How much does it cost a school to implement a father involvement program? You might be surprised.

You may have heard of the group Dads of Great Students (D.O.G.S.), which sometimes goes by the name Watch DOGS. I covered it almost exactly a year ago. This is a program that brings in “fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, uncles, and other father figures who volunteer to serve at least one day a year in a variety of school activities as assigned by the school principal or other administrator.” Here is a list of just a few of the things they do:

  • Reading to children in the school library or in class
  • Helping students with arts and crafts
  • Helping students study via flash cards and other cooperative study activities
  • Engaging with and providing guidance to students during lunch or other break periods
  • Assisting in loading/unloading buses
  • Being a monitor in the hall and at recess
  • Just being a positive part of children’s lives.

Let’s remember that many of these students, for one reason or another, are not growing up with dads in their lives, which can be a tremendous loss in more ways than simply having more stability, structure, and adult guidance for children, having dads in particular in the home helps in many other ways.

So how much does a program like Watch D.O.G.S. cost? This USA Today article tells us:

The Watch D.O.G.S. program costs each school $365 the first year, with $195 for each year after that. In most cases, the individual schools cover the costs, although the district allocates funds to schools with large percentages of low-income students for parent-engagement programs such as Watch D.O.G.S.

$365 a year – for just the first year – and nearly half that cost for every year after. That’s nothing, even to a small-town school district. How much is it worth for kids to have a positive male role-model in their lives? And for the activists out there, how much is it worth to have a group promoting the idea that men can be nurturing to children, just as women can?

Folks, to a lot of kids, that’s priceless. The article continues:

Greg Whittington, 64, a medical researcher with the University of Louisville, said the importance of male role models became apparent to him early in his career when he served as director of a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed delinquents and observed a pattern among clients — most lacked positive male guidance…Dr. Bryan Carter, a pediatric psychologist at Kosair Children’s Hospital, said programs like Watch D.O.G.S. could be especially helpful for the behavioral development of young boys because boys seem to respond differently to men than women. Many boys are “wired” to rebel against mothers and other female authority figures, which he said could be problematic in a school setting, where the majority of teachers and administrators tend to be females. It’s an issue frequently seen in Carter’s field, he said, although experts don’t completely understand why.

I would characterize it differently than simply an “impulse to rebel against women.” It’s really quite simple: boys and girls are different. Men know what it is like to be a boy, whereas women – by and large – do not. They may know what it is like to care about a boy as a grown woman, but actually relating to boys is different. And the same holds true for men vis-a-vis girls as well.

So what happens when every adult role-model a boy interacts with and answers to is someone who has a little more trouble relating to him? He’s going to be much more likely to eventually feel misunderstood, stifled, and so forth. This can lead to both academic and discipline problems, which in turn feed into and reinforce each other.

And that’s why having positive male role-models is so important in boys’ lives. It’s really not rocket science. But if you want a little more of the science end of it, I strongly suggest Teaching the Male Brain by child psychologist Dr. Abigail Norfleet James and Father and Child Reunion by Dr. Warren Farrell.

It’s amazing when people look at a small cost like $365 and say “we don’t have the money for these kinds of programs.” Here’s a simple little maxim: at the end of the day, we fund what we care about.

Visit the Watch D.O.G.S. website here.

[Ed. note: this post originally appeared at A Voice for Male Students.]

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