- How did HMRF programs recruit and serve clients?
- How did grantees staff HMRF programs, and what implementation challenges did programs face?
- What were the characteristics of clients who enrolled in HMRF programs, and how did their characteristics change from the beginning to the end of the program?
Healthy Marriage (HM) and Responsible Fatherhood (RF) programs are designed to support and strengthen families. Since 2005, Congress has funded $150 million each year in HMRF grants. The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded and overseen four cohorts of these grants (2006—2011, 2011—2015, 2015—2020, and 2020—2025). HM grantees promote healthy marriage and relationships through eight legislatively authorized activities, such as marriage and relationship education and skill development for jobs and career advancement. RF grantees’ legislatively authorized activities support responsible parenting, healthy marriage, and economic stability. OFA works with ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation to conduct research on the best ways to serve families through these grants.
The products featured on this page describe the 2015 cohort of 85 HMRF grantees, which received five-year grants in September 2015. The products cover more than four years of grant operations—from July 2016 through September 2020 for most grantees. Most findings are based on performance measures that ACF required the 2015 cohort of HMRF grantees to collect and report. The products also include information from evaluations of some grantees’ programs. These evaluations were not representative of all 2015 grantees and the findings from the evaluations should not be interpreted as representative of this cohort or the grant program overall.
The research presented here is part of the Fatherhood and Marriage Local Evaluation (FaMLE) Cross-Site Project, led by OPRE in collaboration with OFA. ACF contracted with Mathematica to conduct the FaMLE Cross-Site project.
To deepen understanding of HMRF programs, these products describe the 2015 cohort of HMRF grantees including how they reached potential clients, the services they provided, how they supported staff, the challenges they faced in implementing their programs, the characteristics of the clients they served, and how clients changed from the beginning to the end of the program. The findings drew on data from an online management information system called nFORM (Information, Family Outcomes, Reporting, and Management). All grantees were required to use the system to collect and report performance measure data, which OFA used to monitor grantees’ performance and progress. An understanding of the current programs can inform future program services, development, and investments.
Key Findings and Highlights
- Supporting Healthy Relationships: Final Report on the 2015 Cohort of Healthy Marriage Grantees Serving Adults. This report describes the 37 HM grantees that served adults as at least one of their target populations, and their clients. Adult clients included (1) individuals who enrolled in an HM program without a partner, regardless of whether they were in a romantic relationship; and (2) couples who enrolled in an HM program and were served together. The programs enrolled more than 96,000 adult clients. Looking just at clients who participated in at least one workshop session, adult clients participated in 13 median hours of workshops. Clients reported positive changes in their relationships over time, including more support and affection and greater satisfaction with their relationship. Local impact evaluations conducted by six grantees showed favorable program effects of their organizations’ services, such as on clients’ relationship satisfaction and conflict management skills for adult individuals and couples.
- Supporting Current and Future Healthy Families: Final Report on the 2015 Cohort of Healthy Marriage Grantees Serving Youth. This report describes the 29 HM grantees that served youth (ages 13 to 30) as at least one of their target populations, and their clients. The programs engaged a diverse group of more than 66,000 youth, primarily students, for an average of more than five weeks. Almost all programs worked with schools to recruit students. The most common challenges—identified by about 40 percent of grantees—were recruiting clients, encouraging them to attend services regularly, and encouraging clients to complete surveys. However, these challenges decreased over time. Youth’s attitudes and expectations about relationships were generally stable, and the three programs that conducted a local evaluation of their program’s services found few impacts. But youth did report positive experiences with the programs.
- Supporting Fatherhood: Final Report on the 2015 Cohort of Responsible Fatherhood Grantees. This report describes the 40 RF grantees that served community fathers and couples (who enrolled in an RF program offered in the community) and reentering fathers (who were incarcerated but would be released within three to nine months or who had been released up to six months earlier). The results for each individual in a couple are generally combined with results for community fathers. The programs enrolled more than 64,000 clients. Among all enrolled RF clients, community and reentering fathers participated in 24 median hours of workshops. Community fathers reported improvements in parenting, such as having more contact with their children. Fathers were less likely to say they were in a relationship at the end of the program than they were at the beginning. Fathers’ economic well-being improved over time; for example, they were more likely to be employed and reported less difficulty paying bills. Eight grantees conducted local impact evaluations of their services. These impact evaluations revealed the programs improved some outcomes that reflected coparenting quality and economic stability. They found few to no impacts on healthy relationships, parenting skills and behaviors, or children’s well-being.
