Panel Paper: Innovative Approaches to Serving Low-Income and Justice Involved Fathers: Early Implementation Findings from Building Bridges and Bonds’ Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Justice Involved Individuals Seeking Employment

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

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Michelle Manno and Dina Israel, MDRC

A father’s support – both financial and emotional – has been linked to better outcomes on a range of childhood well-being measures. However many fathers, particularly low-income and justice involved fathers, struggle to provide this support. With funding from the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Family Assistance and Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, the Building Bridges and Bonds (B3) evaluation seeks to identify services that can improve the outcomes of fathers through new and emerging approaches. B3 builds on the lessons learned from previous fatherhood evaluations and involves partnership with six organizations that provide Responsible Fatherhood services. In 2016, each of the six local programs participating in B3 added one or two program innovations to their usual services offered:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Justice Involved Individuals Seeking Employment (CBI-Emp) consists of a series of pre-employment group sessions that help fathers, while engaged proactively with their peers, to build skills to reframe unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, and habitual responses. CBI-Emp also reinforces positive behaviors that can help turn a father’s focus in challenging situations toward solutions.
  • Just Beginning builds the father-child relationship by bringing together fathers and their children, ages two months to three years, and engaging them with play.
  • DadTime, a smartphone-based mobile application that provides a father with automated program attendance reminders and interactive tools to help him apply what he has learned in Just Beginning sessions to subsequent interactions with his child.

Through a randomized study of these innovations, two main lessons will emerge: 1) whether any or all of the innovations have an impact on the lives of participating fathers and their children; and 2) how programs engage fathers and implement both the innovations and the existing services.

In this presentation we will share early implementation findings from the three-site test of CBI-Emp which involves low-income fathers with a history of criminal justice involvement and who have moderate to high risk for recidivating. CBI-Emp combines the elements of traditional job-readiness services and cognitive behavioral skill-building with the idea that together they might produce better outcomes for fathers than either one on its own. This new approach uses interactive learning techniques through a series of 20 structured 60-90 minute workshops that feature group activities such as role-playing and collaborative problem solving.

Drawing on knowledge from program administrators, program staff, and participants of the three CBI-Emp sites -- Passages, Connecting Fathers and Families, Inc. (Ohio), The Fortune Society (New York), and The Kanawha Institute of Research and Action (West Virginia) -- we will describe the CBI-Emp intervention and the contexts in which the sites operate. We will share information collected from interviews, focus groups, and an analysis of management information system data to discuss their early implementation experiences. Lessons about engaging fathers in this intervention – from the perspective of program staff and participants – will also be shared.