Since 2006, Responsible Fatherhood programs across the country have received federal funding administered by the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These programs aim to promote positive father-child interactions, improve parents’ relationship with each other and their capacity to parent as a team, and build fathers’ economic stability. Since their inception, Responsible Fatherhood programs have conducted capacity-building activities, such as performance management, and have undergone local and federal evaluations aimed at building evidence. These activities and evaluations have uncovered a number of implementation challenges, including recruiting fathers, enrolling them in services, and keeping them actively engaged in services so they can realize their goals.
MDRC’s Strengthening the Implementation of Responsible Fatherhood Programs (SIRF) is studying ways to help programs overcome these hurdles using learning cycles, which use an iterative approach to identify implementation roadblocks, design and test solutions, interpret findings, and adapt practices and measurement. SIRF seeks to improve Responsible Fatherhood programming using a continuous cycle of evidence building, implementation, and adaptation that is attuned to the real-world needs of the people who provide the services and the fathers who use them. For example, if a program identifies engaging fathers in services as a challenge, the SIRF project, in partnership with the program, would identify possible solutions, implement the solution, examine the effect of the solution on fathers’ engagement, and adjust. This process could be repeated multiple times over the course of the project, depending on the intensity and scope of the solution. This type of effort is sometimes known as “rapid cycle evaluations” or “rapid learning methods.”
If you are interested in learning more about SIRF or would like to nominate a fatherhood program to participate, please email SIRF@mdrc.org.