The Testing Identified Elements for Success in Fatherhood Programs (Fatherhood TIES)


The Testing Identified Elements for Success in Fatherhood Programs (Fatherhood TIES) project hopes to answer the question: What are the elements of fatherhood programs that lead to better outcomes for the fathers who take part in them?

Fatherhood programs are designed to help fathers connect with their children, improve fathers’ relationships with their partner or co-parent, and empower fathers to achieve or improve financial stability. These programs usually offer workshops and case management services for fathers to provide, for example, parenting strategies to strengthen their relationships with their children, help finding a steady job, skills to enhance their relationships, and support dealing with other life or family challenges they might experience.

The Fatherhood TIES project will identify and test the “core components” of fatherhood programs. Core components are the essential functions, principles, and elements that are judged as being necessary to produce positive outcomes. The project will use this information to try to figure out which core components are most effective at improving the lives of fathers who participate in fatherhood programs and their children.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

The Fatherhood TIES team—which includes researchers from MDRC, Abt Associates, and MEF Associates—will accomplish the project’s goals through several key activities. Importantly, Fatherhood TIES will utilize a robust and active engagement approach throughout that will include obtaining input on each phase of the work from an advisory committee made up of fathers, fatherhood program staff, subject matter experts, and others. The team will define and prioritize core components to test by working with programs serving fathers directly in local communities across the country and analyzing lessons from earlier studies and program participation datasets. The team will then collaborate with a set of fatherhood programs to put the core components into practice and collect and analyze data on their effects on fathers’ outcomes. The team will share findings and lessons by publishing a variety of products, such as reports, briefs, and how-to guides, that highlight the perspectives of fathers and staff, and help policymakers, researchers, and program operators apply lessons from the project.

The project intends to engage four fatherhood programs to implement and test the selected core components and will enroll up to 3,000 fathers and staff from these participating programs to participate. The study team is expecting to start collecting data in 2023.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

Using the information gathered across several different data sources, the evaluation will include an implementation study and an impact study: 

  • The implementation study will describe who participated in fatherhood program services, how services operated, what fathers thought about the services, and the challenges staff members faced implementing them. It will provide lessons for the field on key elements for successful program implementation and barriers to overcome when implementing these core components. 
  • The impact study will use either experimental research methods (randomized controlled trials) or quasi-experimental methods (methods designed to establish causality but that use assignment criteria other than randomization) to rigorously evaluate whether promising core components can bring about positive outcomes for fathers and their families. The specific outcomes of interest will depend on the core components being tested, and may include understanding effects on program engagement, employment and earnings, father-child relationship quality, and co-parenting relationship quality.