Participation in Responsible Fatherhood Programs in the PACT Evaluation: Associations with Father and Program Characteristics

November 1, 2018
Strengthening Families, Healthy Marriage & Responsible Fatherhood
Parents and Children Together (PACT) Evaluation, 2011-2020 | Learn more about this project
Participation in Responsible Fatherhood Programs in the PACT Evaluation: Associations with Father and Program Characteristics Cover
Download report (pdf)
  • File Size 1006kb
  • Pages 14
  • Published 2018


Since 2005, Congress has funded Responsible Fatherhood (RF) grants to support programs for fathers that promote responsible parenting, economic stability, and healthy marriage. Although many fathers voluntarily enroll in these programs, service providers often struggle with program attendance and completion. RF programs cannot achieve their intended outcomes if fathers participate minimally or not at all. Factors related to fathers’ circumstances and the programs that serve them may explain what leads some fathers to participate more than others. Understanding the associations between these factors and RF program participation may help practitioners design and target their services to maximize program attendance and completion—and ultimately improve fathers’ outcomes.

The Parents and Children Together (PACT) evaluation included four RF programs in its rigorous multi-component research design. Conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, PACT examined: fathers’ backgrounds, views, and experiences (qualitative study component), how the programs were implemented (implementation study component), and the programs’ effects on fathers’ outcomes (impacts study component). Using data collected for the implementation study and baseline data from the impact study, this brief presents findings on factors associated with fathers’ participation in RF programs.

Primary Research Question

  1. 1 How were fathers’ and programs’ characteristics associated with program participation?

Key Findings and Highlights

Fathers who chose to enroll in the four programs were primarily low-income African American men in their mid-thirties with two to three children, on average. The majority of men had histories of incarceration and struggled with unstable housing and employment.

Nine months after enrolling in an RF program, more than three-quarters of fathers had attended at least one program service, most often a core workshop that addressed a topic required by the grant. Across all four programs, fathers attended an average of 45 hours of programming, primarily by attending core workshops.

The analysis found that initial and ongoing participation was higher among: (1) older fathers; (2) fathers who did not anticipate participation challenges; (3) fathers who did not live with any of their children; and (4) fathers who had a child support order. In addition, four characteristics predicted fathers’ initial, but not ongoing, participation in core workshops: (1) being on parole, (2) displaying symptoms of moderate to severe depression, (3) being motivated to improve their relationship with their children’s mother, and (4) not being in a romantic relationship. These characteristics may have implications for how programs initially engage fathers.

Findings from site-specific regression models and staff interviews suggest that programmatic factors—including using an integrated cohort model, offering complementary services in the same building or a nearby location, and emphasizing peer support—also bolstered fathers’ initial and continued participation.


This brief used three sources of data: (1) a baseline survey data collected at the time of enrollment for all 5,522 enrolled fathers; (2) information on fathers’ enrollment and participation that programs collected; and (3) two rounds of staff interviews during site visits. The evaluation team calculated descriptive statistics of fathers’ characteristics and participation. The team also examined the associations between fathers’ characteristics at program enrollment and two measures of program participation following enrollment: (1) initial attendance (measured by whether fathers ever attended a core workshop) and (2) dosage (measured by the percentage of core workshop hours fathers attended). Data were pooled across the four programs. The team used logistic regression to estimate how fathers’ characteristics were related to their likelihood of ever attending a core workshop and ordinary least squares regression to estimate how fathers’ characteristics were related to the percentage of core workshop hours they received. Model results are presented as the predicted percentage of fathers who attended a core workshop and the predicted percentage of core workshop hours that fathers attended.


The results presented in the brief highlight characteristics of fathers and programs that predict fathers’ initial and ongoing attendance. By identifying the characteristics and life circumstances that facilitate or present barriers to fathers’ participation, programs can take steps to help fathers engage in RF programs. In addition, programs should recognize that how they design and implement their RF services may affect program participation and ultimately the benefits that fathers might receive from the program.

Last Reviewed: December 18, 2018