25 Years and Counting
The Undeniable Conclusion
The National Center for Fathering (NCF) was founded as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1990, with the purpose of “turning the hearts of fathers to their children.”
In the late 1980s, Ken Canfield conducted research on fathering while pursuing his Ph.D. After studying the existing statistics and research, he arrived at the undeniable conclusion that helping men become better fathers is perhaps the most strategic way to benefit children and strengthen families. It was through this conclusion that NCF was born.
Groundbreaking Beginnings: 1990 – 1994
The National Center for Fathering had a team of researchers develop the “Personal Fathering Profile” (PFP), a pioneering survey instrument which gives fathers specific feedback on their fathering. See more about the PFP and NCF’s research foundation. With the PFP as a key tool to help dads, NCF developed small-group training curricula and workshops for dads.
Dr. Canfield added a key member to the leadership of NCF when Peter Spokes joined the team. Peter left his position as Vice President in consumer product marketing at General Mills, Inc. to help engage fathers as NCF’s Executive Vice President. Peter was a key figure behind multiple initiatives, and helped to guide NCF until his untimely death in 2010.
As NCF continued to grow, it began creating tools to help fathers worldwide—including: a quarterly magazine; a daily 3-minute radio program which continues to air; The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers, which is based on research collected using the PFP; a book written for moms; and live weekend seminars hosted by NCF which have drew as many as 1,500 dads and moms per event.
Expanding the Toolkit: 1995 – 1999
The NCF team grew in size and expanded its toolkit for reaching dads—seeking to meet dads where they are. Live seminars continued, with a focused effort to encourage men to continue meeting in small groups after the events.
A game-changing program called Train-the-Trainer was created to educate men to become NCF trainers. These NCF trainers were then equipped to go out and educate groups of other dads in their communities on how to become better fathers. Since the program began, NCF has trained more than a thousand NCF trainers in the United States and internationally, who have used their skills to train countless other men to become better dads. In addition, fathering advocates from nearly a dozen other countries have sought out NCF for training, which they continue to use with fathers globally.
To address the specific challenges of urban and inner-city families, where fatherlessness and the negative consequences that come with it are often at their worst, NCF continued expanding. Fathering Court is one great example. NCF also began holding the annual What My Father Means to Me essay contest to honor kids for writing about their fathers and father figures and the Father of the Year Celebration to recognize those dedicated fathers and father figures in several areas of the country. NCF wrote and published several more books during this time as well, to give dads further tools and resources to grow as fathers.
The National Center for Fathering quickly became recognized as a thought leader in the fathering field. Through the years, NCF has been honored to be asked to contribute to the national conversation about fatherhood—in national fatherhood groups and committees, at fatherhood summits and conventions, at the White House and more.
During this exciting time of expansion, www.fathers.com became NCF’s online home for 24/7/365 practical tips and information for dads. Subscribers were given the option to receive a weekly FatherFax—which soon switched to email and became fathers.com weekly—providing dads with a regular dose of ideas and encouragement to help them in their fathering journey.
In the Trenches: 2000 – 2009
Existing programs continued to reach fathers and father figures, with some adaptations to meet changing needs and opportunities. A new event, the Father-Daughter Summit, brought dad-daughter pairs together to have fun and build stronger bonds. Meanwhile, NCF staff continued to train hundreds of men in Train-the-Trainer events and live seminars. At the end of 2005, founder and president Dr. Ken Canfield left NCF to pursue other interests.
Carey Casey joined the team in 2006 as Chief Executive Officer, bringing with him a unique mixture of vibrant leadership and caring encouragement.
After several years of partnership, NCF merged with WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students), a program that brings fathers and father figures into schools as volunteers. This program provides positive male role models for the students and enhancing school security. In the 2015-2016 school year, 450,000 WatchDOGS dads volunteered more than 2.8 million hours, influencing more than 2.6 million kids at 5,707 registered WATCH D.O.G.S. schools in 47 states, plus DC. WATCH D.O.G.S. also has programs in Canada, China, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Italy, and Germany. It is now the largest male engagement, educational initiative in the country.
NCF simplified its research framework and created a culture-changing strategy called Championship Fathering, also the title of Carey Casey’s first book. Championship Fathering asks dads to commit to five actions: Loving, Coaching and Modeling for their own children, Encouraging other children, and Enlisting more dads to join the team. In his unique and dynamic style, Carey began taking this message to groups of dads at seminars and speaking events around the country.
Finding New Momentum: 2010 – Present
In honor of the late Peter J. Spokes and his vision for helping dads globally, an updated fathering profile—now called the Championship Fathering Profile (CFP)—became available online, to reach and help dads everywhere. The CFP took advantage of updated research to give dads specific feedback on 13 areas of their fathering, to show where they excel as dads, and to provide practical insights and tips for how to address the areas of their fathering where improvement may be needed.
NCF launched an energy infused website along with several purposeful initiatives in 2014 to better serve fathers, families and communities. The process was designed to make our website more user-friendly, mobile-friendly, and overall an even greater and easier-to-use resource to equip fathers.
In another win for fathering and toward changing fathering culture, the National Center for Fathering was appointed to help dads in Kansas through a state-sponsored program called Strong Dads. This program is a three-year initiative that partners with Early Head Start, Head Start and Kansas Early Head Start locations statewide to engage fathers and father figures with children. The goal is to equip dads to play a positive role in their children’s development and well-being now and throughout the child’s life.
The landscape of fathering is ever-evolving, and the team at the National Center for Fathering is excited as we look to the future. Fatherlessness in America continues to be one of the most pressing social issues of our time. The gaps left in children’s lives by absent or disengaged fathers have devastating ripple effects on our country, both economically and socially. But, the encouraging news is that a change is on the horizon. The more we work together to change the culture of fathering – as dads, as father figures, as family members, and as teammates – the more we can close this gap for our children and our country, and create the path for an incredibly bright future.