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June 2010Vol. 11, No. 5Father Involvement in the Illinois Integrated Assessment Program

Chapin Hall recently released a report that examined the extent to which fathers of children entering foster care were involved in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Integrated Assessment (IA) program. The IA program partnered child welfare caseworkers with licensed clinicians who interviewed families of children entering the child welfare system to gather better information about child and family strengths, support systems, and service needs. This study specifically looked at the extent to which fathers were interviewed as part of the IA process and the factors associated with fathers being interviewed.

More than 9,000 families were interviewed, and 45 percent included interviews with fathers. The researchers noted a number of demographic characteristics associated with the fathers interviewed for the IA program, including various problematic behaviors such as alcohol and/or drug abuse and criminal backgrounds. The study also found that, while nearly all nonresident fathers were described as being positively involved with their children, the same was not true for all resident fathers.  

Researchers noted that the information covered in the assessments and the recommendations made by the IA reports or service plans were often not aligned. Findings also highlight the difficulties in providing multiple services to fathers. Finally, the study found that when both parents were interviewed as part of the IA process, children were significantly more likely to be reunified than when only one or neither parent was interviewed.

The researchers note several implications from the findings, including:

  • Techniques for engaging fathers, as well as the services provided, must be tailored for the individual.
  • Support for positively involved fathers in their ongoing involvement in their children's lives may have significant payoffs.
  • Negatively involved resident fathers may offer some resources to their children, but many do not understand the impact of their behaviors on their families. These fathers can be more difficult to engage in services and reunification efforts, and caseworkers working with these individuals should be ready to address the dynamics of the entire family and potential resistance from the fathers.
  • The importance of engaging fathers early in the assessment process is crucial, and sustaining father engagement throughout services and interventions needs further attention. 

The full report, Identifying, Interviewing, and Intervening: Fathers and the Illinois Child Welfare System, by Cheryl Smithgall et al., is available on the Chapin Hall website: (966 KB)