CFRP Report | R.014.0817
Overview and Background
Father involvement has increased dramatically over the past several decades, and simultaneously, the role of fathers in their families has evolved from conceptions of fathers as distant breadwinners to a more holistic recognition that fathers are equal co-parents. Accompanying these changes has been a growing interest among researchers in studying the role that fathers play in the lives of their children. Findings from these studies overwhelmingly show that children with involved fathers fare better across a wide range of domains compared to children without an involved father.
Federal and state investments in promoting the positive impact fathers have on their children and families continue to increase, but are occurring within a context of dramatic change for American families. Many men are becoming fathers in particularly disadvantageous situations. Young, unmarried, and lacking in education, these men face a multitude of barriers to being the fathers they want to be, from poor employment prospects and high incarceration rates, to juggling multiple parenting roles among the children they live with and the ones with whom they do not.
The state of Texas recognizes the important role that fathers play in the lives of their children and families, and also how challenging it can be for some fathers to be involved. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Prevention and Early Intervention Division (PEI) developed the Educating Fathers for Empowering Children Tomorrow (EFFECT) Program to support fathers and strengthen families through evidence-based fatherhood programs across the state. EFFECT aims to improve children’s wellbeing by helping fathers become more involved, responsible, and committed to their children through parent education skills, guidance, and support systems. Additionally, EFFECT aims to increase protective factors—family functioning and resilience, social support, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support, and nurturing and attachment—to reduce the risk of child maltreatment and to promote positive family wellbeing.
At present, most efforts to support fathers have been through father-specific programs designed to increase fathers’ economic self-sufficiency and improve their parenting knowledge and skills, but the evidence for the effectiveness of these programs is limited. In addition to investing in fatherhood programs through EFFECT, Texas is committed to considering a broader system of supports for fathers. This broader agenda includes gathering key stakeholders, such as program providers, researchers, and state agencies, to assess the state of fatherhood in Texas, convening state agency leaders to identify gaps in service provision and opportunities for collaboration across agencies, and championing the use of a father-inclusive lens in programs and services for families and the general public.
Using a mixed-methods approach that relied on administrative and survey data collected from fathers participating in the EFFECT Program, literature reviews, and interviews with key fatherhood stakeholders, program administrators and staff, and fathers, the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) organized its evaluation of PEI’s efforts to support fathers into three tiers. In the first tier, CFRP conducted both an implementation and outcomes evaluation to assess PEI’s current investments in Texas fathers through the EFFECT Program. In the second tier, CFRP identified the investments that state agencies and localities have made in fatherhood, and developed an inventory of programs in Texas. In the third tier, CFRP identified innovative programs and policies in other states and highlighted best practices for supporting family inclusiveness. The findings from this evaluation inform a comprehensive plan to support Texas fathers that is described in the final chapter.
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