Responsible Fatherhood Programs in the Parents and Children Together (PACT) Evaluation
Key Points for the Family Court Community:
- The federal government is devoting considerable resources to programs to help fathers become more involved with and supportive of their children.
- Many participating fathers lack formal visitation or parenting-time agreements because they were not married to the mothers of their children and no longer live with them.
- Research to learn how these programs work is growing; this article describes preliminary findings from an evaluation of four federal responsible fatherhood programs.
Policy interest and support for increasing the positive involvement of fathers in their children's lives has increased substantially in recent years, with a dedicated federal funding stream for responsible fatherhood programs. These programs aim to improve fathers’ parenting, economic stability, and relationship skills, factors that are known to be associated with fathers’ socioemotional and financial support of their children. We focus on the efforts of four fatherhood programs participating in a large-scale evaluation sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We conclude that fathers in these programs, the majority of whom have nonresidential children, are strongly motivated to be more involved with and support their children despite numerous barriers, including difficult co-parenting relationships and problems with access to their children. Findings show that large numbers of fathers voluntarily enroll and participate in fatherhood program services in an effort to improve their situations. Future reports will describe the effects of these services on the well-being of the fathers and their families.