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Research Reports and Data

What About the Dads?  Child Welfare Agencies' Efforts to Identify, Locate, and Involve Nonresident Fathers  (Report)

Author(s):  Karin Malm, Julie Murray and Rob Geen
Organization(s):  The Urban Institute
Most foster children are not living with their fathers at the time they are removed from their homes. Once in foster care, these children may experience even less contact with their nonresident fathers. This study sought to assess typical child welfare practice with respect to nonresident fathers of children in foster care. The study also examined the potential utility of expanding the use of child support enforcement data sources in these efforts. Local agency caseworkers were interviewed by phone about nearly 2000 children in foster care in four study states (Arizona, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Tennessee) to examine front-line practices related to nonresident fathers. The study documents that nonresident fathers of children in foster care are not often involved in case planning efforts, and nearly half were never contacted by the child welfare agency. By not reaching out to fathers, caseworkers may overlook potential social connections and resources that could help to achieve permanency for the child.
Published:  April, 2006
Availability:  Full HTML Report  Full PDF Report  Executive Summary  PDF Executive Summary  Research Summary  PDF Research Summary

Fathers’ Involvement in Permanency Planning and Child Welfare Casework  August 2002.

This review summarizes existing literature and knowledge about non-custodial fathers and their relations with children involved in the child welfare system.  It sets the stage for a three-year study that will provide the federal government with a description of the extent to which child welfare agencies identify, locate and involve non-custodial fathers in case decision making and permanency planning.  The literature review is organized according to the following questions:  What are the recent policy trends in children’s family living arrangements and what has been the policy response to these trends?  What are the barriers to father involvement in case planning?  What are the potential effects of father involvement in case planning?  What promising practices are currently being implemented to identify, locate and involve non-custodial fathers in child welfare cases?

DADS:  The “Developing a Daddy Survey” and the Collaborative Work of the DADS Working Group

The purpose of this paper is to summarize the activities of the Developing a Daddy Survey (DADS) project, which grew out of the federal fatherhood initiative activities of the mid-1990s. The DADS project builds on existing efforts aimed at collecting data on men as they become fathers and as they go about the task of fathering their children. In this paper, we describe the background, origins and purpose of the DADS project and provide an overview of the studies included in the DADS project. While the DADS project includes six studies, the focus of this paper is on those three studies that examine the beliefs and behaviors of men who are already fathers: The Early Head Start Evaluation- Fatherhood Component (EHS), The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) and the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (Fragile Families). We describe how father involvement is measured in these studies and how the project offers new opportunities for research in fatherhood and father involvement. In addition, we provide notes to researchers interested in using the survey instruments that have been assembled by the DADS project.  Framework Paper in PDF / Full Report in HTML

The Fragile Family and Family Well-Being Study

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is supporting a 20-city, multi-year study of “fragile families”. This study, funded through a private/public partnership, will assess the effects of father involvement on child well-being, including fathers who live apart from their children on a permanent or intermittent basis. Preliminary data from several sites indicates that 44 percent of never-married fathers are living with their partners when their baby is born, that over 80 percent of fathers are providing financial assistance to the child’s mother during pregnancy, and that over 90 percent of mothers want the father to be involved in the child’s life.

Male Perpetrators of Child Maltreatment: Findings from NCANDS

Using case-level data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect System (NCANDS) for 2002, analyses of the characteristics of male perpetrators of maltreatment were conducted. The study utilized an 18-State data set of 192,392 perpetrators identified by the child protective services system during 2002. The relationship of the perpetrators to the child victims, as well as whether the perpetrator acted alone or with another person, was considered along with demographic characteristics of both perpetrators and victims, and circumstances of the maltreatment.

Charting Parenthod:  A Statistical Portrait of Fathers and Mothers in America.

How do men feel about parenthood?  How involved are fathers in day-to-day parenting activities?  Do men think single parents are just as effective as two-parent families?  Do men wait longer to have children?  While most parenting statistics have focused only on mothers, on June 13, 2002, a first-of its-kind report on parents — including fathers — was released.  This report looks at what is known about both mothers and fathers, offering a more complete picture of family life in the United States.  The report was produced by Child Trends, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization and funded by the Department of Health and Human Services through the National Institute for Child and Human Development/NIH and the Administration for Children and Families, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, the NICHD Family and Child Well-being Research Network, and the Ford, Annie E. Casey, David and Lucille Packard, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundations. Also available in PDF format.

First Marriage Dissolution, Divorce, and Remarriage.

This report, by Mathew Bramlett and William Mosher, 2001, presents data on marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the United States that show 43 percent of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years.  The report, "First Marriage Dissolution, Divorce, and Remarriage" also shows that one in three first marriages end within ten years and one in five end within five years. The findings are based on data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, a study of 10,847 women 15-44 years of age. Past research has shown that divorce is associated with higher rates of mortality, more health problems, and more risky behaviors such as increased alcohol use.

Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Practices Among Teenagers in the United States, 1988 and 1995

This report, by Joyce Abma and Freya Sonenstein, April 2001, "Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Practices Among Teenagers in the United States, 1988 and 1995" presents national estimates of sexual experience, contraceptive use, and selected aspects of sexual experience among never-married males and females aged 15-19 in the United States. Data from the National Survey of Family Growth and the National Survey of Adolescent Males indicate that teenagers with more highly educated mothers, with mothers who delayed child bearing past age 19, from two parent families, and whose schooling was on schedule were less likely to engage in sexual risk behaviors.

Fathers’ and Mothers’ Involvement in Their Children's Schools by Family Type and Resident Status

This report profiles findings about the importance of fathers and mothers involvement in their children’s education, even if parents and children do not reside together.  Released by the Department of Education/National Center for Education Statistics the report uses data from the 1996 National Household Education Survey to address questions about the level of involvement of parents with their children’s schools and the relationship between involvement and student outcomes.  The report looks at differences in fathers’ and mothers’ involvement by family and parent type.  It also examines differences in nonresident fathers’ and mothers’ involvement with their children’s schools.  The association between fathers’ and mothers’ school involvement and student outcomes is explored by family type and resident status.  Full report in PDF format (545KB).

Nonresident Fathers:  To What Extent Do They Have Access to Employment-Based Health Care Coverage

This report contains the findings presented to the Medical Support Working Group during the course of their deliberations.  These findings, based on analysis of the Current Population Survey Child Support Supplement and the Survey of Income and Program Participation, provided a fact-based analytical framework for the Working Group activities.  Prepared by Laura Wheaton of the Urban Institute.

Income and Demographic Characteristics of Nonresident Fathers in 1993

During the past few years, research has shown that nonresident fathers, as a whole, can afford to pay more child support, but that a minority of them are poor and have limited ability to pay child support.  This report updates and improves on earlier analyses and provides more information on the circumstances of low-income fathers.  The findings confirm that strengthening child support enforcement is warranted, but that poor fathers may need a different approach, one building on their capacity to pay child support.  Prepared by Elaine Sorensen and Laura Wheaton of the Urban Institute.

The Role of Child Support in Texas Welfare Dynamics

The Family Support Act of 1988 (FSA) mandated a number of policy changes to increase the employability of caretakers receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and to improve the collection of child support from noncustodial parents. This project investigated four research questions about interaction between welfare and Child support in Texas: Which factors have the greatest influence on the award and collection of child support? To what extent does child support influence AFDC exits? To what extent does child support reduce AFDC recidivism? And, What is the combined influence of child support and earnings of the custodial parent in removing families from poverty? Written by Deanna T. Schexnayder, Jerome A. Olson, Daniel G. Schroeder and Jody McCoy. Executive Summary (HTML) and Executive Summary (PDF)

Low-Income, Non-Residential Fathers:  Off-Balance in a Competitive Economy, An Initial Analysis

This paper explores the work and residential status of low­income, non­residential fathers, men often portrayed as irresponsible dead­beats who ignore their responsibilities to the children they fathered.  It represents the first level of analysis on a sample of 85 fathers.  Future work will include more detailed consideration of fathers' budgets, as well as their parenting behavior.  The researchers are also expanding the sample to include a greater number of young fathers, and future papers will include work with the expanded sample.  The paper is by Kathryn Edin, Laura Lein, and Timothy Nelson, September 28, 1998.

Non-Custodial Parent’s Participation in Their Children’s Lives:  Evidence from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, Executive Summary

The aim of this project was to improve understanding of the relationship between non-custodial parent involvement, children's well-being, child support, and custody arrangements. Two approaches were used. Analyses of data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) were used to provide national estimates of persons living in different custody arrangements, and to examine the connections between custody arrangements, child support payments, parental involvement, and children's well-being in both the divorced and never-married populations. In addition, a review of recent literature was conducted and gaps in the research were noted.  This report is by Christine Winquist Nord and Nicholas Zill of Westat, Inc., August, 1996.

Non-Custodial Parent’s Participation in Their Children’s Lives:  Evidence from the Survey of Income and Program Participation.  Volume 2:  Synthesis of Literature and Annotated Bibliography

The literature review contains three components:  a synthesis of the literature on child development, custody, visitation, and child well-being; an annotated bibliography; and a selected bibliography. The synthesis briefly summarizes recent perspectives on children's development and on the role of the father in families.  This report is by Christine Winquist Nord and Nicholas Zill of Westat, Inc., August, 1996,

Responsible Fathering:  An Overview and Conceptual Framework

A consensus is emerging that responsible fathering means establishing paternity, being present in the child's life (even if divorced or unmarried), sharing economic support, and being personally involved in the child's life in collaboration with the mother.  The research literature on fathering has been long on empirical studies of specific fathering behaviors and notably short on theory and the bigger picture.  And while innovative programs to promote better fathering have multiplied in the past decade, they are often not connected to either research or theory.  This report, by William J. Doherty, Edward F. Kouneski, and Martha Farrell Erickson of the University of Minnesota, September, 1996, summarizes the research on factors that influence fathering and presents a systemic, contextual framework that highlights multiple interacting influences on the father-child relationship:  father factors, mother factors, child factors, coparental factors, and broader contextual factors.

Research Syntheses

The Spring 2000 issue of Focus is devoted to child support enforcement policy and low-income families

This issue of the Institute for Research on Poverty’s Focus magazine provides a review of recent research and evaluation findings related to child support enforcement policy and low-income families.  The issue includes studies on fathers, mothers and children, child support and custody policy, and international perspectives.  For more information, see the web site:  Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP).

The March-April 2000 issue of Poverty Research Center News is devoted to fathers

According to the cover of the issue:  “The issue looks at fathers — their contribution to child well-being, the part they play in welfare reform, and the unintended consequences of child support policy.  Moving beyond the stereotype of 'deadbeat dads', the articles in this issue signal the role fathers can play beyond that of breadwinner.  The authors review a range of policy and program initiaties, as well as chronicle the difficulties fathers face in sustaining a meaningful role in their children’s lives.”  For more information, see the web site:  Joint Center for Poverty Research (JCPR).

Other Research Related to Fathers


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