A Seat at the Table: Piloting Continuous Learning to Engage Fathers and Parental Relatives in Child Welfare

A Seat at the Table: Piloting Continuous Learning to Engage Fathers and Parental Relatives in Child Welfare

Published: May 18, 2021
Publisher: Mathematica and the University of Denver
Associated Project

Fathers and Continuous Learning in Child Welfare

Time frame: 2017-2023

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families


Jennifer Bellamy

Eliza Abendroth

Diletta Mittone

Key Findings
  • Improvement Team members considered themselves more knowledgeable and identified cultural shifts and changes in their own behavior and the behavior of others in engaging fathers and paternal relatives. These changes were fueled by dedicating protected time and effort toward the BSC and staying deeply committed to engaging fathers and paternal relatives.
  • Improvement Team members reported that the BSC could be strengthened even more by increasing protected time away from the competing demands of daily work, getting stronger guidance from the BSC team on data collection and community partner engagement, and engaging staff other than those on the Improvement Team.
  • All Improvement Teams planned to keep using elements of the BSC after it formally concluded. Work on father and paternal relative engagement will continue by drawing on the BSC experience, building successful engagement strategies identified through the process, relying on sustained leadership, and furthering the beginnings of a cultural shift.

Executive Summary 

Even though involving fathers in child welfare services can have a positive impact on their children’s well-being, and there is a deepening focus on parent engagement in child welfare, data from Child and Family Service Reviews reveal that fathers are not well engaged in services. Designed to create a culture in the child welfare system that prioritizes engaging fathers and paternal relatives, the Fathers and Continuous Learning in Child Welfare project is testing the use of the methodology known as the Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC) to improve placement stability and permanency outcomes for children. It will accomplish this by strengthening the engagement of fathers and paternal relatives and adding to the evidence base on engagement strategies for fathers and paternal relatives. The pilot study described in this report: (1) documents the implementation of a BSC to achieve the broader goal of improving placement stability and permanency outcomes, and (2) documents how designated Improvement Teams worked with system partners to plan, test, and adjust engagement strategies.


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