Pathways-to-Outcomes Snapshots: Tools for Building Evidence for Responsible Fatherhood Programs

Publication Date: November 6, 2020
Cover image for the PACT PTO Responsible Fatherhood Report

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These snapshots are intended for practitioners and researchers involved in designing, improving, or evaluating RF programs. They present four RF Pathways-to-Outcomes models that visually represent hypothesized links between program activities and intended outcomes. Each model reflects one of four outcome domains targeted by RF programs and measured in the PACT evaluation: (1) healthy relationships between co-parents, (2) father development and well-being, (3) consistent employment, and (4) parenting skills and father involvement.

Accompanying each model is a recommendation table that provides research questions that could be addressed in future evaluations to build the evidence base. These questions are informed by the program activities included in the pathways-to-outcomes models. That is, answering these questions will be important for determining how best to implement the program activities and whether they can be considered effective or evidence-based. The models and recommendations intend to advance the field of RF programming and suggest future directions for research.


The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) funded the Parents and Children Together (PACT) evaluation to learn more about the effectiveness of the Responsible Fatherhood (RF) programs it funds. The evaluation showed positive impacts for the participating RF programs but was not designed to identify specific program activities that contributed to the impacts. To address this gap, the PACT team created a set of RF Pathways-to-Outcomes models described in this brief to visually depict how OFA-funded RF program activities may contribute to intended outcomes

Key Findings and Highlights

Hypotheses for each RF Pathways-to-Outcomes model, and examples of associated evidence-informed strategies for RF programming are as follows:

  1. Programs may improve men’s co-parenting relationships by integrating personal development, parenting, and healthy relationships content in a group-based workshop, educating men about domestic violence, providing individual case management, and engaging co-parents.
    • Implement a workshop that integrates parenting and relationship content and is targeted for fathers.
    • Partner with community stakeholders to educate fathers on important topics, including domestic violence.
    • Provide separate, supplementary services to co-parents.
  2. Programs may support father development and well-being by reducing their risk for depression or depressive symptoms and associated risk of substance use disorder.
    • Integrate father development and well-being topics into the core workshop
    • Partner with community stakeholders to provide supplementary services to address mental health and substance use disorder
  3. Programs may improve fathers’ employment and economic stability by providing intensive and comprehensive work-related services.
    • Conduct intensive, daily workshops focused on pre-employment skills development.
    • Provide case management to identify and address barriers to employment.
    • Help fathers to access supplementary education, training, and work experience services in the community.
  4. Programs may improve fathers’ parenting skills and increase involvement in their children’s lives by frontloading parenting content in a group-based workshop that covers the importance of father involvement, child development, and co-parenting.
    • Include an adequate dosage of parenting content in workshops and sequence parenting as one of the earliest topics in the program.
    • Offer validating and culturally-relevant parenting workshop content.


The Mathematica team developed the models using information from the PACT federal evaluation, discussions with RF practitioners and researchers, and a targeted literature review. To develop the recommendations table accompanying each model, we transformed key activities from the models into a condensed list of specific strategies for grantees to consider adopting. For each strategy, we developed multiple targeted research questions that could be addressed in future evaluations.


Baumgartner, Scott, Amy Overcash, Pamela Holcomb, and Heather Zaveri (2020). Pathways-to-Outcomes Snapshots: Tools for Building Evidence for Responsible Fatherhood (RF) Programs. OPRE Brief # 2020-116. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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