Health and Human Services (HHS) is the United States government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. In particular, four HHS resources— the Office of Family Assistance, the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, the Office of Child Support Enforcement, and the Office of Head Start —help support families in creating stable and healthy environments for children and parents.
The Office of Family Assistance supports fathers through its competitive grant programs; providing funding, guidance, direction, and technical assistance to its grantees. The Office’s Promoting Responsible Fatherhood program assists fathers in developing and improving healthy marriage and relationships, responsible parenting skills, and economic stability. The Office also administers the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency.
The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) studies Administration for Children and Families (ACF) programs and the populations they serve through rigorous research and evaluation projects. These include evaluations of existing programs, evaluations of innovative approaches to helping low-income children and families, research syntheses and descriptive and exploratory studies.
- Early childhood home visiting programs typically target pregnant women and mothers of young children, but increasing attention is being given to the practice of engaging fathers as well. The study aimed to understand how home visiting programs engage fathers, what fathers’ experiences are in those programs, and the perceived benefits of fathers’ participation. Qualitative interviews were conducted with home visiting program administrators, staff members, and participating fathers and mothers in five programs implementing strategies to engage fathers in home visiting services. The findings have implications both for home visiting programs that are interested in working with fathers, and for responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage programs that serve low-income fathers.
- The final report, Approaches to Father Engagement and Fathers’ Experiences in Home Visiting Programs, discusses approaches that home visiting programs use to engage fathers, the challenges they face, the strategies they use to overcome these challenges, and benefits of participating from the perspective of fathers and program staff. There is also an accompanying brief that summarizes key findings from the final report.
- The brief, Serving Young Fathers in Home Visiting Programs: Highlights from a Research Study, describes the unique set of challenges and the strategies staff use to serve young fathers, and is based primarily on staff interviews in home visiting programs that serve a high number of teen fathers.
- The Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) is a five-year national project funded through OPRE. The goals of the FRPN are to:
- Promote rigorous evaluation of fatherhood programs that serve low-income fathers. FRPN will fund the evaluation of programs that aim to increase paternal engagement and parenting skills; improve fathers’ ability to provide economic support; and increase parenting time, father-child contact, positive co-parenting and healthy relationships.
- Expand the number of researchers and practitioners collaborating to evaluate fatherhood programs through in-person and virtual trainings.
- Disseminate information, including new evaluation findings, that leads to effective fatherhood practice and evaluation research. More information on the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN) is available on their website.
- The Parents and Children Together (PACT) Evaluation, 2011-2016 is an evaluation to learn about the implementation and effects of responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage programs. The evaluation has multiple components: separate impact and process studies for responsible fatherhood and health marriage programs and two substudies.
Read the Quarterly Update for October 2014 here (PDF - 280 KB
The Office of Child Support Enforcement, serving a quarter of all children and half of all poor children, helps parents improve their ability to support their children and encourages fathers and mothers to cooperate with each other and be involved in their children’s lives. Across the county, child support programs are finding innovative ways to engage fathers in the lives of their children, to increase non-custodial parent employment, to improve family relationships, and to address family violence prevention.
On December 19, 2016, the Office of Child Support Enforcement announced a new rule to make state child support enforcement programs more effective, flexible, and family-friendly.
The rule requires state child support agencies to increase their case investigative efforts to ensure that child support orders – the amount noncustodial parents are required to pay each month – reflect the parent’s ability to pay. Taking a more realistic approach to calculating child support payments, the rule requires states to consider a low-income noncustodial parent’s specific circumstances when the order is set, rather than taking a one-size-fits all approach. And the rule requires that states take the investigative steps necessary to ensure that all relevant information about the noncustodial parent’s circumstances are collected and verified.
The goal is to set realistic orders so that noncustodial parents pay regularly, rather than setting an unrealistically high order that results in higher rates of nonpayment. At the same time, states retain flexibility in the level of orders they set.
Read the Press Release here.
- State by State – How to Change a Child Support Order
- Access the Child Support Enforcement Handbook for guidance on enforcing child support.
- Download the Promoting Child Well-Being & Family Self-Sufficiency Fact Sheet Series that discuss how and why the child support program provides innovative family-centered services to both parents.
- Learn more about what steps to take if you have a child support order and your income has gone down.
The Office of Head Start (OHS) supports responsible fatherhood by providing resources and assistance to grantees on the strong family engagement component of Head Start and Early Head Start programs. One past initiative specifically targeted at increasing the involvement of fathers in the lives of their children is the 21 Early Head Start fatherhood demonstration projects funded by the Administration on Children, Youth and Families in partnership with the Office of Child Support Enforcement.
- National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement and the Father Engagement section provides a comprehensive list of additional resources to engage parents and grandparents, as well as Head Start governance information. Information is available in English and in Spanish.
- Hear parent and family stories about their positive experiences with Head Start programs and how families contribute to the development of their children.