Effects of Four Responsible Fatherhood Programs for Low-Income Fathers: Evidence from the Parents and Children Together Evaluation

OPRE Report 2019-05
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Jan 31, 2019
Sarah Avellar, Reginald Covington, Quinn Moore, Ankita Patnaik, and April Wu

Compared with usual services available in the community, the RF programs in PACT:

  • improved fathers’ nurturing behavior
  • improved fathers’ engagement in age-appropriate activities with children
  • did not affect fathers’ in-person contact with their children or the financial support they provided
  • did not affect co-parenting
  • increased the length of time fathers were continuously employed, but did not affect earnings
  • did not affect measures of social-emotional well-being
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. Department of Health and Human Services awards and oversees these grants. The grants aim to help fathers be effective and nurturing parents, engage in healthy relationships and family formation, and improve economic outcomes for themselves and their families. 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 brief presents the impacts of those programs on fathers’ parenting, relationships, economic stability, and well-being about one year after the fathers enrolled.