Centering Fathers in Human Services Programming to Increase Participation

Centering Fathers in Human Services Programming to Increase Participation

KEEP Fathers Engaged Practice Brief
Published: Oct 22, 2021
Publisher: Mathematica

Danielle DeLisle

Key Findings
  • Programs can encourage referrals through word of mouth and tailor recruitment materials to fathers to enhance recruitment of fathers.
  • Programs can tap into social networks and engage fathers in their communities as another way to recruit fathers.
  • To keep fathers engaged in programming, programs can make the program space father-friendly, design programs to be flexible to fathers needs, and create peer learning opportunities.
  • Meeting fathers where they are on their fatherhood journey can also support retention of fathers in programming.

Fathers want to be involved in their children’s lives, but many human services programs typically have not focused on supporting fathers. Moreover, positive father involvement is critical for child health and well-being, and it positively affects health and well-being for mothers and fathers. As family structures have become increasingly complex, there is growing interest in developing full-family service models and an increasing need to identify and apply effective father engagement approaches across human services program areas. Programs focused on serving fathers, such as Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs, have extensive experience engaging fathers. Other programs areas that have historically served mothers are now focusing on father engagement, acknowledging that incorporating fathers into their services can improve program goals and outcomes for the families they serve.

This practice brief is a resource for human services programs striving to engage fathers. Building on literature from the field and interviews with human services programs that currently engage fathers in services, this brief outlines recruitment and retention strategies programs can use to increase father engagement in programming. The goal is to help programs engage fathers in services to build upon their intrinsic motivation to support their families and ensure fathers have access to programs and opportunities that can equip them with the skills they need. The study is sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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