Children who are supported emotionally and financially by their fathers tend to fare better than those without such support. Despite wanting to be strong parents, providers, and partners, many fathers struggle to fulfill these roles. Recognizing both the importance of fathers and the challenges that they face, Congress has authorized and funded grants for fatherhood programs for more than a decade. The Office of Family Assistance (OFA), which is in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awards and oversees these grants. ACF designed the responsible fatherhood (RF) grants to help fathers overcome barriers to effective and nurturing parenting, support their family formation and healthy relationships, and improve economic outcomes for themselves and their families.
To learn more about the effectiveness of these programs, OFA funded, and ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation oversaw, a contract with Mathematica Policy Research to conduct the Parents and Children Together (PACT) evaluation. The PACT RF impact study was a large-scale, random assignment examination of four federally funded RF programs that received grants in 2011. This report discusses the impacts of those programs on fathers’ parenting, relationships, economic stability, and well-being about one year after the fathers enrolled.
The evaluation team selected four grantees to participate in the PACT RF study: (1) Connections to Success in Kansas and Missouri, (2) Fathers’ Support Center in Missouri, (3) FATHER Project at Goodwill–Easter Seals Minnesota, and (4) Urban Ventures in Minnesota. As required by ACF, the RF grantees offered services in three areas: (1) parenting and fatherhood, (2) healthy marriage and relationships, and (3) economic stability.
In each RF program in PACT, group-based workshops were a core service for delivering much of the required content. Facilitators in the workshops led fathers in discussions about topics such as the meaning of fatherhood, child development, co-parenting, and finding and retaining employment. Grantees based their workshops mostly on published curricula on parenting and healthy marriage, but they developed their own curricula for economic stability services. Grantees also offered individualized support to help fathers with economic stability—for example, at three of the four programs, specialized employment staff met one on one with participants. All four programs in PACT also covered personal development topics, such as coping with stress, responding to discrimination, problem solving, self-sufficiency, and goal planning.
The typical father in the PACT RF study was a disadvantaged man of color in his thirties. Of the men enrolled, 77% were African American, and 6% were Hispanic. They each had two or three children on average. Nearly half (46%) had children with multiple women. Before enrolling in the study, fathers’ average monthly earnings were $378, less than half the weekly earnings of the average full-time worker in the U.S. (Author introduction)