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Recruiting and retaining men from any culture in a family services program or entity that has traditionally served women and children can, at best, be considered a token gesture. Admittedly, there are many emotions surrounding the topic of how to get men to do what they are “supposed to do!” Agencies designed to serve men are scarce, and professionals dedicated to understanding male issues are rare commodities. In addition, men do not tend to line up for services delivered by organizations, agencies, counselors, group therapists, marriage educators and/or ministers for family strengthening. Marriage educators tend to have many anecdotes about women dragging their male partners to workshops or classes.

Recently, initiatives have been created by the federal government to create culturally sensitive family strengthening programs. Prior to these initiatives, African Americans tended to be excluded from involvement in family strengthening activities. According to practitioners who work directly with African Americans, this pattern has left many African American men feeling unwanted, left out, misunderstood, forgotten and suspicious of social services agencies.

Practitioners often hear that African American men view social services policies as specifically designed to separate them from their children and families. This results in an alienation from society and a sense of frustration and helplessness. Thus, it is necessary for practitioners to further understand the social context of the African American male as they encounter the task of engaging African American men in healthy marriage services.

This Tip Sheet is written by an African American healthy marriage practitioner and expert in the field; it is intended for practitioners who would like to engage African American men in their healthy marriage programs. (Author abstract)