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June 2010Vol. 11, No. 5Fathers as Family and Community Resources

A recent article in American Humane's Protecting Children describes the impact of fathers in the lives of families involved with the child welfare system, as well as ways to support and promote positive father involvement. The article, "Fathers as Resources in Families Involved in the Child Welfare System," focuses on the evaluation of a model program for low-income families involved with the child welfare system. 

More than 500 families with child welfare involvement were randomly divided among three interventions: a fathers-only group, a couples group, and an information-only (control) session. The fathers and couples groups received 32 hours of group training and discussion over 16 weeks, facilitated by a clinically trained couple using the Supporting Father Involvement curriculum. Before the intervention and 2 and 11 months after the intervention, parents were assessed for mental health and well-being, quality of the couple's relationship, quality of the parent-child relationship, generational transmission of expectations and behaviors, and balance of life stresses and social supports.

Results show the interventions' success in reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors:

  • Parents in the couples group showed increased father involvement and decreased personal and parenting distress compared to the control condition.
  • Fathers-only participants made slightly fewer gains than the couples participants but showed significant and positive effects on father involvement.
  • Children of parents who participated in one of the groups had no increases in problem behaviors, unlike children in the control condition.

In addition, agencies that hosted the fathers-only groups showed improvement in father-inclusive policies and services.

The authors note that this ongoing program is still learning how to best provide parents with the skills and supports that are needed to eradicate old patterns and improve family relationships.

The article, by Marsha Kline Pruett, Carolyn Pape Cowan, Philip A. Cowan, and Kyle Pruett, was published in American Humane's Protecting Children, Vol. 24(2), which was a special issue on "Bringing Back the Dads: Engaging Non-Resident Fathers in the Child Welfare System."

The issue is posted on American Humane's website: (2.4 MB)