Structuring Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Workshops for Strong Attendance: Workshop Characteristics Associated with Client Participation

Publication Date: August 4, 2021
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  • Published: 2021

Introduction

Research Questions

  1. How were workshop characteristics associated with client attendance?

This paper examined the association between healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood (HMRF) client attendance and workshop characteristics across 48 HMRF programs awarded grants in 2015 by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). For HMRF services to have their intended effect, clients must have substantial exposure to them. But low attendance is a common challenge. Workshop characteristics—such as whether sessions are held during the week or on weekends, during the day or in the evenings— could potentially boost or reduce client attendance. For practitioners who must decide when and how to offer a workshop, learning from the experiences of other programs can be helpful. 

The analysis included grantees with workshop series that served any of three populations:

  1. HM adult couples: Adults who enrolled in an HM program with their romantic partner
  2. HM adult individuals: Adults who enrolled in an HM program without a partner, regardless of whether they were in a romantic relationship
  3. RF community individuals: Adults who enrolled in an RF program offered in the community

It did not include the three other populations that grantees could serve: HM youth (ages 13 to 13), RF community couples (adults who enrolled in an RF program with another individual), and RF reentering individuals (adults who were incarcerated and within three to nine months of release or were recently released).

Purpose

Since 2005, Congress has funded $150 million each year in HMRF grants to support the long-term success of children and families. Variations in workshop characteristics are well documented, but there is limited information on how characteristics are linked with attendance. To understand whether and how workshop characteristics were related to client attendance, this paper used data over two years from a subset of grantees that provided workshops to adults enrolled in HM and RF programs.

Key Findings and Highlights

Generally, across populations examined here, making sessions longer and more frequent was associated with greater attendance. In several cases, the longest and most frequent sessions measured—that is, more than four hours or daily—had the most consistent associations with average hours of attendance and the share of regular attenders. However, there are a few caveats to these findings. Grantees did not offer many of the very long or frequent sessions, so these results were driven by a small share of workshop series. In addition, we did not examine changes in clients’ outcomes. Even if offering content in long, frequent sessions led to greater attendance, learning new skills can take time and practice, which might be more difficult in a compressed schedule.

Although workshop characteristics were associated with client attendance, they were not the full story. Many workshop characteristics—such as the time of day or season a workshop series was offered—did not show a pattern of statistically significant relationships with attendance.  In addition, the workshop characteristics did not account for all the differences in attendance. About 20 to 60 percent of the differences in hours of attendance and 40 to 85 percent of the differences in the percentage of clients who attended most hours remained unexplained (depending on the population and model). So other factors—such as grantee characteristics that changed over time—also played a role in attendance.

Methods

This paper used the performance data that grantees reported to ACF for workshop series that began between June 2017 and December 2019 and ended from January 2018 to December 2019. The analysis included grantees with workshop series that served any of three populations: HM adult couples, HM adult individuals, and RF community individuals. Because the characteristics associated with attendance could differ by population, we analyzed results for the three populations separately.

We analyzed series attendance in two ways: (1) average hours of attendance and (2) percentage of clients who attended at least 75 percent of intended workshop series hours (that is, “share of regular attenders”). We used two different types of statistical models for each outcome. One model estimated differences within and across grantees. The other model focused only on grantees that had workshop series with different characteristics, such as grantees that increased the frequency of series to improve attendance or for other reasons.

Citation

Avellar, S., Stanczyk, A., and Friend, D. (2021). Structuring Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Workshops for Strong Attendance: Workshop Characteristics Associated with Client Participation. OPRE Report 2021-103. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.