The “Fatherhood: Ongoing Research and Program Evaluation Efforts” brief describes ACF’s ongoing research and evaluation projects related to 1) the Responsible Fatherhood grant program, 2) noncustodial parents, and 3) fathers and fatherhood more broadly. It also describes some of ACF’s past research and evaluation efforts related to fatherhood. (Author introduction)
Nonmarital children account for two fifths of births in the US, and close to two thirds of these children do not live with their fathers by age five. Although nonmarital children primarily live with their mothers, joint legal custody has emerged as an option for their parents. Parents with joint legal custody are expected to make major decisions for their child together, regardless of their prior marital status.
We analyze the role of newly integrated data from the child support and child welfare systems in seeding a major policy change in Wisconsin. Parents are often ordered to pay child support to offset the costs of their children’s stay in foster care. Policy allows for consideration of the “best interests of the child.” Concerns that charging parents could delay or disrupt reunification motivated our analyses of integrated data to identify the impacts of current policy. We summarize the results of the analyses and then focus on the role of administrative data in supporting policy development.
Fathers play an important role in the lives of their children and are an underserved and understudied population. This study explored predictors of father involvement in a sample of low-income fathers enrolled in a responsible fatherhood program in one large county in the northeastern United States. Although many demographic, psychological, and social factors have been found to be associated with father involvement in other research, in our study only living situation, marital status, substance abuse, and self-esteem were significant predictors of involvement.
Developmental research has highlighted the importance of fathers for children’s early academic success, and growing evidence suggests that children living in poverty may benefit the most from positive father involvement. Using a subsample of children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), this study examined direct and mediated pathways from family poverty to children’s preschool achievement.
The child support program promotes parental responsibility, so that children receive support from both parents even when they live in separate households. While this program aims to reduce poverty, the program has financially burdensome consequences for low income, noncustodial parents who have experienced incarceration. Noncustodial parents may accrue arrears when they are unable to work due to incarceration. This study examines the relationship between incarceration and child support arrears among low-income fathers.
Academics have studied married and divorcing couples for many years. It is relatively easy to do so, because marriage and divorce records are, for the most part, public and because many separating married couples consult mental health and legal professionals. Intact or separating unmarried couples, a growing segment of the U.S. (and world) population, have been studied less frequently and systematically. Some good ethnographic work has been done since the turn of the century, and celebrated survey data has added to the knowledge base.
Research has documented the limited opportunities men have to earn income while in prison and the barriers to securing employment and decent wages upon release. However, little research has considered the relationship between men's incarceration and the employment of the women in their lives. Economic theory suggests that family members of incarcerated individuals may attempt to smooth income fluctuation resulting from incarceration by increasing their labor supply.
Children who are supported emotionally and financially by their fathers fare better, on average, than those without such support. Despite wanting to be strong parents, providers, and partners, many low-income fathers struggle to fulfill these roles. Recognizing both the importance of fathers and the challenges that they might face, Congress has authorized and funded grants for Responsible Fatherhood (RF) programs for more than a decade. The Office of Family Assistance (OFA), in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S.
U.S. children are more likely to live apart from a biological parent than at any time in history. Although the Child Support Enforcement system has tremendous reach, its policies have not kept pace with significant economic, demographic, and cultural changes. Narrative analysis of in-depth interviews with 429 low-income noncustodial fathers suggests that the system faces a crisis of legitimacy. Visualization of language used to describe all forms child support show that the formal system is considered punitive and to lead to a loss of power and autonomy.