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“Dads Matter 2” Campaign Ensures Fathers’ Involvement in Child Welfare Cases

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Mary Louise Madigan: (216) 698-2521, MLMadigan@cuyahogacounty.us 
Deonna Kirkpatrick: (216) 432-3342, Deonna.Kirkpatrick@jfs.ohio.gov 

CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County’s Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) today launched a new campaign, Dads Matter 2, to make sure that any time a child is involved with the agency, fathers are informed and included. The campaign targets both agency staff and parents of children with DCFS cases.

“We’re working to change attitudes around fathers, both for our staff and the families we serve,” said Cynthia Weiskittel, DCFS Director. “We recognize that people do sometimes have a bias toward fathers, which isn’t fair to them or their children. Dads can be loving, devoted, and stable parents. Whenever possible, they should not only get that chance to be involved, but also the support and resources to be the best dad they can be.”

Internally, the campaign reinforces existing efforts to include fathers, reminding staff of the value they can provide to a child’s life. The agency has also developed step-by-step guidance to help workers track down fathers when the mother is unable or unwilling to supply this information. Once located, DCFS mandates that fathers are included in every aspect of a child’s case and considered as a priority option for placement when a child must be removed from home.

Dads Matter 2 also includes education materials for moms on the benefits of including their child’s father in the child’s life. Research shows that children with involved fathers tend to have fewer behavior problems, do better in school, have higher self-esteem, and are less likely to use drugs or alcohol. If a mother knows the name of her child’s father but is not sure how to contact him, child protection specialists will assist in finding him and working with him to become a successful and supportive co-parent.

The campaign also aims to educate fathers about the important role they can play in their child’s life. DCFS workers will give fathers a printed guide explaining his rights and responsibilities, plus informational resources to help navigate the child welfare and court systems.

The campaign will continue indefinitely, complimenting other Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services programs like the Fatherhood Initiative, which connects fathers with new dad boot camps, father and child activities, employment counseling, and more.