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September 2007Vol. 8, No. 8Helping Fathers Support Their Children

Being inclusive and offering practical help to fathers may increase their participation in programs designed to help low-income noncustodial fathers become strong emotional and financial resources for their children. A report on projects funded through the Partners for Fragile Families (PFF) demonstration program looked at the effectiveness of these programs and lessons learned. Demonstration projects were sponsored from 2000 to 2003 at 13 sites in nine States by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One focus of the project was to support partnerships between public agencies and community- and faith-based organizations.

The report, The Implementation of the Partners for Fragile Families Demonstration Projects, the first of several from the national evaluation of PFF, describes the design and implementation of the 13 projects. PFF targeted young fathers (age 16 to 25) who had not yet established paternity and did not yet have extensive involvement with the child support enforcement system.

All PFF projects featured a series of workshops on a range of subjects, including parenting, job readiness, child support, anger management, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and life skills. Other services provided to participants include case management, peer support, employment services, and parenting and relationship services. The report examines the challenges that many of the projects faced, including recruiting and retaining participants and defining the roles and responsibilities of the participating agencies.

Some recommendations from the report include the following:

  • Give careful consideration to eligibility criteria when recruiting participants, because criteria that are too narrow may result in a small pool of participants.
  • Identify organizations with experience in serving this population and provide appropriate staff training.
  • Help fathers with visitation and legal representation issues in order to attract and retain participants.
  • Partner with local health departments to help with recruitment and access to health services.
  • Tailor services such as employment counseling to individual fathers.

The full report, prepared by the Urban Institute and written by Karin Martinson, John Trutko, Demetra Smith Nightingale, Pamela A. Holcomb, and Burt S. Barnow, is available online: (PDF - 517 KB)