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February 2008Vol. 9, No. 1Engaging Dads: The National QIC on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System

Fifth in a series of articles on the Children's Bureau's Quality Improvement Centers

How are child welfare outcomes affected by nonresident fathers' involvement in their children's lives? This question is the focus of one of the newest Children's Bureau Quality Improvement Centers, the National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System (QIC NRF). In 2006, the Children's Bureau funded the American Humane Association and its partners, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and the National Fatherhood Initiative, to develop and implement the QIC NRF.

The QIC's first year was spent conducting a national needs assessment to determine the current state of nonresident father involvement in the child welfare system. Research—including findings from the first round of the Child and Family Services Reviews—showed that many children are not living with their fathers when they enter foster care, and a tenuous father-child relationship may become even more difficult to maintain once a child is placed in out-of-home care. Five substantive areas for research by the QIC NRF were noted:

  • Identification of nonresident fathers
  • Location of fathers' residence or workplace
  • Contact between child welfare systems and nonresident fathers
  • Engagement of fathers by working with them or offering services
  • Interagency collaborations that make identification, location, contact, and engagement possible

The QIC NRF explored father involvement from three perspectives: social work/child welfare, the courts, and private provider practice, with special attention to cross-system issues involving child welfare, child support enforcement, and judicial and other systems. A number of reasons for noninvolvement of nonresident dads with their children were found by the QIC NRF, including:

  • Gaps in policy, procedures, or professional training that particularly affect contacting and engaging nonresident fathers
  • Inequitable treatment of fathers and paternal kin by child welfare and judicial systems compared to the perceived essential role of the mothers
  • Personal, relationship, and material and economic barriers encountered by the fathers

During 2007, as a result of their needs assessment and research, QIC staff compiled an extensive literature review on nonresident dads and the child welfare system. In addition, staff prepared for Phase II, which will involve administering grants to fund demonstration projects on nonresident father involvement. The grants will be awarded early in 2008, so that the funded projects can begin to determine how the involvement of nonresident fathers impacts the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in the child welfare system. One of the activities in progress to support the work of the grantees is an additional literature review on male help-seeking behaviors.

During this next phase, which will take place over 4 years, the QIC NRF will provide technical assistance to the demonstration projects and conduct cross-site evaluations to assess outcomes. The QIC NRF will continue to develop knowledge and a network among the grantees and other agencies and service providers, courts, and the Children's Bureau so information can be shared easily and disseminated quickly.

To find out more about the QIC NRF, its initial findings, and the upcoming demonstration grants, visit the website:

Or, contact Principal Investigator Sonia Velazquez at or Project Director Karen Kessen at