Figuring It Out For The Child

Figuring It Out for the Child (FIOC) is a unique Resource and Referral (R&R) program designed to support unmarried, non-co-resident African American mothers and fathers having their first baby together. The FIOC program is distinctive on the national scene.  Unlike many federally-sponsored “responsible fatherhood” initiatives, the FIOC program connects with the father and mother together throughout the project.  Unlike many federally- and privately-sponsored marriage and relationship enhancement programs, no present or future marriage or enduring committed romantic relationship is presumed. At the point of joining the study, fathers and mothers are paired with a Resource & Referral Specialist who remains available to them from the pregnancy through the child’s first birthday. She helps connect families to existing agencies, programs and community resources, with specific focus on those the parents themselves see as being most needed. She continues to check in periodically with families after the baby has been born, to assure that all foreseen and unforeseen needs are being tended to.

Participation also involves registering in a research project, sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Development, for which the parents are paid. Mothers and fathers are interviewed together at three different times:

1) First, prior to receiving community resources

2) Next, when the baby is 3 months old

3) Finally, around the time of the child’s first birthday, when baby is 12 months old

Families who successfully complete all 3 sets of interviews receive a total of $300 in gift cards ($150 for mother and $150 for father).

In addition to receiving gift cards and community resource referrals, families are entered in a random drawing offering them an opportunity to take part in a set of 7 workshops. These Mentor-led workshops are designed to help parents learn ways to work together as they raise their child. As with the R&R program and research project, fathers and mothers must both be agreeable to take part in workshops. Half of the families in the FIOC Resource & Referral Program will be randomly chosen and offered the workshops.

All services are free to families; there are no fees, and the R&R specialist may be called upon as often as needed for assistance. In addition to the incentives offered for research project participation, healthy snacks are provided and transportation assistance is available if needed.  Enrollment is now open, and area families living in south St. Petersburg, FL, are encouraged to contact the program office to learn more about registering to take part.


  • At least one parent must be African-American
  • The couple must be unmarried and having their first child together
  • Baby’s due date should be at least 1 month away

Contact Us

For more information or to register for the program, please contact:

Ms. Serina Lewis, Project Coordination Assistant

To make a referral, please contact:
Ms. Mari Kittle, Recruitment

To volunteer as a Project or Research Assistant, please contact:
Dr. Yana Sirotkin, Research Coordinator

For other questions, please contact:
Dr. James McHale, Project Director & Principal Investigator

Community Partners

Funded by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD), Figuring It Out for The Child is a community-based project seven years in the planning. Senior African American leaders from the health and human service and faith-based communities in St. Petersburg were closely involved in planning and shaping the FIOC project.

A pilot study, funded initially by the Juvenile Welfare Board and subsequently by the Brady Education Foundation, ran from 2012-2014 and further set the stage for the current project, Randomized Controlled Trial of Prenatal Coparenting Intervention for African American Fragile Families (R01 HD082211) being sponsored by the NICHD.

Families learn of the project from many partnering agencies that serve expectant parents, among them the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County’s Healthy Families programs, the St. Petersburg Healthy Start Federal Project sponsored by All Children’s Hospital, the NEXT STEPP Center, and numerous other faith-based and health and human service partners. All project outreach, clinical and administrative activities are coordinated through the Figuring It Out for the Child Project Office, 100 5th Avenue South, Building ONE, Suite 200 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Our Community Partners

Mt. Zion Human Services, Inc.
Project Liaison Angela (Ms. Peache) Merck

One of the FIOC project’s performance sites is Mt Zion Human Services, Inc. a faith-based 501c3 organization founded in 1983 to help children, individuals and families overcome their material circumstances to achieve their fullest potential.

Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church
The Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church is involved in FIOC outreach efforts.

St. Petersburg Healthy Start Federal Project
Project Liaison Kimberly Brown-Williams
The St. Petersburg Healthy Start Federal Project is sponsored by All Children’s Hospital, another of FIOC’s performance sites. The St. Petersburg Healthy Start Federal Project is part of the national Healthy Start Initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Human Resources and Services Administration.

Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County
Project Liaison Ray Hensley
The Department of Health in Pinellas County, which brings support and care to pregnant women, infants and their families through Home Visiting programs that provide education and counseling, is a partner in FIOC outreach efforts.

Project Liaison Carole Alexander
The Next STEPP Life Center, a nonprofit Christian organization offering life-affirming solutions to women, men and families facing unintended pregnancy as well as resources to pregnant and parenting women and their families, is the home of FIOC’s third performance site at 1221 22nd St S in St. Petersburg. Next STEPP also assists with FIOC outreach efforts.

Make A Referral

To be eligible for the study, the child’s father must be interested in being involved with the baby, and the child’s mother must be agreeable to include, and participate in sessions together, with the father. If you know of an unmarried African American father and mother who are expecting their first child together and meet these qualifications, and would like to help them to receive additional information about the project, please contact Ms. Mari Kittle (ideally, when the parent or parents are with you).  Please be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Both parents’ names and ages
  • Current month/trimester of mother’s pregnancy
  • Contact information for at least one, and ideally both, parents
  • (If the parents are not with you when you call), best time for contact

To make a referral, please contact:
Ms. Mari Kittle

Project Mentors

  • Mari Kittle
  • Eric Armstrong
  • Christopher Davis
  • Teresa Gerard
  • Florence Guillet
  • Pierre Guillett
  • Laverne Johnson
  • Serina Lewis
  • Naisha Mizell
  • Rashid Mizell
  • James Oliver
  • Princess Denise Wright

Project Staff


  • James McHale, Principal Investigator and Project Director
  • Carla Stover, Co-Principal Investigator
  • Michael Coovert, Lead Data Analyst
  • Ron Seifer, Brown University, Senior Consultant
  • Yana Sirotkin, Study/Research Coordinator
  • Caylen Holmes, Quality Assurance Analyst Supervisor
  • Selin Salman-Engin, Fidelity and Data Consultant
  • Linda Kraus, Consultant, Accountability and Deliverables
  • Lisa Zawistowski, Consultant, Research Integrity and Compliance


  • Serina Lewis, Project Coordination Assistant
  • Mari Kittle, Project Recruitment and Resource Coordinator
  • Marshall Lester Jr., Project Assistant


  • Eric Armstrong, Intake and Assessment
  • Rashid Mizell, Intake and Assessment
  • Florence Guillet, Intake and Assessment
  • Teresa Girard, Intake and Assessment
  • Christopher Ellison, Assessor
  • Cathline Dilworth, Resource and Referral Navigator
  • Angela (Ms. Peaches) Merck, Resource and Referral Navigator


  • Carla Stover, Project Safety Officer
  • Vikki Gaskin-Butler, Senior Clinician
  • Katherine McKay, Clinical Supervisor
  • Lisa Negrini, Clinical Supervisor
  • Anne Menard, Washington, D.C., Senior IPV and Safety Consultant


  • Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, Washington, D.C.
  • Wendy Loomas, Oakland, CA
  • Bonnie Rosendale, Tallahassee, FL


  • Erica Coates
  • Shavon Gibson
  • Jessi Smith
  • Pieter Wiemken
  • Nicholas D’Souza
  • Selena Vigue