- Methodology and Supplemental Findings for Final Reports on the 2015 Cohort of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Grantees. This document has supplemental information about the data, methodology, and findings discussed in the three final reports on HM grantees serving adults, HM grantees serving youth, and RF grantees. It (1) describes the data and methodology for analyses of grantees and clients, (2) includes supplemental tables on results in the final reports, and (3) provides additional information about the analysis of data from local impact evaluation reports.
These products are descriptive and include information such as means, percentages, and ranges. The results were based on performance measure data from July 2016 through September 2020 for most grantees. A few grantees received extensions; for them, the products include data through December 2020. Grantees were responsible for collecting all performance measure data and entering them in nFORM. Respondents included grantee staff members and clients (that is, the adults or youth served by the programs). As clients progressed through the program, grantees asked them to complete up to three surveys. The five primary data sources were:
- Program operations survey. Each quarter, one staff person from each grantee completed a program operations survey. Questions were on topics including recruitment methods, staff characteristics, quality assurance and monitoring, and implementation challenges.
- Services and referrals. Grantee staff were required to report information on all services provided through the grant, such as workshops and case management. Data included type of service, duration, staff that offered the service, and clients who attended. Grantees also had to report whether their staff offered clients referrals or incentives and, if so, for what purpose(s).
- The applicant characteristics survey. Clients completed the applicant characteristics survey at enrollment, which was often the first contact they had with the program. Questions were about topics such as demographic characteristics, financial well-being, and family status.
- Entrance survey. Clients completed the entrance survey at the first workshop they attended. Questions covered topics such as parenting, coparenting, relationships, and economic well-being. Clients responded to one of four different versions of the entrance survey depending on whether they were RF community fathers or couples, RF reentering fathers, HM adults, or HM youth.
- Exit survey. Clients completed the exit survey at the final workshop, with one exception. If the workshops lasted fewer than 28 days, a client completed the exit survey 28 days after the entrance survey. Like the entrance survey, the exit survey had different versions for the four specific populations being served (RF community fathers and couples, RF reentering fathers, HM adults, and HM youth). Most of the questions followed up on those in the entrance survey. The exit survey also had questions about the perceptions clients had about the programs, such as how satisfied they were with the services.
Some grantees complemented these data with evaluations of their programs. The local descriptive evaluations answered questions about grantees’ program operations and implementation, and the local impact evaluations answered questions about whether and how the programs affected clients’ relationships, parenting, and economic stability. To address these questions, grantees could have used the performance measure data (described above) and could have collected additional data.
Avellar, Sarah, Shiferaw, Leah, Ross, Christine, and Lee, Joanne. (2021). Supporting Fatherhood: Final Report on the 2015 Cohort of Responsible Fatherhood Grantees. OPRE Report 2021-156. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Avellar, Sarah, Shiferaw, Leah, Ross, Christine, and Lee, Joanne. (2021). Supporting Healthy Relationships: Final Report on the 2015 Cohort of Healthy Marriage Grantees Serving Adults. OPRE Report 2021-170. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Avellar, Sarah, Shiferaw, Leah, Ross, Christine, and Lee, Joanne. (2021). Supporting Current and Future Healthy Families: Final Report on the 2015 Cohort of Healthy Marriage Grantees Serving Youth. OPRE Report 2021-171. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Lee, Joanne, Shiferaw, Leah, Avellar, Sarah, Ross, Christine, and Stanczyk, Alexandra. (2021). Methodology and Supplemental Findings for Final Reports on the 2015 Cohort of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Grantees. OPRE Report 2021-177. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.