Applying Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques to Employment Programming for Fathers: Findings from the B3 Study

Publication Date: January 15, 2020
Cover of "Applying Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques to Employment Programming for Fathers"

Download Report

Download Report PDF (1,607.47 KB)
  • File Size: 1,607.47 KB
  • Pages: N/A
  • Published: 2020


Research Questions

  1. In what context was CBI-Emp implemented?
  2. Who participated in the CBI-Emp evaluation and were they the intended population for the B3 study?
  3. To what extent were programs able to engage fathers and for how long?

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.

To continue building an evidence base of effective, innovative programming to support men with prior justice involvement and their families, the Office of Planning Research and Evaluation (OPRE) at ACF contracted with a team led by MDRC using funds from ACF’s Office of Family Assistance (OFA) to conduct the Building Bridges and Bonds (B3) study. B3 identified and is testing new interactive skill-building approaches that address two of the three required Responsible Fatherhood grant program areas, parenting and economic stability, within the context of existing Responsible Fatherhood programs.  The intervention that is addressing economic stability is called the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Justice Involved Individuals Seeking Employment (CBI-Emp). The CBI-Emp curriculum builds on evidence from cognitive behavioral skill-building, a practice that aims to help individuals with recent justice system involvement to recognize and modify patterns of thinking and actions that hamper positive outcomes.

For the B3 study, three organizations offering Responsible Fatherhood programming implemented CBI-Emp. Fathers were randomly selected to participate in the organizations’ usual menu of services or CBI-Emp in addition to the usual menu of services. Using data collected through the B3 process study, this brief describes how each organization implemented CBI-Emp within their existing services and how fathers engaged in both CBI-Emp and the organizations’ usual menus of services.


This brief presents the first systematic analysis of how three existing fatherhood programs implemented CBI-Emp as part of the B3 process study. The goal of the B3 process study is to provide insight into the different services received by each of the study groups as context for interpreting future impact study findings. This initial analysis documents the implementation of CBI-Emp and describes how an initial sample of fathers engaged in the CBI-Emp curriculum and each organization’s usual menu of services.

Key Findings and Highlights

The findings presented in this brief demonstrate that while Responsible Fatherhood programs were able to integrate CBI-Emp into three unique organizational contexts as an additional service, implementing CBI-Emp was not without challenges. These challenges included recruiting eligible fathers and engaging them in services. Most notably, 31 percent of the CBI-Emp group never attended a CBI-Emp workshop. However, this level of non-participation mirrors the services as usual group attendance in regular employment services, suggesting a broader engagement issue. This finding is similar to results from other studies.  That said, once CBI-Emp group fathers did attend a CBI-Emp session, most reached the minimum dosage threshold for adequate exposure (as identified by the curriculum developers in coordination with MDRC).


The data presented in this brief come from the B3 process study, baseline surveys, and management information systems. The process study systematically documented the implementation of CBI-Emp using a series of semi-structured interviews with staff members, focus groups with fathers, and program observations. The B3 baseline survey and nFORM Applicant Characteristics Survey were administered at intake to fathers who enrolled in the study. Data from nFORM, the management information system used by federally funded fatherhood programs, were also analyzed.


Manno, Michelle S., Emily Brennan, and Eric Cohn. 2019. “Applying Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques to Employment Programming for Fathers: Findings from the B3 Study.” OPRE Report 2019-110. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Last Reviewed Date: