Just Beginning Fatherhood
In 2008, JB began as a collaborative project between Carole Shauffer and Rachel Barr. Shauffer is a lawyer and former Executive Director of the Youth Law Center and advocate for children involved in the welfare system. Barr, a psychologist at Georgetown University, studies parent–infant interactions and infant learning and memory. The pair met during a fellowship program at the Zero to Three organization. There, they discussed developing an accessible intervention for incarcerated teenage fathers who do not typically have contact visits with their children. The program and curriculum are intergenerational, drawing on Dr. Barr’s expertise in parent–infant interactions and infant learning. JB is available to both mothers and fathers, but due to the much higher proportion of incarcerated fathers, an overwhelming majority of program participants are teenage fathers. JB benefits from the collaborative approach of the Youth Law Center and Georgetown University. JB’s researcher–practitioner partnership team has made JB an efficient and effective program, as each entity brings unique skills and added value.
The Youth Law Center supports the development and implementation of JB by providing expertise on the reform of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. The center also provides legal and logistical support to address bureaucratic and systemic issues. The Youth Law Center visits sites regularly and trains all new facilitators to support the implementation of the JB program.
Georgetown University evaluates the program to measure its effectiveness and the fidelity with which the model is implemented. The collaborative approach between the Youth Law Center and Georgetown University assures that the JB curriculum responds to evolving evidence from the field and is consistently implemented with high quality.
The JB program promotes confidence and competence in participants in their role as parents and supports parent–child interactions while the parent is incarcerated. Participants build confidence and competence by learning strategies to positively interact with their children and practicing parenting skills during structured visits. To benefit young parents and the community as a whole, the program strives to reduce recidivism, improve the behavior of parents while they are in custody, and encourages successful reentry (De Claire & Dixon, 2015).
“The staff and [teenage parents] at the Youth Guidance Center love the parenting program initiated by the Youth Law Center in collaboration with Georgetown University. It has transformed the attitudes and behaviors of some of the most hard-to-reach [teenage parents] that have serious histories in drug use and gang activity. It gives them purpose in life and a vision of a future.”
—Colleen Preciado, Retired Chief Probation Officer, Orange County, California