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July/August 2011Vol. 12, No. 6Site Visit: Nonresident Fathers in the El Paso, CO, Child Welfare System

The National Quality Improvement Center for Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System (QIC-NRF) awarded subgrants in 2008 to projects in four States for fatherhood classes for nonresident fathers whose children have been removed from their homes. One of the four subgrants was awarded to the Center on Fathering (COF) of the El Paso County, CO, Department of Human Services (DHS) to locate and recruit nonresident fathers of children in the child welfare system to participate in fatherhood classes. The goal is to increase fathers' involvement with their children and the child welfare system.

The fatherhood classes meet for 20 weeks and use a curriculum developed by the QIC-NRF to support nonresident fathers in engaging their children. The curriculum covers topics such as navigating the child welfare system, supporting their children, and workforce issues. Between September 2008 and September 2010, 23 fathers participated in these classes.

COF also has developed a training for caseworkers about how to engage fathers. The training, which was conducted at five State academies throughout Colorado, included practical advice on topics such as bringing fathers back into the family dynamic, closing the revolving door on cases, and how father-child visits may be different—and should be evaluated differently—from mother-child visits.

The following are examples of successful strategies used by the project to recruit, engage, and work with the fathers:

  • Completing the relative resource letters for DHS. After a child has been removed from the home, the child welfare agency, per Federal law, must send a letter to adult relatives notifying them of their options of becoming a placement resource for the child. COF sends these letters to the relatives on behalf of DHS for all removals. Sending these letters and receiving the responses helps the project get a head start on locating and contacting nonresident fathers.
  • Using social networking websites, such as Facebook and MySpace, to contact and engage the fathers. One of the fathers helped develop the project's Facebook page, which includes articles and other resources for nonresident fathers.
  • Having guest speakers attend the classes. This provides the fathers with face time with community leaders and experts who are intimately involved with the system. Guest speakers have included child welfare staff, local attorneys, nurses, and the child support enforcement staff.

Fathers interviewed during the site visit expressed how much the project has helped them with their children. The project helped them gain a better understanding of the child welfare and court systems and provided helpful information about child development and communication.

For more information about this project, contact Ken Sanders, Program Director, at

The full site visit report will soon be posted on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website:

The National Quality Improvement Center for Non-Residential Fathers and the Child Welfare System is funded by the Children's Bureau (Award #90CO1025). This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.