According to 2016 U.S. Census Bureau data, 23 percent of U.S. children under the age of 18 live in single-mother households. Nonresidental fathers can play an important role in their children’s lives, influencing many positive outcomes such as academic achievement, high school graduation, lower rates of aggression and delinquency, improved behavioral adjustment and overall well-being.
But there are relatively few programs for this type of father, said Jay Fagan, professor in the School of Social Work. Fagan co-directs the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) with Jessica Pearson, director of the Center for Policy Research, a nonprofit research and evaluation firm that seeks to improve the lives of children and their families. The FRPN is a six-year project (2013-2019) from the School of Social Work and the Center for Policy Research, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation. Its purpose is to build the evidence base in the fatherhood field, disseminate research findings on fatherhood programs and promote the use of research-based practices by fatherhood programs.
“The US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families recently released an Information Memorandum urging all human services agencies to include fathers in programs and policies that affect families and children, and few states have engaged in systematic planning to implement services to low income, nonresidential fathers,” said Fagan. “As a result, services to fathers are often fragmented and sometimes not available at all to families most in need of those services. These new State policy grants will enable more systematic planning of these services to meet the needs of the most vulnerable fathers and families.
Earlier this year, the FRPN announced that the states and programs that will receive receive $10,000 mini grants: Families First Colorado, the Connecticut Department of Social Services, the Lexington Leadership Foundation, the University of Michigan School of Social Work, Minnesota Father and Families Network, North Carolina State University’s School of Social Work, the Strong Families Commission, the Parent Support Network of Rhode Island, the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, and the Wyoming Children’s Trust Fund. The projects will run from February 1 to September 30, 2019.
The purpose of the FRPN-funding is to enhance father inclusion, with an emphasis on nonresidential fathers, in state programs and policies dealing with children and families. Grantees will involve a wide array of stakeholders, including administrators in key state agencies such as child support and child welfare, to conduct planning activities aimed at improving father involvement and generating more reliable funding for community-based fatherhood programs. The awards will help to support strategic planning efforts, interagency convenings and data collection activities designed to produce system change.
Pearson and Fagan will provide grantees with technical assistance and conduct an evaluation to gauge the elements of effective planning efforts.
“Programs and policies developed by states frequently influence levels of father involvement,” said Pearson. “This funding serves as an opportunity to look at how human services agencies treat fathers, educate stakeholders on the important role fathers have in their children’s lives, reduce barriers to paternal engagement and develop ways to fund fatherhood services.”