An exploration of the experiences of African American women who provide direct services to African American nonresidential fathers
Rollins, Latrice Sheree
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African American nonresidential fathers are amongst the most underserved populations of individuals in need of services. Since the majority of social service staff are women and programs are typically directed towards mothers, there is limited guidance in the literature on how professional female social service providers engage fathers and create therapeutic helping relationships with African American nonresidential fathers. There also needs to be more attention in the social work literature to issues of gender, race, socioeconomic status and other issues of power that impact helping relationships. Specifically, there is a gap in the literature regarding professional relationships between African American female professionals and African American male clients. This study addresses this gap in part by exploring how African American women who provide direct services to African American nonresidential fathers (fatherhood service providers) engage this population in services and overcome the various issues of power that impact helping relationships. The purpose of this study was to explore the professional experiences of African American women who are fatherhood service providers. There were three research questions addressed in this study: (1) What are the common motivations of African American women who are fatherhood service providers? (2) In what ways do gender, race, and socioeconomic status (power issues) affect their ability to create successful helping relationships with African American nonresidential fathers? and (3) How do African American women who are fatherhood service providers negotiate issues of power and authority in their professional relationships with African American nonresidential fathers? This critical qualitative research study was guided by womanist and postmodern theories. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirteen African American women who were fatherhood service providers in Atlanta, GA, Alexandria, LA, Baltimore, MD, Milwaukee, WI, New Orleans, LA, and Washington, D.C. Findings of this study indicated that African American women who were fatherhood service providers were motivated to provide direct services to African American nonresidential fathers in order to foster change and equity. The findings also indicated that gender, race, and socioeconomic status impacted helping relationships in various ways. Finally, the women indicated that issues of power and authority are negotiated by finding balance and meeting the fathers’ social and spatial needs.