes result in high costs to society, including higher rates of crime, poverty, marital conflict and substance abuse.

Findings from the rapidly growing science of early childhood and early brain development clearly show the positive, lifelong impact fathers can have by being engaged early in their children’s lives. The feeling of closeness to a father is critically linked to a child’s future success in school, employment, and relationships.

The Approach

1) Professional Trainings - Training for providers who work with families and dads, in healthcare, mental health, education, and social services.

2) Direct Service Programs - Programs for dads with children of all age groups, beginning at with a prenatal program for expectant dads. The Fatherhood Project works with all fathers, while focusing on underserved at-risk populations.

Programs are based on an innovative curriculum centered in evidence-based principles.  They focus on:

  • strengthening emotional connections between fathers and children
  • skill building
  • improving health outcomes for children

3) Partners with leading researchers to scientifically validate interventions, inform program and training development, and advance knowledge in related fields. ex) A Fatherhood Study in Prenatal Care

4) Serves as a central hub for important research and practical resources for dads, moms, and practitioners working with fathers.

PROGRAMS for fathers 

1)  Dads Matter Initiative: Obstetrics 

Becoming A Dad Program supports dads in developing a sense of competence and confidence about the new role during the prenatal period.

2) Dads Matter Initiative: Pediatric 

A collaboration between a Pediatric Dept. at a local hospital and The Fatherhood Project.  There are 2 parts to this initiative. 

  • A Professional Training component
  • The Dads and Kids Connect Group - A Direct Service Program for fathers of young children, from birth to age 5 years old. The central aim of this group is to increase men’s sense of confidence, competence and connection as fathers of young children. It is a drop-in format.


In an effort to reach this underserved, at-risk population — often referred to as ‘the forgotten partner in teen pregnancies’ — The Teen Dads Program provides expecting & parenting teen fathers with support, fathering skills and resources. Many of these young dads feel alienated and experience a lot of judgment from their family and from their friends at school...

I appreciate being here and having a place to come to get advice, and be listened to…otherwise I would keep it all inside because I don’t have anyone else I can talk with about fatherhood.
TFP Teen Dads Program Participant - age 18 with twin 7 month old daughters


               The Fatherhood Project Talks Series

A conversation with Dr. Rosenbaum, Chief of Psychiatry at MGH.           

It is critically important for an infant's brain development to be nurtured, handled, touched, played with.  Dads play a vital role.

Investment in the first weeks and months of life pay huge dividends in the quality of behavioral health for a child forever. 

Needs, Opportunity, Vulnerability

There is a need for the mom herself to feel supported and this sets the stage for a better family unit going forward.

The data is clear.  When dads are involved with young children they have better emotional outcomes – in emotional regulation, self esteem and  social skills.

There is research that shows that dads at all education levels and socioeconomic backgrounds are feeling vulnerable themselves when they are about to become fathers, and it is a good time to engage them in the present and it lasts through the future.

It is easy to feel excluded and left out during this time when mother and child are bonding.  It is very important to minimize this impact and make sure that fathers feel very much a part of this new experience.

Fathers bring a unique opportunity in supporting self esteem, in regulating emotion, feeling secure and buffering against stress. Society has to find a way to advance that mission.  Here at this institution, in Pediatrics where we engage with families right at the beginning of their becoming families, this is the moment in time for us to do something like this.


cbsnews article/video - Daddy's home: Millenial fathers amp up parenting - mentioning The Fatherhood Project, 2016

From The Fatherhood Project Blog

"A Bar In The Waiting Room Would Be Lovely"

The first year of fatherhood: Thoughts from a first-time dad

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How might we include and engage fathers during prenatal and post partum periods?

What community services might we design to support new teen dads?

How does this research relate to our use cases and personas?

The Unusual Suspects:
Andrea - A policy maker in a rural state. Research data on program impact can influence expanding services to other communities.

Healthcare Providers
Support through trainings for professionals that work with new dads, so that they may positively affect the impact fathers have on their children’s lives.

Under-resourced Mom, Mom with Chronic Disease
Moms needs support from dads

Tell us about yourself:

Pediatrician - Working in multicultural, diverse, underserved communities in NYC. I am interested in social innovation and design thinking. I am a mentor for Design For America, NYU student club.

Are you currently an employee of Sutter Health or UCB Pharmaceuticals?

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Bettina!

Thank you for highlighting The Fatherhood Project. This might be of interest to Drake Van Egdom (if he hasn't already heard of it) who is developing Mother and Father Support Groups 

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