Building Bridges and Bonds (B3) Evaluation, 2014-2021

Project Overview

There is great interest in identifying effective strategies that build fathers’ capacity to support their children, both emotionally and financially. Since 2006, Congress has provided funds for discretionary grants to programs aimed at supporting fathers in three core areas: responsible parenting, economic stability, and healthy marriage. These and other fatherhood programs use a number of promising models, but rigorous studies have not yet shown which approaches are effective. The Building Bridges and Bonds (B3) study is a rigorous evaluation that includes six fatherhood programs. It is designed to test innovative, evidence-informed programming for fathers, with the goal of building practical evidence that can be used to improve services.

The study team partnered with fatherhood programs and experts in the field to identify high-priority questions and emerging service approaches. As a result, we selected three separate program approaches for evaluation:

  • A cognitive behavioral intervention, called Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Justice Involved Individuals Seeking Employment, designed to help fathers with criminal records find and retain better jobs.
  • A play-based parenting intervention called Just Beginning, designed to build parenting and coparenting skills for fathers with children 3 years old or younger.
  • A smartphone-based mobile application called DadTime, designed to improve fathers’ attendance at Just Beginning program sessions and encourage involvement with their child between sessions.

The evaluation includes both a process and an impact study.

  • Process study: Because each of the new program components is innovative, documenting program implementation is an important contribution. The process study describes who participated in services, how services operated, the challenges staff faced, and emerging lessons for the field.
  • Impact study: Each of the three innovative program components is being rigorously evaluated using an experimental research design. Half of eligible fathers were randomly assigned to a group offered the new program component. The other half did not have access to the new component, but could receive the usual services offered by the fatherhood program. Fathers completed surveys at baseline and again six months later. After six months, we are comparing fathers’ outcomes in a number of areas, including employment and earnings, quality of the father-child relationship, child support payments, and fathers’ contact with their children.

Data are from multiple sources, including web-based and text surveys, program participation information, focus groups, in-depth interviews, video observations, and administrative data from government agencies.

The contract was awarded to MDRC, in collaboration with MEF Associates and Abt SRBI.

The points of contact are Samantha Illangasekare and Katie Pahigiannis.

  • Encouraging Attendance and Engagement in Parenting Programs: Developing a Smartphone Application with Fathers, for Fathers

    Published: July 19, 2018

    Building Bridges and Bonds (B3), a study of Responsible Fatherhood programs, is testing a set of innovative approaches designed to help fathers advance their parenting and employment skills. One of these innovations is a new smartphone-based application called DadTime. DadTime is designed to support engagement...

  • Three Innovative Approaches to Serving Low-Income Fathers: The Building Bridges and Bonds Study

    Published: May 19, 2017

    This brief introduces the Building Bridges and Bonds study, a rigorous evaluation of new program approaches to support low-income fathers in working toward economic stability and improved relationships with their children. The brief describes the three new program approaches that are being evaluated as enhancements to other responsible fatherhood program services...

  • Building Bridges and Bonds: Study Design Report

    Published: May 19, 2017

    This report describes the Building Bridges and Bonds study, a rigorous evaluation of new program approaches to support low-income fathers in working toward economic stability and improved relationships with their children. The report includes a description of the three new program approaches being added to responsible fatherhood program services and the research design that is being used to evaluate them...

  • Fatherhood: Ongoing Research and Program Evaluation Efforts

    Published: June 17, 2015

    Many programs within the Administration for Children and Families work with fathers to promote economic self-sufficiency and social well-being for them and their families. As a part of that work, we also implement rigorous research and evaluation projects designed to improve our understanding of how best to serve those fathers. This brief describes research and evaluation projects related to the Responsible Fatherhood grant program and noncustodial parents, and other research related...

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