Data Snapshots from the Interim Report on the 2015 Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Grantee Programs and Clients

Publication Date: April 27, 2021

Introduction

Research Questions

  1. How did HMRF programs recruit and serve clients?
  2. How did grantees staff HMRF programs, and what implementation challenges did programs face?
  3. What were the characteristics of clients who enrolled in HMRF programs and how did their characteristics change from the beginning to the end of the program?

The federal government has a long-standing commitment to supporting healthy relationships, stable families, and father involvement in their children’s and families’ lives. Since 2005, Congress has funded $150 million each year in healthy marriage (HM) and responsible fatherhood (RF) grants. The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded and overseen three cohorts of these grants (2006-2011, 2011-2015, 2015-2020). HM grantees promote healthy marriage and relationships through eight legislatively authorized activities, such as marriage and relationship education and development of skills for job and career advancement. RF grantees’ legislatively authorized activities support responsible parenting, healthy marriage, and economic stability. OFA works with ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation to conduct research on how to best serve families through these grants.

This work is part of the Fatherhood and Marriage Local Evaluation (FaMLE) Cross-Site Project, led by OPRE in collaboration with OFA. ACF has contracted with Mathematica to conduct the FaMLE Cross-Site project.

Purpose

This series of snapshots describes the 2015 cohort of 85 HMRF grantees that were awarded five-year grants in September 2015. The snapshots drew on data from an online management information system called nFORM (Information, Family Outcomes, Reporting, and Management). All grantees are required to use the system to collect and report performance measure data, which OFA uses to monitor grantee performance and progress. Understanding the current programs can inform future program services, development, and investments.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Who Enrolls in Healthy Marriage Programs? Data Snapshot of Adult Clients at Program Entry. This snapshot describes the characteristics of adult clients when they enter HM programs. HM grantees enrolled more than 60,000 adult clients in about three years. HM clients were racially and ethnically diverse and about half were younger than 35 years of age. A common motivation to enroll was clients’ interest in learning how to improve personal relationships.
  • Who Enrolls in Responsible Fatherhood Programs? Data Snapshot of Clients at Program Entry. This snapshot describes the characteristics of clients when they enter RF programs. RF grantees enrolled just under 44,000 clients in about three years. RF clients were typically male and racially and ethnically diverse. About half were younger than 35 years of age. RF clients’ most common reason to enroll was interest in learning about being a better parent.
  • At the Center of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Programs: Data Snapshot of Program Staff and Support. This snapshot describes program staffing, as well as support for program staffing. In most HM and RF programs, grantees employed a mix of managerial and supervisory staff, case managers, and workshop facilitators. Facilitation and case management staff typically had at least a bachelor’s degree. Staff training was common early in the grant period, but declined over time. The frequency with which staff met with supervisors remained consistently high.
  • Reaching Potential Clients: Data Snapshot of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Recruitment Strategies. This snapshot describes grantees’ recruitment of clients into services. To identify and enroll clients, every grantee reported recruiting onsite at their own and other community agencies. Grantees commonly recruited at schools, places of worship or faith-based community centers, other community agencies or organizations, Head Start programs, and child welfare agencies. Most grantees reported they also used phone, mail, and street outreach (that is, recruiting in different places throughout the community, such as on public transportation or at informal gathering places).
  • Early Learning About Healthy Relationships: Data Snapshot of Healthy Marriage Programs for Youth. This snapshot describes youth and young adults (ages 13 to 30) served by HM grantees. HM programs can offer services in high schools, for example as part of a health curriculum, or in other settings to help youth prepare for decisions about relationships and parenthood. In the nearly three-year period covered in this snapshot, HM grantees enrolled 45,382 youth in their programs. Enrolled clients were almost evenly split between females and males; 84 percent were younger than 18 and almost all (96 percent) were in school. Youth attended 8 workshop sessions for 14 hours, on average. Enrolled youth also participated in an average of one individual service contact (lasting at least 15 minutes), such as a meeting with a case manager. From the beginning to the end of the program, youth’s expectations about communication in relationships and their expectations of their future relationships and parenting generally remained stable.
  • Services Supporting Healthy Marriage: Data Snapshot of Healthy Marriage Programs. This snapshot describes services provided by the HM grantees. Group-based workshops, usually lasting several weeks, were typically the centerpiece of the program. Among clients who attended at least one workshop session, adult individuals and youth clients typically received 12 workshop hours (median). Clients in adult couples who attended at least one workshop session together participated in workshops for a median of 15 hours. Grantees also provided individual service contacts (such as case management). A majority (57 percent) of adult individuals participated in a service contact lasting 15 minutes or longer, whereas few adult couple clients or youth did so (10 percent and 15 percent, respectively).
  • Services Supporting Responsible Fatherhood: Data Snapshot of Responsible Fatherhood Programs. This snapshot describes services provided by the RF grantees. Like HM grantees, the primary services were group-based workshops and individual service contacts (such as case management). Among clients who attended at least one workshop session, community fathers typically received 26 workshop hours (median) and reentering fathers typically received 24 hours. More than 60 percent community fathers and more than 40 percent of reentering fathers participated in one or more one-on-one service contacts lasting 15 minutes or longer.
  • Healthy Marriage Clients’ Change Over Time: Data Snapshot of Adult Clients at Program Entry and ExitTo learn how HM clients changed over the course of the program, we compared their answers on the entrance survey at the first workshop they attended to the exit survey at their last workshop session. The outcomes represent goals of the HM programs, but they do not necessarily represent the effects of the programs. That is, the programs did not necessarily cause the changes in clients’ outcomes. Adult clients reported improvements in their relationships over time. For example, adult clients who were in a relationship at both program entry and exit reported improvement in relationship companionship with their partner, such as talking to each other each day and laughing together. They were more likely than at the outset of the program to report being very satisfied with their relationship and to strongly agree that their relationship was lifelong. Most adult HM clients thought they and their partner worked well together as parents at program entry (72 percent of adult individuals and 85 percent of adult couples strongly agreed or agreed). This proportion increased by program exit (75 percent of adult individuals and 89 percent of adult couples). Adult clients reported increases in employment over time. Among clients in adult couples, employment increased, and most were working at program exit. For example, at program entry about 50 percent of clients in adult couples were working full-time compared with 53 percent at the end of the program. Employment also increased among adult individuals. At program entry, 25 percent were working full-time, compared with 30 percent by program exit.
  • Responsible Fatherhood Clients’ Change Over Time: Data Snapshot of Clients at Program Entry and Exit. To learn how RF clients changed over the course of the program, we compared their answers on the entrance survey at the first workshop they attended to the exit survey at their last workshop session. The outcomes represent goals of the RF programs, but they do not necessarily represent the effects of the programs. That is, the programs did not necessarily cause the changes in fathers’ outcomes. Fathers in the community reported seeing their youngest children more often at the end of the program compared to when they began. For example, the percentage of fathers who reported seeing both of their youngest children in the past month increased from 54 percent at program entry to 59 percent at program exit. Reentering fathers also reported more contact with their children. The percentage who called or emailed one or both children monthly or more increased from program entry (22 percent) to exit (23 percent). Community fathers, but not reentering ones, reported better conflict management with their partners, such as fewer instances of being rude, having very heated arguments, and turning small issues into big arguments. Community fathers reported increases in employment, with most working at program exit. For example, at the end of program, about 38 percent of community fathers reported working full time, compared with 29 percent at program entry. Most fathers reported that the program helped them become more effective parents, work better as a co-parent, and handle their bills better; for reentering fathers, the program also boosted their confidence about getting a job when they were released from jail or prison.

