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Ten Key Findings from Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives

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Document date: February 01, 2008
Released online: March 03, 2008

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

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Abstract

Recent policies encourage the development of programs designed to improve the economic status of low-income nonresident fathers and the financial and emotional support provided to their children. This brief provides ten key lessons from several important early responsible fatherhood initiatives that were developed and implemented during the 1990s and early 2000s. Formal evaluations of these earlier fatherhood efforts have been completed making this an opportune time to step back and assess what has been learned and how to build on the early programs' successes and challenges.


Introduction

The role of noncustodial fathers in the lives of low-income families has received increased attention in the past decade. As welfare reform has placed time limits on cash benefits, policymakers and program administrators have become interested in increasing financial support from noncustodial parents as a way to reduce poverty among low-income children. Although child support enforcement efforts have increased dramatically in recent years, there is evidence that many low-income fathers cannot afford to meet their child support obligations without impoverishing themselves or their families. Instead, many fathers accumulate child support debts that may lead them to evade the child support system and see less of their children.

To address these complex issues, states and localities have put programs in place that focus on developing services and options to help low-income fathers find more stable and better-paying jobs, pay child support consistently, and become more involved parents. In part because of the availability of new funding sources and a growing interest in familyfocused programs, this area is experiencing dramatic growth, with hundreds of “fatherhood” programs developing across the country.

Under the expanded purposes of Title IVA, authorized in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193, also known as PRWORA), states have been able to use some of their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to provide services to nonresident fathers, including employment-related services. PRWORA also authorized grants to states to assist noncustodial parents with access and visitation issues, and it required states, as part of their Child Support Enforcement Program, to have procedures requiring fathers who are not paying child support to participate in work activities, which may include employment and training programs. The Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005 (P.L. 109-171), which contains a reauthorization of the TANF program, also authorized funding to states and public and nonprofit entities for responsible fatherhood programs.

These recent policies encourage the development of more programs for lowincome fathers. This brief focuses on several important early fatherhood initiatives that were developed and implemented during the 1990s and early 2000s that provide valuable lessons to policymakers and program staff now in this field. Formal evaluations of these earlier fatherhood efforts have been completed, some quite recently, making this an opportune time to step back and assess what has been learned and how to build on the early programs’ successes and challenges.

(End of excerpt. The entire paper is available in PDF format.)



Topics/Tags: | Employment | Families and Parenting | Poverty, Assets and Safety Net


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