Panel Paper: Parents and Children Together: Effects of Four Responsible Fatherhood Programs on Low-Income Fathers

Friday, November 9, 2018
Tyler - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sarah A Avellar, Reginald Covington, Quinn Moore and Ankita Patnaik, Mathematica Policy Research

Recognizing both the importance of fathers and the challenges that many of them face, Congress has funded grants for responsible fatherhood (RF) programs for more than a decade. The Office of Family Assistance, in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awards and oversees the grants. The RF grants are designed to help fathers overcome obstacles and barriers to effective and nurturing parenting, support family formation and healthy relationships, and improve economic outcomes for themselves and their families.

To better understand the programs, OFA funded and ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation oversaw a contract with Mathematica Policy Research to conduct the Parents and Children Together (PACT) evaluation. PACT—a large-scale, rigorous evaluation—included four federally-funded RF programs, awarded grants in 2011:

  • Successful STEPS at Connections to Success (Kansas and Missouri)
  • Family Formation Program at Fathers’ Support Center St. Louis (Missouri)
  • FATHER Project at Goodwill–Easter Seals Minnesota (Minnesota)
  • Center for Fathering, at Urban Ventures (Minnesota)

From December 2012 to March 2015, the PACT evaluation team randomly assigned 5,522 fathers, who were split between the program and control groups. Fathers who applied for one of the four PACT RF programs were randomly assigned to a program group that was offered RF services or to a control group that was not. The programs were required to offer services in parenting, healthy relationships and marriage, and economic stability. The control group received information about other services in the community and could choose to participate in those.

The typical father in PACT was a disadvantaged man of color in his thirties. On average, fathers in the PACT RF study had two or three children. Nearly half (46 percent) had children with multiple women. Almost all fathers (91 percent) had been arrested at some point in their lives and over a third of fathers were on probation or parole when they entered the study.

To estimate the effects of the programs, the team used data from three sources: (1) baseline surveys completed by all fathers when they applied to a PACT RF program, (2) follow-up surveys conducted with fathers in the study about one year after study enrollment, and (3) administrative employment records collected from the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH). The baseline and follow-up surveys included questions in many areas, including parenting and economic stability. The NDNH is a national database of information about employment and earnings operated by the Office of Child Support Enforcement.

In this presentation, we will describe the effects of the programs on (1) parenting, (2) healthy relationships, (3) economic stability, and (4) well-being. Before conducting the analysis, the evaluation team selected outcomes that closely aligned with the grant goals and were the most likely to be effected by the programs. Outcomes included contact with children, conflict management with their children’s mother, and earnings. By advancing the field’s understanding of how the RF programs affected fathers, PACT builds on our knowledge of how to best serve low-income fathers.