Fatherhood Initiative

County Executive Astorino's Fatherhood Initiative targets the full spectrum of fathers, from those who are present in the home to those who are not. Programs range from career counseling and job placement assistance to simply creating more opportunities for dads and families to spend time together.

#DadBeThere digital bookletThe #DadBeThere digital brochure explains how Astorino's Fatherhood Initiative is helping fathers, especially noncustodial dads, live up to their responsibilities as parents. View the brochure.

4th Annual New York Fathering Conference
The 4th Annual New York Fathering Conference is now accepting workshop proposals for its summit at the Westchester County Center in White Plains on April 3, 2018. The theme of this year’s event is “Learn Everywhere, Every Day.”

 Download, complete and submit a proposal by e-mail to by Wednesday, Nov. 22.

 The Program Committee for the New York Fathering Conference will select professionals who work directly with fathers, who write about fathers, or who influence policies. Workshop proposals this year should focus on areas related to education, literacy and other related community initiatives that are available to families. 

 Examples of potential workshops could include, but are not limited to:

  • Engaging dads in child development
  • Fostering dads’ participation with schools
  • Developing strategies for dads and kids to learn together
  • Creating reading programs that work
  • Participating in everyday activities that promote literacy
  • Teaching dads and kids to read
  • Promoting literacy at work and moving beyond the GED

 Each workshop will be approximately 90 minutes and should give service providers and/or dads information, interaction and tools that they can bring back their practices and communities.

For more information, contact Joseph D. Kenner, Deputy Commissioner of Social Services, at .


Mission and Goal

Government is there when families need help. Society operates best when families are strongest. When a dad is present and positively engaged with his family, it's good for moms and good for kids. And if the county can be a catalyst for strengthening the role dads can play in their families, then this may be the most important role the county ever plays.

The goal of the county's fatherhood initiative is to reach all dads, from those who are present in the home to those who have abandoned their children. The county's approach is that every dad could use a hand.


Unfortunately, over the course of the past 50 years, the critically important role of the father in the family has been diminished. There are lots of reasons. But what can't be debated are the consequences.

• Today, half of all children in the United States are born to single mothers, and that number is even higher in minority communities.

• Studies show that children in father-absent homes are more likely to: live in poverty, under perform in school, suffer child abuse, get involved in drugs and alcohol, get in trouble with the law, and get pregnant.

• 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological dad in the home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

• Nearly 50,000 children in Westchester County live with a single mother, with no father present.

• Over a third of these children, or about 16,000, live below the poverty level.

Two-Pronged Approach

On one end of the spectrum, the plan is to work with community agencies to sponsor activities around sports, the arts and community service, where dads can be with their kids and other dads. Anything a child does with his or her dad can be special – it can be as simple as reading a book together. It is also important to create opportunities for dads to talk to other dads. Talking things over is not a big male trait. Women do it well. Men not so well. But that's not to say men can't improve, if given the right opportunities.

On the other side of the spectrum, the county's Department of Social Services has developed the Westchester County R.E.A.L. (Responsible. Employed. Active. Loving.) parenting Pilot for Stronger Families. The program is designed to work with unemployed and underemployed men to improve their job skills and prospects and to help ensure that they are meeting their financial responsibilities to their families to the best of their ability.

R.E.A.L. Parenting for Stronger Families

R.E.A.L. ParentingThe county's Department of Social Services has developed the Westchester County R.E.A.L. (Responsible. Employed. Active. Loving.) Parenting Pilot for Stronger Families.

The goal of this project is to engage noncustodial parents who are unemployed or underemployed and are behind on their monthly child support obligations.

Eligible fathers will be offered the opportunity to participate in programs targeted to such areas as:



• Child support information/ state- assigned arrears reduction opportunities

• Job seeking and job retention services

• Information on legal barriers

• Parenting curriculum

• Financial planning

In addition, a DSS "Fatherhood Navigator" will work one-on-one with each of the fathers in the program. Open the flier.

Watch these related videos:

The R.E.A.L. Parenting Program

A R.E.A.L. parent testimony

To learn more and to see if you may qualify, contact Reginald Lockhart by phone at (914) 995-5574 or by e-mail at .

R.E.A.L. Parenting FAQs

Q: “What is the Westchester County R.E.A.L. Parenting Pilot for Stronger Families?”
A: The R.E.A.L. Parenting Pilot for Stronger Families is a program for eligible non-custodial parents (NCPs) to reduce their past-due child support they owe to the government by taking part in a parenting and employment program. This past-due child support debt, called DSS arrears, is owed to the government because the state supported the family while the dependent child(ren) on a child support case were on Temporary Assistance.

Q: “I received a notice about participating in the Westchester County R.E.A.L. Parenting Pilot for reducing my DSS child support arrears, what do I need to do?”
A: You will need to contact the Program Coordinator identified on the notice. You may reach the Program Coordinator, Reginald Lockhart at (914) 995-5574.

Q: “What are the next steps if I qualify for the R.E.A.L. Parenting Pilot?”
A: If you qualify for the R.E.A.L. Pilot you will need to enter into a participation agreement with Westchester County to reduce your state-owed child support arrears as you complete the three stated milestones. The Program Coordinator will take you through the specific details of the R.E.A.L. pilot. You may reach the Program Coordinator, Reginald Lockhart (914) 995-5574.

