Dads United for Parenting (D-UP)

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a finalist.

Dads United for Parenting (D-UP)

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

A project of the Midtown Community Court, D-UP is a comprehensive, 14-session nurturing fatherhood program, which provides non-custodial fathers with the resources needed to become financially stable and emotionally engaged with their children. The program’s objectives are accomplished through job training, and group and individual counseling.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

D-UP was designed to address the large number of absent fathers in New York City who do not provide sufficient financial and emotional support to their children. There are many barriers that impede emotional and financial engagement, including lack of education, unemployment, anger, substance abuse, prior abandonment, or prior abuse. Children who are raised in homes without fathers have a higher rate of unemployment and incarceration, as well as lower levels of academic achievement. By offering job-training and a nurturing fatherhood curriculum, D-UP aims to break this cycle.
About You
Midtown Community Court (a project of the Fund for the City of New York/Center for Court Innovation)
Section 1: You
First Name


Last Name



Midtown Community Court (a project of the Fund for the City of New York/Center for Court Innovation)


, NY

Section 2: Your Organization
Organization Name

Midtown Community Court (a project of the Fund for the City of New York/Center for Court Innovation)

Organization Phone


Organization Address

314 West 54th Street, New York, New York 10019

Organization Country

, NY

Your idea
Country and state your work focuses on

, NY

What makes your idea unique?

Dads United for Parenting (D-UP) was created to tackle the profound social and family problems that stem from absent fathers. Studies have demonstrated that children who grow up in fatherless homes are more likely to drop out of school, become incarcerated, and struggle with unemployment. While a number of support groups exist for women and mothers, there are relatively few fatherhood programs; D-UP fills this void. Because many non-custodial fathers struggle to find the stable employment needed to financially support their children, D-UP works directly with the Midtown Community Court’s onsite job-training program. It is this combination of job training and a nurturing fatherhood curriculum that makes D-UP unique. Participants receive job skills training, learn how to create a resume and interview effectively, and work with an onsite job developer to find employment. At the same time, D-UP participants engage in a comprehensive parent education curriculum, which explores child safety and developmental needs, communication, structure, and effective discipline. To help participants increase their emotional engagement with their children, D-UP also coordinates numerous events and outings, giving participants the opportunity to spend quality time with their children. A community educator from a local museum also teaches participants about art and encourages them to take advantage of the wonderful array of cultural opportunities that exist in New York City with their children. Finally, D-UP hosts guest speakers who lead program sessions on a variety of issues, including navigation of the family court system, child custody and visitation issues, and other legal issues.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

Since the program began in 2007, D-UP has impacted the lives of more than 200 non-custodial fathers. Through their involvement in the program, several fathers have found employment and are now able to financially support their children; some participating fathers were also selected to participate in a paid internship program designed to provide job skills that could lead to full-time employment. In addition, most of the fathers who have participated in D-UP have enhanced their emotional engagement with their children; some were even awarded visitation privileges.


In an effort to ensure that participants do not view the provision of financial support to their children as an empty obligation, D-UP seeks to increase participating fathers’ emotional engagement with their children. The program’s underlying idea is simple – fathers who are emotionally invested in their children are more motivated to provide financial support to their children. The program’s success is achieved through the maintenance of high levels of job placement and participant retention. The Midtown Community Court’s job-training staff and fatherhood program staff work collaboratively with participants to help them find employment; at the same time, staff work to increase program retention through the use of incentives such as stipends, travel reimbursements, and free meals. Because employment is critical to participants’ ability to support their children, the current state of the economy is a challenge to helping our participants find work.


