Fathers and Continuous Learning in Child Welfare
Evidence suggests that positive father involvement can improve a range of well-being outcomes for children. Father involvement is also associated with other important child welfare outcomes, including reduced likelihood of entry into foster care, shorter periods of time in foster care, and increased rates of reunification. Despite the potential for positive impacts of father involvement, systematic reviews of strategies to engage fathers and paternal relatives in child welfare cases reveal little empirical evidence to guide practice. In addition, despite increased emphasis on engaging fathers and paternal relatives, the hoped for improvement in outcomes has not been realized. This project attempts to fill this gap and address the longstanding challenge of engaging fathers and their relatives in the child welfare system.
Mathematica Policy Research and the University of Denver are conducting this project under contract with the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE), within the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) and the Children’s Bureau (CB) are partners in this project.
The project involves two phases, a pilot study and an evaluation that will implement and test the use of the Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC) to strengthen the engagement of fathers and paternal relatives with children involved in the child welfare system in up to six sites. The BSC, developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, involves the use of Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles for rapid, small tests of change. Participating sites will track and report on specific measures, monitoring progress and improvements over time. In addition, participating sites will collaborate within and across-sites, through learning sessions, conference calls, and other systematic means of communication for shared learning. Sites will be supported by experts in the field (in this case, experts in father engagement and child welfare systems). Based on the shared learning and successful small tests of change, sites are expected to spread change through the agency. This work will build knowledge about how collaborating with system partners and continuously using data to make improvements in engagement strategies can create a child welfare culture that thinks about and engages fathers and paternal relatives.
This project started in September 2017 and will run through March 2022.