January 01, 2015

Do Fatherhood Programs Work? Four Programs to Watch

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

The Fatherhood Research and Practice Network, a collaboration between Temple University and Denver’s Center for Policy Research, has awarded $350,000 to four projects that will evaluate fatherhood programs in order to determine how to best serve low-income fathers. Selected from an initial group of 71 proposals, the projects are in Goldsboro, North Carolina; Baltimore; Chicago and Ohio. 

Fatherhood programs provide services to help dads become more involved in their children’s lives and assist them in removing barriers that may prevent them from doing so. They often serve low-income, non-resident or minority fathers. The four FRPN funded projects will examine the effectiveness of specific fatherhood programs and services and include: 

Circle of Parents – Goldsboro, N.C.

A research-practice partnership between Paul Lanier at the University of North Carolina School of Social Work, and the Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency (WAGES) in Goldsboro. The primary purpose is to test the impact of Circle of Parents, a peer support network, on the involvement of 200 fathers of young children receiving Head Start/Early Head Start services. 

Developing All Dads for Manhood and Parenting – Baltimore, MD

The Center for Urban Families and lead researcher Bright Sarfo of Columbia University will test the effectiveness of “Developing All Dads for Manhood and Parenting” among 140 low-income, African-American fathers. The study will explore how participation is associated with changes in paternal involvement and economic security; if changes in fathers’ parental behaviors can be correlated to childhood wellbeing; and how individual characteristics impact the curriculum’s effects on fatherhood behavior and childhood wellbeing. 

The Home Visiting for Fathers Study – Chicago, IL 

Conducted by University of Denver’s Jennifer Bellamy in collaboration with Metropolitan Family Services and four other Chicago-based programs, the study includes a group of 200 fathers and 200 mothers participating in Dads Matter (a home visiting service enhancement). The study will examine how certain factors may boost or dampen efforts to better serve fathers in home visiting programs such as employees’ attitudes about working with fathers, and the attitudes of mothers and fathers about fathers’ participation in home visiting. 

The Ridge Project – Ohio 

Led by Baylor University researchers, in collaboration with Ohio’s Ridge Project Inc., a family strengthening services program, this study includes 400 low-income fathers drawn from nine cities—Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Findlay, Lima, McClure, Toledo and Wooster—who will attend a 20-hour program over five weeks. Researchers will analyze improvement over time in father-child relationship quality.

“Research shows that nonresident fathers can positively influence their children’s lives,” said Jay Fagan, co-director of the FRPN and social work professor at Temple. “But in order to better serve fathers who face significant barriers to being involved with their children, the fatherhood field must have a better understanding what services are most effective. These four projects are well designed, scientifically valid evaluation studies that have the potential to positively impact program delivery and outcomes.”       

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