Methods

The snapshots used performance measure data from July 2016 to March 2019 to describe HMRF grantees and the people they serve. Grantees were responsible for collecting all performance measure data and entering those data in nFORM. Respondents include grantee staff members and clients (that is, the adults or youth served by the programs). As clients progress through the program, grantees ask them to complete up to three surveys. The five data sources were:

  • Program operations survey. Each quarter, one staff person from each grantee completes a program operations survey. Question topics include recruitment methods, staff characteristics, quality assurance and monitoring, and implementation challenges.
  • Services and referrals. Grantee staff must report information on all services provided through the grant, such as workshops and case management. Data include type of service, duration, staff who offered the service, and clients who attended. Grantees must also report whether their staff offered clients referrals or incentives and, if so, for what purpose(s).
  • The applicant characteristics survey. Clients complete the applicant characteristics survey at enrollment, which is often the first contact they have with the program. Questions are about topics such as demographic characteristics, financial well-being, and family status.
  • Entrance survey. Clients complete the entrance survey at the first workshop they attend. Questions cover topics such as parenting, coparenting, relationships, and economic well-being. Clients respond to one of four different versions of the entrance survey depending on their population: RF community fathers (also completed by couples served in RF), RF incarcerated fathers, HM adults, and HM youth.
  • Exit survey. Clients complete the exit survey at the final workshop, with one exception. If the workshops last fewer than 28 days, then a client completes the exit survey 28 days after the entrance survey. As with the entrance survey, there are four different versions for specific populations served (RF community fathers, RF incarcerated fathers, HM adults, and HM youth). Most of the questions follow up on those asked at the entrance survey to find out any updates. The exit survey also has questions about clients’ program perceptions, such as satisfaction with the services.

Citation

Avellar, S., Stanczyk, A., Aikens, N., Stange, M., and Roemer, G. (2020). At the Center of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Programs: Data Snapshot of Program Staff and Support (OPRE Report 2020-85). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Avellar, S., Stanczyk, A., Aikens, N., Stange, M., and Roemer, G. (2020). Early Learning About Healthy Relationships: Data Snapshot of Healthy Marriage Programs for Youth. (OPRE Report 2020-179). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Avellar, S., Stanczyk, A., Aikens, N., Stange, M., and Roemer, G. (2021). Healthy Marriage Clients’ Change Over Time: Data Snapshot of Adult Clients at Program Entry and Exit. (OPRE Report 2021-58). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administra­tion for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (/opre).

Avellar, S., Stanczyk, A., Aikens, N., Stange, M., and Roemer, G. (2021). Responsible Fatherhood Clients’ Change Over Time: Data Snapshot of Clients at Program Entry and Exit. (OPRE Report 2021-59). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administra­tion for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (/opre).

Avellar, S., Stanczyk, A., Aikens, N., Stange, M., and Roemer, G. (2020). Services Supporting Responsible Fatherhood: Data Snapshot of Responsible Fatherhood Programs. (OPRE Report 2020-179). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Avellar, S., Stanczyk, A., Aikens, N., Stange, M., and Roemer, G. (2020). Services Supporting Healthy Marriage: Data Snapshot of Healthy Marriage Programs. (OPRE Report 2020-180). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Avellar, S., Stanczyk, A., Aikens, N., Stange, M., and Roemer, G. (2020). Who Enrolls in Healthy Marriage Programs? Data Snapshot of Clients at Program Entry (OPRE Report 2020-83). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Avellar, S., Stanczyk, A., Aikens, N., Stange, M., and Roemer, G. (2020). Who Enrolls in Responsible Fatherhood Programs? Data Snapshot of Clients at Program Entry (OPRE Report 2020-84). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Stanczyk, A., Aikens, N., Avellar, S., Stange, M., and Roemer, G. (2020). Reaching Potential Clients: Data Snapshot of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Recruitment Strategies. (OPRE Report 2020-117). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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