Our mission at IFI is to engage Fathers in the lives of their children.


The Illinois Fatherhood Initiative (IFI) is the country’s first state-wide non-profit fatherhood organization. Founded in 1997, the IFI provides resources and programming to help Dads take an active role in the education of their children. Some 24 million children – 1.1 million in Illinois alone – are growing up in fatherless homes. The IFI was founded to address the increasing problem of father absence in society.


Every year, the IFI hosts a fancy dinner to celebrate twelve essay finalists and their Dads, gathered from nearly 3,000 stories written by students from across Illinois. We’ve been honoring Dads for decades, collecting nearly a half million essays so far. As a non-profit organization, 100% of who we are and what we do is a result of volunteers. We are so proud and thankful for their dedication.

We believe that every child deserves to grow up with a loving, caring, and involved Dad.


We value the relationships with private, non-profit, and governmental organizations that create our strategic IFI alliances. These groups and individuals support our efforts to deliver father-child programs and services. And, by harnessing and unleashing the energy of super diverse teams of volunteers, we are determined to position Illinois as one of the country’s leading advocates for fun and responsible fathering. 


Every year, IFI collects almost 3,000 stories about Fathers written by students from all over Illinois. Over the years, our organization has collected almost half a million essays. And… these stories are important not only because they celebrate dads. It’s also because it’s from a child’s voice. We love being an organization that delivers father-child service.

Programs & Services

About Boot Camp

Boot Camp For New Dads
Boot Camp for New Dads is a unique father-to-father, hospital based and community-based workshops that inspires and equips men of different economic levels, ages and cultures to become confidently engaged with their infants, support their mates and personally navigate their transformation into dads. In the weeks before their new baby arrives, men attend Boot Camp workshops to better prepare themselves to be the father their newborns need.  As you may imagine, these workshops – taught by other experienced fathers – are especially valuable to those new fathers who did not have a strong male role model growing up.  Currently, about 20 hospitals in Illinois have participated in BCND.

IFI is hoping to add a dozen more Boot Camp locations in the coming year.  To recommend a hospital or for more information, click here.

About Watch D.O.G.S.

WATCH D.O.G.S.® is the safe school initiative of the National Center for Fathering that involves fathers and father figures to help create a more safe and secure learning environment in our nation’s schools.

Who are WATCH D.O.G.S.®?  Fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, uncles, and other father figures who volunteer to serve at least one day each year in a variety of school activities as assigned by the school principal or other administrator.   Wearing their official WATCH D.O.G.S.® badge or T-shirt, these men help kids off the bus, go out for recess, open juice boxes at lunch, do flashcards, etc.  We’ve found many of these dads had never even set foot in their children’s schools before!

 School administrators and dads both agree WATCH D.O.G.S.® is a winner:

  •  79% of principals surveyed strongly agreed or agreed that “The WATCH D.O.G.S.® program has made a significant contribution to the safety of our school.”
  • 96% of dads who completed our End-of-Day Survey strongly agreed or agreed that their “experience as a

WATCH D.O.G.S.® volunteer was rewarding” and they would “want to do something like this again.”

IFI is hoping to dramatically expand the number of schools that participate in the WATCH D.O.G.S.® program. To get your school involved or for more information, click here.