Encouraging Responsible Parenting among Fathers with Histories of Incarceration

Publication Date: April 18, 2017

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This brief, one of three in a series, describes the key strategies Community-Centered Responsible Fatherhood Ex-Prisoner Reentry Pilot Project (Fatherhood Reentry) programs used to provide responsible parenting activities to participating fathers and their families. The brief also provides recommendations, based on an implementation study of the Fatherhood Reentry programs, for practitioners implementing responsible parenting activities for the reentry population.


Previous research suggests that contact and communication between incarcerated parents and their children and families can mitigate the negative effects of parental incarceration on children and help incarcerated fathers successfully reintegrate into the community after release. Fatherhood Reentry programs implemented activities and services designed to increase fathers’ knowledge of parenting skills and help them stay in touch with their families. The purpose of this brief is to document activities offered by the programs in the area of responsible parenting and offer recommendations to practitioners interested this work.

Key Findings and Highlights

Responsible parenting activities implemented by Fatherhood Reentry programs were intended to strengthen relationships between fathers and their children by

  • developing and building knowledge of parenting and child development among fathers through the facilitation of curriculum-based parenting classes and father support groups;
  • increasing and improving parent-child contact and communication by facilitating family visits, video diaries, and special events; and
  • removing or reducing barriers to family stability and reunification by helping fathers with child care and child support modifications and payments.


From October 2011 through September 2015, the evaluation team undertook an implementation study of Fatherhood Reentry programs. Team members engaged in many data collection activities including reviews of program materials and documents, bimonthly teleconferences with core program staff to discuss program implementation and key modifications, site visits to observe staff-selected program operations and activities, semi-structured interviews with a broader set of program staff and stakeholders to gather data on implementation, and participant focus groups to clarify their perspectives on program implementation.


This brief presents the following recommendations for practitioners implementing responsible parenting activities for the reentry population:

  • Leverage the opportunities present in both the prerelease and postrelease environments to implement parenting activities.
  • Use a range of parenting activities that give fathers multiple tools to help them reunify with their children.
  • Address fathers’ economic stability needs as part of the child/family reunification process.
  • Cultivate child/family-friendly environments in institutions by establishing strong relationships with correctional staff.


Fontaine, Jocelyn, Lindsey Cramer, and Ellen Paddock (2017). Encouraging Responsible Parenting among Fathers with Histories of Incarceration: Activities and Lessons from Six Responsible Fatherhood Programs, OPRE Report #2017-02, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action, Inc.
Lutheran Social Services
New Jersey Department of Corrections Office of Substance Abuse Programming and Addiction Services
PB&J Family Services, Inc.
The RIDGE Project, Inc.
Rubicon Programs, Inc.
Importance of Parents and Children Together
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