Florida Hosts First of its Kind Training for Non-Profit Grantees of Father First, the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative

As part of the Father First initiative, 28 non-profit community organizations gathered in Orlando for the inaugural “Tomorrow’s Ties” training conference focused on non-profit sustainability and networking. 

In 2023, the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) established a statewide network of community organizations through the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative to provide services to empower fathers to embrace their unique roles in their children’s lives and to provide mentorship to fatherless youth.

“Thanks to the leadership of Governor DeSantis we have seen the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative grow from an idea to a flourishing program that will allow us to bolster programs around the state aimed at connecting fathers with their children or mentoring fatherless youth,” said DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris. “We know the positive impact that engaged fathers can have on the lives of their children, and we are so excited to be able to watch Father First grow.”

Each of the Father First affiliated community-based organizations were awarded three-year grants to support fathers on their parenting journey and equip them with the tools they need to be successful or to provide mentorship programs for male students. As part of the grant, each organization receives ongoing training and assistance so they can grow in their programs’ capacity and support sustainability in their organizations beyond the life of the grant.  

The services provided by the organizations range from parenting classes, job and trade skills training, life skills development, mental health services, family unification programs, mentorship programs, and many more.  

The three-day non-profit training conference was held in January and included workshops from some of the most experienced leaders in fatherhood from across the country.

Some of the speakers included:

Jess Tharpe, Florida Department of Children and Families Assistant Secretary for the Office of Community Services

Tharpe serves on the executive leadership team at DCF as the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Community Services, which is responsible for building a continuum of care that focuses on holistic services and ensuring improved long-term outcomes for some of Florida’s most vulnerable children, adults, and families. 

Chris Sprowls, Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives

As a former gang and homicide prosecutor, Sprowls is keenly aware of the challenges facing our community stemming from fatherlessness or lack of fatherhood engagement. Sprowls, serving as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives from 2020-22, spearheaded the creation of Florida’s Responsible Fatherhood Initiative in Florida.

Patrick J. Patterson, President of Global Partners for Fathers and Families Consulting, LLC

Patterson serves as the President of a national consulting firm that equips schools, hospitals, Head Start, Healthy Start, public and private sector agencies with the tools to authentically serve fathers, men, boys, and their families. Patrick has launched and managed community, statewide, and national fatherhood programs during his 20-year career.

Patricia Littlejohn, Former President of the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families

With 30+ years of foundation and non-profit leadership, programming, development, advocacy and communications experience, Littlejohn has been an active pioneer and leader in the national fatherhood movement since 1997. Together with partners and practitioners, as the organization’s president, she helped build a resource-rich statewide fatherhood network of 6 regional organizations with 15 locations providing services to more than 25,000 fathers and 56,000 children and earning recognition as a national model. 

For a full list and interactive county map of the non-profit organizations providing services to fathers and mentorship through the Father First Initiative, visit https://fatherfirstfl.com/your-community/.

For more information on the Father First initiative and public awareness campaign, visit https://fatherfirstfl.com/.

About Father First:

Father First is a statewide and community-driven initiative empowering fathers to embrace their unique roles in their children’s lives. Born from the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative that was signed into law as HB 7065 in 2022 by Governor Ron DeSantis, this initiative highlights the critical role of fathers and provides resources to them and at-risk male students throughout Florida. Through this historic legislation, the Florida Legislative appropriated over $68.9 million to support services for fathers provided through a variety of organizations and a responsible fatherhood public awareness campaign. Father First is a place for dads and future dads to find resources, encouragement, and connection needed to be better every day. For more information, visit https://fatherfirstfl.com/.