Since 2005, Congress has funded Responsible Fatherhood (RF) grants to support programs for fathers that promote responsible parenting, economic stability, and healthy marriage. Although many fathers voluntarily enroll in these programs, service providers often struggle with program attendance and completion (Zaveri et al. 2015). RF programs cannot achieve their intended outcomes if fathers participate minimally or not at all. Factors related to fathers’ circumstances and the programs that serve them may explain what leads some fathers to participate more than others. Understanding the associations between these factors and RF program participation may help practitioners design and target their services to maximize program attendance and completion—and ultimately improve fathers’ outcomes. To explore this and other questions, the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sponsored a multicomponent evaluation—the Parents and Children Together (PACT) evaluation. PACT included a study of four RF programs awarded grants in 2011. The RF programs in PACT were funded and overseen by OFA, while ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) oversaw the PACT evaluation. As required by their grants, the programs offered services in parenting and fatherhood, economic stability, and healthy relationships and marriage. The programs generally took one of two approaches to service delivery: (1) a cohort approach that offered intensive and integrated services or (2) an open-entry approach that allowed fathers to select from a menu of services. For more information on implementation findings from PACT, see Zaveri et al. 2015 or Dion et al. 2018.
This brief presents new findings on the factors that are associated with fathers’ participation in RF programs. It is based on data collected for the implementation study of RF programs, which documents how the programs were designed and operated and identifies challenges and promising practices. It uses data from the PACT evaluation to describe the characteristics of fathers enrolled in PACT and the associations between the fathers’ characteristics and their program participation. The brief also explores variation in participation by programmatic differences. It concludes with a summary of common barriers to participation and suggestions for program providers about how to help fathers overcome these barriers. Because the data come from a select sample of four urban programs, the findings may not generalize to all RF programs. (Edited author introduction)