The four papers included in this symposium use a variety of data sources to address key questions related to advancing the optimal engagement of fathers in child and family services including data from a large child welfare dataset, a doula home visiting intervention study, interviews with parent training intervention developers, and focus groups with fathers themselves. The strengths of this symposium include the presentation of data collected directly from fathers and other key stakeholders, the examination of a variety of child and family service contexts, and a mix of quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches. These projects represent the cutting edge of research in this nascent and challenging area of study. Collectively they advance knowledge of the service needs of fathers, barriers to fathers' engagement in child and family services, and promising strategies and approaches for future research.
One of the papers that will be presented in this symposium focuses on families currently involved in the child welfare service system. In this paper data from family assessments collected in a large child welfare system is analyzed using latent class analysis to explore patterns of father-related risk factors. In the second study, data produced from a doula home visiting program examining the factors related to fathers' participation in the intervention is also presented. The third study explores the parenting concerns and needs and experiences of African American fathers reported in focus groups. The final study describes potential adaptations to evidence-based parent training interventions identified through interviews with parent training intervention developers, researchers, and clinicians.
Taken together these studies provide a multifaceted view of father engagement in services from the system, family, and individual levels. The results set the stage for future research and have implications for child and family service providers who are seeking to improve the inclusion of fathers in these types of services. Continued barriers to services including serving a variety of fathers in complex family structures, limited parenting resources for fathers in child and family service systems, and fathers' perceptions of child and family services are examined. Also innovative services strategies to better engage fathers including repackaging parenting interventions and prevention programs, using comprehensive family assessments, and building flexible service strategies that can be responsive to a variety of family structures and service contexts are described.