Q: “I heard about a pilot program in Westchester County for reducing my past-due child support arrears. How can I participate?”
A: If you have not received a notice from the R.E.A.L. Parenting Pilot Program Coordinator, it may mean that you do not meet the eligibility requirements for participation in the program. Please contact the Westchester County R.E.A.L. Pilot Program Coordinator, Reginald Lockhart (914) 995-5574.

Q: “Can I reduce my child support arrears owed directly to the Custodial Parent?”
A: This pilot is only for DSS arrears.

Note: Noncustodial mothers may also be eligible.

Social Media

To help promote the important role of the father, County Executive Astorino launched a #DadBeThere campaign, which encourages the public to submit texts, photos or videos on social media using the hashtag #DadBeThere. The idea is to help celebrate dads every day, as well as to help connect local dads both online and throughout the community.

Connect with Westchester County via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Fathering Conference 2017 programThird Annual New York Fathering Conference Program
The Third Annual New York Fathering Conference will be held at the Westchester County Center in White Plains on April 4, 2017. The theme this year is “Ready to Work: Navigating Home, Job and Community.”

Read more about the days events in the program.

If you would like information about this annual event, send an e-mail to .



dbtReadyFlierReady to Work: Navigating Home, Job and  Community
The 3rd Annual New York Fathering Conference will be held at the Westchester County Center in White Plains on April 4, 2017. The theme this year is “Ready to Work: Navigating Home, Job and Community.”

The keynote speaker will be Mike Brady, president and CEO of Greyston, a leading social enterprise whose world-renowned Greyston Bakery provides employment opportunities that help lift people out of poverty. Additionally, twenty-one workshops will cover a broad spectrum of topics, such as job retraining, hiring trends, navigating government programs, men’s health and wellness, parenting skills, and ways to better engage fathers.

If you would like information about this annual event, send an e-mail to .



Dads Take Your Child To School DayDads Take Your Child to School
The first day of school is just around the corner. Dads should remember that kids do better in school when you are involved. Check with your child's school if activities are planned for this event.

The flier is available in English and Spanish.

We encourage school leaders and administrators to join the "Dads Take Your Child to School" effort. Read more about the program and how to sign-up.



The Sharing ShelfOperation Backpack
Westchester County’s Department of Social Services (DSS) teamed up with The Sharing Shelf, a program of Family Services of Westchester to collect and distribute school supplies for children in need. The Sharing Shelf will fill upwards of 1,000 backpacks this year, ranging from kindergarten to high school.
“We’ve seen an increase in demand each summer for new school supplies and backpacks. We need the community’s support to make a positive difference in the lives of local children, many of who would otherwise start school without the basics,” said Deborah Blatt, Director of The Sharing Shelf. DSS assisted once again this year by asking for donations from school supplies, backpacks, and/or monetary contributions to volunteers to help pack the backpacks. This year was another successful collaboration between DSS and the Sharing Shelf in helping needy children be prepared and ready to learn at the start of the new school year.



#DadBeThere Logo Design Contest
What does #DadBeThere mean to you? As part of his ongoing fatherhood initiative, County Executive Rob Astorino has initiated a design contest aimed at getting fathers and children to spend quality time together. In this case, the mission is to create a logo that illustrates what it means – to them – for a dad to be there for his kids. The winning design will be featured as part of the county’s Fathering Conference on April 4, 2017. Get the complete details.



April 5, 2016: Taking Care of Business: Equipping Dads for Parenting, Employment and Wellness
The Second Annual New York Fathering Conference, "Taking Care of Business: Equipping Dads for Parenting, Employment and Wellness," was held at the Westchester County Center. The goal of the conference was to inspire, educate and challenge attendees to improve services and programs for fathers, particularly in the areas of parenting, employment and wellness. Read the program for all that was covered.

The event featured 21 great workshops in which fathers and practitioners gained valuable insight on issues such as Employment, Navigating Government Systems, Men's Health and Wellness, Parenting and Engaging Dads.

Special guest speakers included Chef Jeff Henderson, Food Network; Dr. Ron Mincy, Columbia University; and Kenneth Braswell, Fathers, Inc. Read the 2016 New York Father Conference program.

Event news coverage and photos of the 2nd annual fathering conference
Second annual fatherhood conference

Here's just one photo from the event, but you can take a look at all our photos on Facebook.





Westchester County wants to help low-income fathers who are behind in their child support payments. Officials are offering debt forgiveness as an incentive for finding employment and paying child support.

A New Strategy for Collecting Child Support: Debt Forgiveness, printed from

Rebuilding The Family: Westchester County’s R.E.A.L. Parenting Program

Be involved in your child's life – and make it fun. A variety of resources are available for dads and families.

DadBeThere digital booklet

Department of Social Services


News Coverage of the Third Annual Fathering Conference, April 5, 2017

Watch clip from News12: Westchester incentivizes dads to stick around.

• Watch clip from News12: Annual Father Confernce held at County Center.

• Watch clip from FiOS1 News: 3rd annual New York Fathering Conference held in White Plains.


video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player


Video announcement for second annual conference held April 5, 2016
Watch County Executive Astorino's announcement of the The Second Annual New York Fathering Conference, "Taking Care of Business: Equipping Dads for Parenting, Employment and Wellness."

Media Coverage

News12 Westchester: Program gives second chance to dads who didn’t pay state-owed child support




Joseph D. Kenner, Deputy Commissioner
Westchester County Department of Social Services

Reginald Lockhart, Fatherhood Navigator

Office: (914) 995-5574