The Evaluation of the Marriage and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated and Reentering Fathers and their Partners (MFS-IP) is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) activities to support healthy marriage, responsible fatherhood, and successful re-entry from incarceration. Twelve grantees received funding for five years (2006-2011) from the Office of Family Assistance within the Administration for Children and Families to implement multiple activities to support and sustain marriages and families of fathers during and after incarceration. Grantees also provided reentry services; parenting services, including visitation during incarceration; and education and employment services during and after incarceration.
While incarceration takes a huge toll on families and children, research suggests that supportive families and positive marital/partner relationships are important for promoting positive adaptation for children of the incarcerated and for preventing subsequent criminal involvement among reintegrating prisoners. To evaluate the overall effectiveness of the MFS-IP grantees, the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), awarded a contract to RTI to conduct an implementation evaluation as well as a multi-site, longitudinal, impact evaluation of selected grantees.
The specific objectives of the MFS-IP evaluation are: (1) to describe the 12 programs on a number of dimensions including program history and context, type of grantee organization, target population, intervention strategies, and program design; (2) to describe program implementation, challenges, successes, and lessons learned; (3) to determine the impact of these diverse programs on outcomes such as marital stability, positive family interactions, family financial well-being, and recidivism; and (4) to identify the mediation mechanisms (or primary pathways) through which these programs achieve success.
The implementation and impact evaluation, conducted over a ten-year period, includes on-site data collection regarding program implementation and a longitudinal survey data collection effort to study the effect of program participation in comparison with comparable individuals not participating in the MFS-IP programs. The study also has a qualitative data collection component. This evaluation adds to research, policy, and practice by helping to determine what types of programs work best for those involved in the criminal justice system, what does not work, and what effects these programs may have on fostering healthy marriages, families, and children.
This report presents detailed implementation findings from the MFS-IP evaluation. The report provides information on program design, organizational partnerships, recruitment and participation, program components, service delivery strategies, post-funding sustainability and key lessons from the field operations. (author abstract)