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- What are current RF program approaches to preventing and addressing IPV/DV?
- What are the important challenges and successes in addressing and helping to prevent IPV/DV?
- What are some promising practices in addressing and preventing IPV/DV?
Intimate partner violence (IPV), defined as physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and/or psychological aggression by a current or former intimate partner. IPV is prevalent and has lasting consequences for survivors and their children (CDC, 2017). It is important to understand the services that exist to help prevent IPV and address it effectively when it occurs.
IPV services reach a relatively small proportion of men, women, and families affected, and men in particular can be difficult to reach. Federal Responsible Fatherhood (RF) programs have an opportunity to help address IPV among the fathers that participate in these programs.
This report summarizes findings from a research study funded by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) and overseen by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE). Child Trends and their partners, Boston Medical Center and Futures Without Violence, conducted the study, which examines the specific approaches that RF programs take to provide IPV-related services. It also discusses challenges and successes related to providing these services, promising practices, and areas for growth.
This report aims to inform the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the broader fatherhood research and practice fields about how RF programs contribute to IPV prevention and intervention through both required and non-required grant activities and through connections with partner organizations. Using multiple sources of data to document these approaches, this report:
- Provides information about the strengths and gaps in existing RF IPV services and referrals.
- Provides a summary of promising practices that may improve the provision of RF services to prevent and address IPV.
- Informs the larger fatherhood and domestic violence fields about directions for research and policy, based on the successes, challenges, and barriers to providing IPV-related services in RF programs.
Key Findings and Highlights
- RF program staff view preventing and addressing IPV as essential to achieving their program goals, noting that violence is closely interrelated to other challenges faced by fathers.
- Staff spoke about the delicate balance between keeping participating fathers engaged in RF programming and pushing them to seek help in instances when they have used violence.
- Curricula used by RF programs generally include some IPV education, though the amount and type of content vary. All curricula reviewed, including those from the broader field that were not currently used by the RF programs in this study, focused on addressing fathers’ perpetration of IPV, but not on fathers as survivors.
- RF programs create safe, non-shaming spaces and facilitate discussions about the consequences of IPV for children, both of which are central to the engagement of fathers in IPV education.
- RF programs screen routinely for IPV at intake; however, they reported that screening at intake is not the optimal strategy to identify fathers in need of services because fathers often do not see themselves as users of violence, and because a trusting relationship with program staff, which supports disclosure, has not yet been established.
- RF programs have diverse protocols for responding to disclosures of IPV and addressing safety. Some RF programs focus on reporting to authorities whereas others make referrals.
- Significant barriers to preventing and addressing IPV among fathers include stigma, fathers’ and their communities’ normalization of violence, and lack of free and accessible programs for men who use violence.
- Partnerships between RF programs and local domestic violence organizations that are built on respect, strong relationships with shared goals, and trust are instrumental and allow for mutual learning.
- Teaching fathers about the consequences of IPV for children’s well-being may be an effective strategy to motivate fathers to better engage in IPV services.
The PAIVED project team used the following procedures to answer the project questions: (1) a review and synthesis of RF grantee documents (e.g., grantee applications and progress reports); (2) a review of fatherhood, IPV, and other relevant curricula that fatherhood programs use or could use to help prevent and address IPV among their populations (this review was augmented by telephone discussions with a subset of curriculum developers); and (3) qualitative data collection, including telephone or in-person interviews with RF program (n = 16) and partner organization (n = 11) staff, and observations of RF programming with IPV content (n = 5). Trained interviewers used a semi-structured interview guide, and trained program observers used a standardized protocol for the qualitative data collection. Qualitative data were transcribed and coded for emerging themes.
Recommendations from this study relate to promising practices and areas for growth:
- Provide universal education to all fathers in RF programs about the consequences of IPV for children and the importance of healthy co-parenting strategies in safe, private spaces.
- Assess IPV formally and informally at multiple time points over the course of the program.
- In RF programs, create safe and private spaces for discussing sensitive topics like IPV with trusting staff members who use non-shaming language, including one-on-one meetings such as case management.
- Use trauma-informed approaches when providing education or services for users of violence.
- Create or enhance free or low-cost, accessible services for men who use violence, potentially delivered within the RF programs and in partnership with Battering Intervention Programs (BIPs) to minimize barriers.
- Train RF program staff on the differences between BIPs and anger management programs, as well as the differences between BIPs and IPV survivor services, so that men who use violence are appropriately referred.
Karberg, Elizabeth, Jenita Parekh, Mindy E. Scott, Juan Carlos Areán, Lisa Kim, Jessie Laurore, Samuel Hanft, Ilana Huz, Heather Wasik, Lonna Davis, Bonnie Solomon, Brooke Whitfield, and Megan Bair-Merritt (2020). Preventing and Addressing Intimate Violence when Engaging Dads (PAIVED): Challenges, Successes, and Promising Practices from Responsible Fatherhood Programs, OPRE Report # 2020-22, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Battering intervention program. We use this term to refer to any type of program or organization that provides services to people who use violence in relationships.
- Intimate partner violence, defined as physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and/or psychological aggression by a current or former intimate partner.
- RF Program:
- Responsible Fatherhood programs with OFA funding.