• November 2017
  • Vol. 18, No. 8

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Views and Experiences of Low-Income Fathers in the PACT Evaluation

A recent brief produced by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services focuses on the Parents and Children Together (PACT) multicomponent evaluation that includes a study of four responsible fatherhood programs awarded grants in 2011. The purpose of the evaluation was to develop a better understanding of the needs, views, and experiences of low-income fathers in order to help shed light on ways that responsible fatherhood programs can be strengthened. Part of the evaluation included a qualitative study involving three rounds of in-depth interviews with low-income fathers enrolled in responsible fatherhood programs about their experiences with the child support system.

The brief explores three main themes:

  • The challenges that economic instability poses to fathers in meeting their child support obligations
  • Fathers' experiences in requesting modifications to make their child support obligations align better with their financial situations
  • Fathers' views of the disconnection between paying child support and having access to their children

The fathers included in the study were typically nonresident, African-American fathers with high rates of unemployment and financial instability. These fathers also faced challenges such as low levels of education, employment, and income, as well as involvement with the criminal justice system. At the time of enrollment in the study, 44 percent of the fathers had children by multiple mothers, and 58 percent had a formal child support order.

The following are findings of the study about the fathers:

  • Most had difficulty supporting themselves because of lack of employment.
  • Some were actively engaged in seeking better employment.
  • Some were afraid of the consequences of noncompliance with a child support order.
  • Some were frustrated that not all of their support was going to their children.
  • About half of those seeking a modification to their support obligations were successful in obtaining it.
  • They felt there was a disconnect between financially supporting their children and having limited access, which they felt was unjust.  

To read the brief, Providing Financial Support for Children: Views and Experiences of Low-Income Fathers in the PACT Evaluation, go to https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/pact_financial_support_brief_to_opre_1_23_2017_508.pdf (1,440 KB).

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