VISTA Meghan serves with NewDay Services Fatherhood: EFFECT program in Denton, TX. They have successfully settled into their new facilities. Meghan was thrilled to have a stable launch pad from which to coordinate her outreach efforts and made sure to take advantage of it this month. She used the new opportunities presented by the excitement of new facilities to engage old contacts by encouraging them to come by and see what has changed in the program. Meghan has also been working on steadily building the relationship she has developed with two other community organizations, Our Daily Bread and the Salvation Army. This approach resulted in three very successful meetings with, producing a plethora of good ideas for collaboration as well as interagency goodwill. The first meeting was with the Community Liaison for Salvation Army. Meghan and the Fatherhood: EFFECT mentor-navigators were taken on a tour of the facility and given a detailed breakdown of the services they provide. On inclement weather days, they also provide presentations from the community and Fatherhood: EFFECT is being considered for participation. The second meeting was the team’s first outreach day at Our Daily Bread. Meghan and the mentor-navigators came away with a few referrals and were pleased to have kicked off the process of building recognition and trust with the ODB clientele. The third meeting was with the Denton County AgriLife office. They provide nutrition and SNAP benefit orientations free of charge and Meghan was interested in seeing how EFFECT could work with them. What came out of the meeting was the prospect of guest speakers during class as well as the idea for a charming dad and children bonding event–a family cooking class! Meghan can’t wait to see where this idea goes and hopes that it proves as fun and meaningful as past family events she has helped organize for the EFFECT team.
NewDay Services’ Community Outreach VISTA, Meghan Kajihara spearheaded the effort to secure Fatherhood EFFECT a spot at the Back to School Fairs for Northwest ISD and Lewisville ISD. The agency gained visibility with the other participating organizations as well as the 600+ clients in attendance and distributed 362 flyers. She also developed relationships with 8 new businesses and set up a successful meeting with the Denton County Community Supervision and Corrections Department. The work Meghan does with NewDay Services uplifts and educates parents so they can provide stable home environments for children, curtailing child abuse before it can ever begin and putting a stop to destructive, comorbid factors that hurt a child’s probability of escaping poverty. This month, while working on her organization’s data management pipeline, she discovered some interesting statistics that she thinks are a perfect indicator of how the Fatherhood EFFECT program changes the lives of fathers and their children. No single participant with a criminal record or who entered the program as part of their reentry from incarceration ever returned to prison after going through the class. That’s a recidivism rate of 0%. Not a single father who has ever been through the program has ever had another CPS case opened against them. Sixty percent (60%) of fathers see an improvement in their work lives. The lessons they take away from EFFECT stick and change their lives and the lives of their children.
In May, NewDay Services’ VISTA Meghan Kajihara saw in full force the value of sustainability in her activities with the Fatherhood EFFECT program. The archival system she devised for NewDay Services’ Fort Worth office has already proved useful and is being used to help collect information for fleshing out a full history of the organization. In the Denton office, she has been particularly excited by her project of assembling a “go bag” for more spontaneous outreach opportunities. Modular in design and easily packed, the assembled “go bag” has already served her well at a major resource fair, making set up and clean up quick and simple. This bag of materials can be used by anyone in their office and is mobile enough to be taken to smaller meetings with individuals or potential community partners. It has been very satisfying for Meghan to see how sustainability does not always exist as a grand undertaking or organizational restructuring, but as small, cumulative changes that make everyday operations run a little more smoothly.
NewDay Services for Children and Families’ Community Outreach VISTA, Meghan Kajihara, continues her work on the agency’s organizational archive and has made meaningful progress. She is nearly done transcribing the testimonies of fathers who have participated in the FOCUS and EFFECT programs. Having these materials transcribed and organized will help NewDay perform qualitative analyses of their programs and see how they have developed over time, as well as acting as a resource for creating outreach materials. She has also started assembling templates for class materials that may be stored in the OneDrive and easily adapted after she is gone. The word for the month of April in the Fatherhood EFFECT program was “data”. Meghan found herself inundated with it this month, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. From survey results to survey writing to newsletter analytics, she had many different streams of data to learn from. The whole North Texas Fatherhood EFFECT team has been carefully considering their survey methodology as well as the information they survey for, and Meghan feels proud and excited to be able to be a part of this discussion. During the last EFFECT class cycle, she kept track of the people sending them referrals and wrote a special newsletter just for them, announcing the summer session of the Fatherhood EFFECT class. 84% of the recipients opened the email and they have since received a flurry of referrals. At the very end of the month, she pitched her idea for an analysis of class attendance data to get a better understanding of when and why participants may start to drop off, and what they can change to improve retention. Her supervisor was very receptive to the idea and she can’t wait to get started on it.
This month, Meghan spent quite a bit of time cleaning up her organization’s contact lists, adding new contacts, and training to use her organization’s Customer Relations Management (CRM) software. The effort is already paying off. Keeping track of outreaches has been simplified through access to the software and Meghan has found that it is much easier to keep NewDay’s work in the minds of community partners. As a result of the streamlined outreach with the CRM software, old contacts have reconnected and even sent referrals to the agency. NewDay has reawakened its engagement with Denton ISD and Child Protective Services and Denton County case workers are more engaged than ever. Late in the month, Meghan was gratified to see that some of her older work, the “Dadjectives” project, continues to pay dividends. The design, constructed from the compiled responses of EFFECT program participants, made for an eye-catching display at the Texas Fatherhood Summit in Austin. Program officers from Prevention and Early Intervention were reportedly impressed by the emotional growth demonstrated by EFFECT participants and Meghan is proud that her work was a part of that effort.
For Meghan, this month has been a month of progress manifesting in small but no less meaningful ways. Her word cloud diagrams, built from feedback provided by program participants, have proved to be compelling ways of visually demonstrating the emotional growth experienced by fathers in the Fatherhood EFFECT program. One of these word clouds is now featured prominently on NewDay Services’ recently-revamped website under the Fatherhood tab. The adjectives (or “dadjectives”, as Meghan has taken to calling them) were gathered from responses to the question, “How do you feel about being a father now that you have taken this class?” The most prominent answer among the cloud of “dadjectives” was “confident”, followed closely by “strengthened” and “loving”. It was deeply affirming for her to see that even small efforts during difficult times can help build strong, confident, loving families.
Because the Fatherhood EFFECT program is very new to Denton County, it is always actively seeking referrals of fathers to its parenting classes. To further the program’s reach into the surrounding areas, VISTA Meghan Kajihara has focused on contacting groups in the communities of Lewisville and Sanger. The initial outreach Meghan made to churches and Parent-Teacher associations in these towns has been warm and productive, resulting in Fatherhood EFFECT’s mentor-navigators being put on the agenda to speak at 3 PTA meetings in different school districts. In addition to referrals already received from CPS, Meghan’s efforts to engage Fatherhood EFFECT directly with parent communities will improve their capacity to receive self-referrals from parents who may be in need of such services but do not know where to turn for help.