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August 2007Vol. 8, No. 7Engaging Nonresident Fathers

Nonresident fathers and paternal relatives can be important resources for permanency planning for children and families involved with the child welfare system. But the fathers and their relatives often need to be identified, located, and engaged by caseworkers in order to be included in such planning. Nonresident father involvement in permanency planning is the subject of a recent issue brief released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). The brief examines the findings of a study conducted by the Urban Institute and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) involving 1,958 children, with nonresident fathers, who had been in foster care between 3 and 36 months.

Researchers conducted telephone interviews with 1,222 caseworkers in Arizona, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Tennessee and found that just over half of the fathers (55 percent) had been contacted by caseworkers when planning for permanency. The name of the father appeared in the case file in 88 percent of the cases, and paternity had been established in 63 percent of the cases.

The study also found that the efforts used by caseworkers to locate fathers varied widely and were not always consistent. In addition, caseworkers reported little use of child support agency locator resources. Only 35 percent of the cases reported using a State's parental locator service.

Caseworkers' opinions about nonresident fathers and safety varied to an extent, but the majority felt that nonresident father involvement enhanced a child's well-being. The majority also believed that nonresident fathers need help with their parenting skills.

To read the ASPE issue brief, Child Welfare Casework With Nonresident Fathers of Children in Foster Care, visit: (PDF - 162 KB)

Related Items

Children's Bureau Express ( has explored the topic of father involvement in a number of articles, including the following:

  • "Nonresident Fathers and the Child Welfare System" (July/August 2006)
  • "Debut of Fatherhood User Manual" (July/August 2006)
  • "Project Fatherhood" (April 2004)
  • "Positive Father-Child Involvement Found Among Early Head Start Families" (December 2003/January 2004)
  • "Literature Review Explores Non-Custodial Fathers' Involvement in Child Welfare" (April 2003)
  • "LONGSCAN Examines Fatherhood" (April 2002)