Panel Paper: Findings from a Randomized Study of an Intervention to Increase Father Involvement in Home Visitation

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Stetson BC (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Neil B. Guterman1, Jennifer L. Bellamy2, Aaron Banman1, Sandra Morales-Mirque1 and Justin Harty1, (1)University of Chicago, (2)University of Denver

Aims/Goals: Fathers’ participation in child and family services has the potential to boost mothers’ engagement in interventions and extend outcomes (Arnold, O'Leary, & Edwards, 1997; Eckenrode et al., 2000; Fals-Stewart, Fincham, & Kelley, 2004); and positive fathering has been linked to important home visiting outcomes such as child maltreatment prevention (Dubowitz, Black, Kerr, Starr Jr., & Harrington, 2000; Guterman, Lee, Lee, Waldfogel, & Rathouz, 2009) however, the field of home visitation has largely overlooked fathers’ roles in the family. As a result, scant evidence is available to guide home visiting programs in best addressing fathers’ roles in promoting positive child and family outcomes. This paper describes the preliminary results of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of an enhancement to home visitation services that addresses fathers and their roles in their young children’s lives, called “Dads Matter”. Dads Matter is a manualized intervention designed to assess the fathers’ role in the family to determine how he may best be engaged to build an effective, supportive, and productive co-parenting team with the child’s mother.

Methods: A multisite clustered randomized control trial was conducted, beginning with twenty-one home visiting program supervisors across five large organizations, targeting approximately 200 families across condition. Supervisors were randomized to deliver Dads Matter enhanced services or home visiting services as usual, and those within the enhancement (intervention) condition implemented the enhancement through a train-the-trainer model. Participating mothers and fathers complete baseline, 4-month, and 1- year follow-up interviews, and audio recorded a day of the child’s language environment using the Language Environment Analysis (LENA) devices. Data was also collected at the worker, supervisor, and organizational levels, including fidelity data to gauge implementation of the intervention, and worker level factors such as attitudes and behaviors surrounding father involvement.

Analysis and Preliminary Results/Conclusions: The study, to date, has reached the original participant enrollment goal of 200 families, with 100 families assigned to each of the intervention and controls groups. The study has been able to retain a high proportion of those families for 4-month follow-up interviews, with nearly 150 families currently completing the 2nd stage of interviews so far. Just under 100 home visiting workers and supervisors have been trained and implemented the Dads Matter enhancement within their existing services, supervisors receiving the majority of training through the train-the-trainer model. Preliminary fidelity data is positive, showing that the proportion of fathers in home visits increased in the intervention condition and workers in the intervention condition increased the proportion of direct services they provide to fathers. Preliminary analysis of outcome data suggest effect sizes generally range from small to medium.

Implications for Practice/Policy: Preliminary results suggest that Dads Matter is a potentially feasible, acceptable, and effective approach to increasing fathers’ engagement and promoting family and child wellbeing. Preliminary intervention outcomes are suggestive of improvements for families who receive home visiting enhanced with Dads Matter, as compared to families who receive home visiting alone, as evidenced by maintained mother-father relationships, increased father involvement with infants, and lowered child abuse and neglect risk.