Through D-UP, the Midtown Community Court aims to provide the most effective and comprehensive nurturing fatherhood program in New York City, hopefully serving as a model for other programs. By combining job training with a nurturing fatherhood curriculum, D-UP aims to ensure that the majority of program participants find employment, contribute to their children’s financial security, and become emotionally involved in their children’s lives.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Year 1 - In the first year, program staff would like to: (1) develop a website to promote the D-UP program; (2) increase program enrollment by 10%; and (3) raise additional funds for paid internships and family outings. Year 2 - In the second year, program staff would like to: (1) increase program retention; (2) enhance program enrollment by an additional 5%; and (3) start a campaign to promote awareness of fatherhood issues around New York City. Year 3 - In the third year, program staff would like to: (1) enhance program enrollment by an additional 10%; and (2) expand the program’s job-training component.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Dads United for Parenting faces two primary challenges – program participant retention and limited staffing resources. First, as D-UP does not provide participants with income during their involvement in the program, maintaining a high level of participant retention remains a challenge. Funding for a paid internship and other financial incentives (e.g., weekly travel reimbursements, meals, recreational family activities) would help to increase the program’s participant retention level. Second, D-UP currently has only two full-time staff members. For the program to expand, additional staffing resources would be required.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

In what country?

, NY

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Midtown Community Court (a project of the Fund for the City of New York/Center for Court Innovation)

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Partnerships continue to be crucial to the success of D-UP. The program has been able to increase its enrollment through NGO and government partnerships. Currently, the program recruits fathers from a variety of sources, including local non-profit organizations, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, the New York State Division of Parole, New York City’s family courts, and City jails. Additionally, our job-training program partners with local businesses to place D-UP participants in both full- and part-time paid positions. The program also receives food, clothing, and other donations from local businesses and community partners. For example, selected fathers received tickets to a Broadway show that were donated by a local community organization. Lastly, partnerships with local agencies provide the program with guest speakers for educational sessions.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

The three most important actions needed to grow D-UP are: (1) an expansion of awareness of the need for fatherhood programs like D-UP in New York City; (2) the implementation of a paid internship component in the program; and (3) the strengthening of participant retention incentives. First, it is important for the community to recognize the important role that nurturing fathers play in their children’s lives. To increase public awareness, program staff would spearhead a borough-wide campaign to publicize fatherhood services and D-UP. Second, program staff believe it is necessary to incorporate a paid internship program into D-UP’s curriculum. Fathers who are earning income during program participation will be more likely to remain in the program and ultimately contribute financially and emotionally to the support of their children. Furthermore, paid internships could lead to permanent full-time employment for some program participants. Third, it is necessary to provide additional incentives to participating fathers in order to maintain a high level of participant retention. For example, providing participants with weekly transportation costs allows many fathers who would otherwise be unable to participate in the program to continue to regularly attend program sessions.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

D-UP operates onsite at the Midtown Community Court. The Midtown Community Court targets quality-of-life offenses, such as prostitution, illegal vending, graffiti, shoplifting, farebeating and vandalism. Typically in these cases, judges are forced to choose between a few days of jail time and nothing at all—sentences that fail to impress the victim, the community and the defendants that these offenses are taken seriously. In contrast, the Midtown Community Court sentences low-level offenders to pay back the neighborhood through community service, while at the same time offering them help with problems that often underlie criminal behavior. Many of the defendants who come through the court are unemployed; in response, Midtown created an onsite job-training program. Because most of the participants in the job-training program were non-custodial fathers, Midtown staff decided to create a comprehensive fatherhood program that would complement existing job training services. Having an array of onsite comprehensive services fits within Midtown’s mission of ensuring that low-level offenders pay back the neighborhood through community service while they receive help with problems that underlie their criminal behavior.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Jeff Hobbs, the Midtown Community Court’s deputy project director, is the social innovator behind D-UP. Mr. Hobbs has been at the Midtown Community Court since its inception in 1993 and is a passionate community advocate. When Midtown’s project director approached him about the possibility of creating a fatherhood program that would complement Midtown’s onsite job training program, Mr. Hobbs was intrigued. However, he was also hesitant about the program; he was unsure whether many fathers would be interested in participation, given many fathers’ reluctance to speak openly about family and emotional issues. Mr. Hobbs, who leads the program and refers to it as “steel sharpening steel”, has been pleasantly surprised to find that not only do men want a program like D-UP, but many are adamant about needing such a program. A wise father himself, Mr. Hobbs leads these men by example and helps them see the joy and tremendous responsibility of fatherhood.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer