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Program Evaluation

Good program evaluations assess program performance, measure impacts on families and communities, and document program successes. With this information, programs are able to direct limited resources to where they are most needed and most effective in their communities.

Picture of a father and son.

The Program Manager's Guide to Evaluation

Good program evaluations assess program performance, measure impacts on families and communities, and document our success. With this information, programs are better able to direct limited resources to where they are most needed and most effective in their communities. To help program managers fulfill these goals, the Administration for Children and Families has developed The Program Manager's Guide to Evaluation. The guide explains program evaluation — what it is, how to understand it, and how to do it. It answers your questions anout evaluation and explains how to use evaluation to improve programs and benefit staff and families.

Partners for Fragile Families

HHS has a continuing partnership with the private-sector initiative, Partners for Fragile Families (PFF).  This initiative is aimed at helping fathers work with the mothers of their children in sharing the legal, financial, and emotional responsibilities of parenthood. In March 2000, HHS approved ten state waivers for the Partners for Fragile Families Demonstration projects. Working at the community level with non-profit and faith-based partners to provide employment, health, and social services, these projects will test new approaches to involving young fathers with their children and to helping mothers and fathers build stronger parenting partnerships. Projects sites are located in California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The Office of Child Support Enforcement has funded Fatherhood Development Workshops on effective practices for working with young unemployed and underemployed fathers; the development of a manual for workers to use in helping low-income fathers learn to interact more effectively with the child support enforcement system; and a peer learning college for child support enforcement experts to identify systemic barriers these young fathers face in becoming responsible fathers.

The National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program it created, made moving people from welfare to work a primary goal of federal welfare policy. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 furthered this goal, authorizing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to award $3 billion in welfare-to-work grants to states and local communities to promote job opportunities and employment preparation for the hardest-to-employ recipients of TANF and for noncustodial parents of children on TANF. Grants are awarded directly by DOL on a competitive basis to programs in local communities with innovative welfare-to-work approaches, and through states, on a formula basis, to the Private Industry Councils or equivalent bodies in all JTPA service delivery areas (now Workforce Investment Boards, under the Workforce Investment Act, which replaced JTPA).

Giving Noncustodial Parents Options:  Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program
This welfare-to-work approach emphasized close monitoring of child support compliance and strove to limit the burden of child support obligations on the NCPs, so these did not become a disincentive to work. Specifically, The Support Has A Rewarding Effect (SHARE) initiative operated with Welfare-to-Work (WtW) grant support in three counties in the state of Washington. SHARE involved collaboration among the welfare and workforce investment systems, child support enforcement agency, and employment and training providers. The SHARESHARE offered three options to noncustodial parents (NCP) whose minor, dependent children were receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and who were in arrears on their support obligations:

  1. Start paying support,
  2. Enroll in a WtW program, or
  3. Face possible incarceration.

The main objective of this study was to examine the employment, earnings, and child support outcomes for targeted NCPs.

Serving Noncustodial Parents:  A Descriptive Study of Welfare-to-Work Programs, by Karin Martinson and John Trutko (Urban Institute) and Debra Strong (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.), December 2000.  Also available in PDF format.

OCSE Responsible Fatherhood Demonstrations

OCSE Responsible Fatherhood Programs:  Early Implementation Lessons,
OCSE Responsible Fatherhood Programs:  Client Characteristics and Program Outcomes (in PDF only)

Eight states (California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Washington, and Wisconsin) received Responsible Fatherhood demonstration grants or waivers through the Office of Child Support Enforcement to allow them to test comprehensive approaches to encourage more responsible fathering by non-custodial parents. Each state project is different but they all provide a range of needed services such as job search and training, access and visitation, social services or referral, case management and child support. The initial implementation report, OCSE Responsible Fatherhood Programs:  Early Implementation Lessons, and the final report OCSE Responsible Fatherhood Programs:  Client Characteristics and Program Outcomes (in PDF only) are available on line. The implementation report provides information about the program models used and the lessons learned in client recruitment and retention. The outcome report describes service delivery and program outcomes. The report indicates the responsible fatherhood services resulted in:  increased employment rates, ranging from 8 to 33 percent, and increased incomes, ranging from 25 to 250 percent, especially for those who were unemployed previously; increased child support compliance, ranging from 4 to 31 percent; primarily for those who had not been paying previously; and increased time spent with children; 27 percent of the fathers reported seeing their children more often after the program. A press release on the outcome report is also available.

Parents' Fair Share

Sites in seven states participated in Parents' Fair Share (PFS), a demonstration project conducted by MDRC that provided employment-related training, parenting education, peer group support, and mediation services to encourage low-income fathers to be more involved with their children and increase their payment of child support.

Current available reports:

An Evaluability Assessment of Responsible Fatherhood Programs:  Final Report

The increased interest in programs that promote responsible fatherhood and the limited information currently available on the services provided and effectiveness of these programs has generated interest in the systematic evaluation of responsible fatherhood programs. For this reason, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Ford Foundation have funded The Lewin Group and Johns Hopkins University to conduct an evaluability assessment of responsible fatherhood programs. The goal is to provide the Department and other policymakers with an evaluation design that can be used to evaluate a variety of responsible fatherhood programs. In addition, this report is intended to provide direction to organizations that would support or conduct evaluations by illustrating what is involved in the evaluation process and what mechanisms must be in place before a formal impact evaluation may be undertaken. It may also provide direction to programs that are building the capacity be evaluated. Directed by Burt Barnow of Johns Hopkins University and David Stapleton of The Lewin Group, with the assistance of Gina Livermore, Jeffery Johnson, and John Trutko, August 6, 1997.

Evaluation of the Implementation of the Child Support Guidelines:

Volume I presents the main study findings, integrating findings from all components.  A comprehensive description of the research questions, methodology, and history of child support guidelines implementation are in Volume I, Chapter 1 of this report, which also describes study methodology and limitations on the data.  Additional details on the methodology are contained in Appendix A of Volume I, and Appendix B of Volume I contains typical cases received from each of the study States.  Volume II of the report analyses the State guideline reviews, deviations in those reviews, and interviews conducted with stakeholders in the study counties.  The User's Guide to the Public Use Database is Volume III of the final report on this evaluation.  (The database itself may be downloaded from that page.)

A Child Support Enforcement Customer Satisfaction Survey, Final Report

This 1998 report by Thérèse van Houten and Brenda G. Cox, presents the results of an investigation conducted by The Urban Institute and its subcontractor, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., into the feasibility of conducting a national representative customer satisfaction survey of CSE parents.


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