Building Bridges and Bonds (B3) Evaluation, 2014-2021

There is great interest in identifying effective strategies that build fathers’ capacity to support their children, both emotionally and financially. Since 2006, Congress has provided funds for discretionary grants to programs aimed at supporting fathers in three core areas: responsible parenting, economic stability, and healthy marriage. These and other fatherhood programs use a number of promising models, but rigorous studies have not yet shown which approaches are effective. The Building Bridges and Bonds (B3) study is a rigorous evaluation that includes six fatherhood programs. It is designed to test innovative, evidence-informed programming for fathers, with the goal of building practical evidence that can be used to improve services.

The study team partnered with fatherhood programs and experts in the field to identify high-priority questions and emerging service approaches. As a result, we selected three separate program approaches for evaluation:

  • A cognitive behavioral intervention, called Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Justice Involved Individuals Seeking Employment, designed to help fathers with criminal records find and retain better jobs.
  • A play-based parenting intervention called Just Beginning, designed to build parenting and coparenting skills for fathers with children 3 years old or younger.
  • A smartphone-based mobile application called DadTime, designed to improve fathers’ attendance at Just Beginning program sessions and encourage involvement with their child between sessions.

The evaluation includes both a process and an impact study.

  • Process study: Because each of the new program components is innovative, documenting program implementation is an important contribution. The process study describes who participated in services, how services operated, the challenges staff faced, and emerging lessons for the field.
  • Impact study: Each of the three innovative program components is being rigorously evaluated using an experimental research design. Half of eligible fathers were randomly assigned to a group offered the new program component. The other half did not have access to the new component, but could receive the usual services offered by the fatherhood program. Fathers completed surveys at baseline and again six months later. After six months, we are comparing fathers’ outcomes in a number of areas, including employment and earnings, quality of the father-child relationship, child support payments, and fathers’ contact with their children.

Data are from multiple sources, including web-based and text surveys, program participation information, focus groups, in-depth interviews, video observations, and administrative data from government agencies.

The contract was awarded to MDRC, in collaboration with MEF Associates and Abt Associates.

Point(s) of contact: Katie Pahigiannis and Samantha Illangasekare.

This study has registered the following impact evaluations on the AEA Randomized Control Trials (RCT) Registry:

Information collections related to this project have been reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under OMB # 0970-0485 (expired 10/1/2019). Related materials are available at the B3 Information Collection page on RegInfo.gov Visit disclaimer page .

Information collections related to this project have also been reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under ACF’s Generic Clearances. Related materials are available at the following pages on RegInfo.gov:

Formative Data Collections for ACF Research (OMB #0970-0356)

Related Resources

This tip sheet shares lessons learned by the Building Bridges and Bonds (B3) study thus far so that other programs can consider implementing these approaches to encourage father engagement.

A father’s support – both financial and emotional – is linked to better outcomes on nearly every measure of a child’s well-being.  However, past research has shown that fathers with previous involvement in the criminal justice system may find it particularly difficult to provide that support as they face challenges finding or maintaining stable employment, housing, and healthy relationships with family and friends...

A father’s support – both financial and emotional – is linked to better outcomes on nearly every measure of a child’s well-being.  Past research has shown that low-income fathers – whether they live with their children or not – may find it particularly difficult to provide that support as they face challenges to maintaining stable employment and stable relationships with their children...