Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Research and Evaluation Newsletter - Issue 6

Publication Date: December 18, 2019
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Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Research and Evaluation Newsletter

Issue 6

December 2019

A New Brief on Fatherhood Research Fatherhood: Ongoing Research and Program Evaluation Efforts in the Administration for Children and Families

The "Fatherhood: Ongoing Research and Program Evaluation Efforts" brief describes ACF's ongoing research and evaluation projects related to 1) the Responsible Fatherhood grant program, 2) noncustodial parents, and 3) fathers and fatherhood more broadly. It also describes some of ACF's past research and evaluation efforts related to fatherhood. Many ACF programs interact with and serve fathers in an effort to promote economic self-sufficiency and social well-being for them and their families.

Across ACF, we are implementing rigorous research and evaluation projects to better understand how to serve fathers and their families.

Implementation Reports from the Strengthening Relationship Education and Marriage Services (STREAMS) Evaluation 

The Strengthening Relationship Education and Marriage Services (STREAMS) evaluation includes a random assignment impact study and in-depth process study of five Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (HMRE) grantees funded by ACF's Office of Family Assistance (OFA).

To maximize its contributions to the evidence base and to inform future program and evaluation design, the STREAMS evaluation is examining the full range of populations served by HMRE programs, including adult individuals, adult couples, and youth in high schools.Each STREAMS site functions as a separate study within the larger evaluation, with each addressing a distinct research question.

The STREAMS evaluation recently released reports describing the implementation of two HMRE grant programs. Read more about each of these reports below. 

Implementation of Two Versions of Relationship Smarts Plus in Georgia

This process study report presents findings on the implementation of the Relationship Smarts Plus 3.0 (RS+) curriculum in two high schools in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. More Than Conquerors, Inc. (MTCI), a nonprofit social service provider with a long history of delivering HMRE programming with funding from OFA, led the implementation. RS+ is a widely-used relationship education curriculum for youth from 13 to 18 years old. The full curriculum includes 12 lessons designed to help youth better understand themselves, plan for the future, learn the characteristics of healthy relationships, and develop skills to form and maintain healthy relationships. MTCI is implementing two versions of the curriculum: the full version and an 8-lesson summary version.

This process study examined MTCI's implementation of RS+, including program design; processes for hiring, training, and supervising facilitators; service delivery; and youth engagement.

MotherWise: Implementation of a Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Program for Pregnant and New Mothers 

This process study report Visit disclaimer page  presents findings on the development and implementation of MotherWise, an HMRE program designed to serve low-income pregnant women and new mothers in Denver, Colorado. MotherWise includes three primary components: 1) a six-session relationship skills workshop that uses the Within My Reach curriculum and program-developed information on infant care and parenting; 2) individual case management; and 3) an optional couple's workshop.

The process study examines 1) preparations for program implementation; 2) procedures for hiring, training, and supervising frontline staff; 3) the extent to which Within My Reach was implemented with fidelity; and 4) participants' engagement with and responsiveness to the program.

Using Data to Understand Your Program: An Infographic from the B3 Study 

ACF's Building Bridges and Bonds (B3) study is evaluating innovative responsible fatherhood interventions that were incorporated into existing services offered at a subset of Responsible Fatherhood (RF) grantee organizations funded by the Office of Family Assistance. The B3 study includes both a process and impact evaluation with the overall goal of providing information to ACF, practitioners, and researchers about effective responsible fatherhood programs and implementation strategies.

This infographic from the B3 project documents processes and learnings related to the integration of the new interventions into existing RF programs.

The infographic describes an approach to using data to learn and engage in continuous program improvement, and highlights data from the B3 study interventions as examples. These examples show how programs can use data from a variety of sources to learn about who is participating, what services are delivered, and how much programming the participants receive. This infographic may be a useful resource for Responsible Fatherhood grantees and other community-based fatherhood programs who wish to use a data-informed approach to program improvement. 


Creating a Trauma-Informed System of Care for Formerly Incarcerated Dads 

This brief describes how fatherhood programs serving men in reentry can infuse their programming with the principles and elements of a trauma-informed system of care to support fathers and staff who have experienced trauma. The brief also identifies resources that may help fatherhood programs implement a trauma-informed system of care.

Key elements of a trauma-informed system of care are: 

  • An organizational commitment to a trauma-informed system of care;
  • Staff training in awareness of and appropriate response to trauma and;
  • Practices to foster healing and avoid further traumatization

Fatherhood programs and staff could: 

  • Conduct screenings to identify fathers who may benefit from clinical mental health services, and refer fathers who need further mental health assessments or clinical treatment to "in-house" clinical providers or external partners.
  • Implement nonclinical trauma-specific programs that support fathers with a trauma history.
  • Utilize several tools and training resources (including trauma screeners, organizational assessments, and agencies that provide trainings) that are available to fatherhood programs interested in implementing a trauma-informed system of care.

New OPRE HMRF Projects Awarded in 2019

Strengthening the Implementation of Responsible Fatherhood Programs (SIRF) 

The Strengthening the Implementation of Responsible Fatherhood Programs, or SIRF, project will use rapid cycle methods to help programs address challenges related to recruitment, retention, and engagement of fathers in RF services. MDRC is the contractor leading this project in partnership with Insight Policy Research and MEF Associates as subcontractors. The project team will work closely with stakeholders and experts, such as program practitioners and participants, to identify common obstacles to implementation and innovative ways to overcome them. The SIRF project team will collaborate closely with several RF programs to test these potential solutions and measure whether they are working using rapid learning methodologies. The project will lead to information that program operators and staff can apply to improve their programs and will also help sites be better prepared to participate in future rigorous, multi-site impact evaluations.


Strengthening the Implementation of Marriage and Relationship Programs (SIMR) 

OPRE recently awarded a contract to Mathematica Policy Research (with a subcontract to Public Strategies) for the Strengthening the Implementation of Marriage and Relationship Programs (SIMR) project. The objective of the SIMR project is to identify and test promising practices for addressing implementation challenges faced by healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programs that serve a range of populations using rapid learning methods. The study team will work in partnership with a set of HMRE grant programs (including those that serve adult couples, adult individuals, and youth) as it identifies critical implementation challenges and promising solutions for addressing them and develops, refines, and tests promising practices using rapid cycle evaluations. The SIMR project will produce briefs and reports summarizing the results and develop recommendations for sites that could participate in future summative evaluations. Goals of this work include both strengthening HMRE program implementation early in the grant cycle and preparing grantees for future large-scale studies of their programs.

Human Services Programs in Rural Contexts

This study focuses on the following goals: 1) to provide a rich description of current and past human services programs in rural contexts; 2) to determine the unmet need for human services in those communities; and 3) to identify opportunities for strengthening the capacity of human services to promote the economic and social well-being of individuals, families, and communities in rural contexts. While all human services programs within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are of interest, priority programs include Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs (HMRF); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs; Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) programs; and Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) programs. This study will be conducted by 2M Research (2M) in partnership with the Urban Institute.  


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Overview of Healthy Marriage Programs

Overview of Responsible Fatherhood Programs 

OPRE's HMRF Portfolio 

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