Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

October 2019Vol. 20, No. 8Literature Review of Trauma-Informed Approaches for Programs Serving Fathers in Reentry

Many fathers who are incarcerated have experienced some form of trauma in early life. These past traumatic experiences can affect how these men reenter society and how they reconnect with and support their families. A report released by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation within Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services discusses trauma and reentry and how responsible fatherhood programs should take a trauma-informed approach to the services they offer to ensure positive outcomes for fathers and their families.

Researchers conducted a literature review that included 40 full-text journal articles as well as unpublished literature, such as project reports, white papers, and government reports, published between 2000 and 2016. They also conducted an environmental scan and identified 41 programs that seemed to take a trauma-informed approach or provide trauma-specific services. Of those programs, researchers selected six that serve recently incarcerated fathers and held 1-hour interviews with the program directors to gain an understanding of how the programs implemented trauma-informed approaches and the challenges and barriers they face.

The study produced the following findings:

  • There is a prevalence of trauma among fathers who are reentering society.
  • Trauma can hinder positive outcomes for fathers participating in fatherhood programs.
  • Healing can occur through interactions with sympathetic and empathetic individuals, not just clinical professionals.

The report also provides the following important key steps to making sure fatherhood programs are trauma informed:

  • Commit to taking a systematic trauma-informed approach throughout the entire organization's policies and procedures.
  • Make sure all staff are trained in recognizing and responding to trauma.
  • Screen all program participants for signs of trauma.
  • Refer fathers in need of clinical treatment for their trauma to gender and culturally appropriate services.

To read the report, Trauma-Informed Approaches for Programs Serving Fathers in Re-Entry: A Review of the Literature and Environmental Scan, visit (531 KB).