"Figuring It Out for the Child" (FIOC) is an NIH funded, Resource and Referral (R&R) program designed to support unmarried, non-co-resident African American mothers and fathers having their first baby together. The FIOC program is distinctive on the national scene. Unlike many federally-sponsored “responsible fatherhood” initiatives, the FIOC program connects with the father and mother together throughout the project. Unlike many federally- and privately-sponsored marriage and relationship enhancement programs, no present or future marriage or enduring committed romantic relationship is presumed. As the Project Coordinator, I was responsible for overseeing all project operations, including coordinating families, Assessors, Mentors, sites and meeting, overseeing Project Assistants and Outreach & Recruitment staff; assisting with recruitment efforts of fathers; connecting with community agencies to represent the project; problem solving and coordinating with Mentors, Assessors and Resource & Referral Agent to retain participants; managing distribution and bookkeeping for participant incentives, petty cash, purchasing and reimbursement requests, and creation of all marketing and communication materials. Responsible for leading weekly Project Overview meetings and Outreach & Recruitment Team meetings attending Senior Staff meetings and cultivating m.o.u-based partnerships with community partners and resource agencies.
In order to broaden the efficacy of the research objectives, I identified two areas outside of, but corresponding with the central research focus for further engagement and publication. The primary portion of the work centered on developing a robust research and referral network of social service providers to serve as a necessary supplement to the coparenting counseling sessions whose effectiveness is essential to the success of the project. My particular area of research focused on the issues in developing an effective, efficient network of resource and referral providers for first time parents where there is a deficit in fatherhood services, as well as negative attitudes from the community towards many of the service providers due to poor prior service, over-promising/under-delivering of services, and unprofessional/racist customer service experiences. Also, identifying healthy food options as another critical issue facing the pregnant mothers in the study, and how the lack of healthy foods contributes to mood swings, and poor dietary habits that will affect the child’s educational development. To finance this portion this addition to the research, I secured an $8,000 grant from the Bons Secours Mission Fund to provide healthy food options to the parents during the coparenting sessions. Additionally the development of brief tutorials on the importance of healthy food alternatives for mothers living in areas identified as “food deserts” during selected sessions to measure the difference in attitudes toward greater food/health consciousness both before and after the baby is born. Engagement in this work resulted in a publication in the National Black Child Development Institute’s 2015 Annual Report: “Being Black Is Not A Risk Factor.”