Improving Father Involvement in Early Home Visiting Programs: Early Trends From a Pilot Intervention Study
Home visiting programs represent a promising prevention strategy. Unfortunately, fathers have largely been overlooked as potential service targets even though they are linked to both child developmental and child maltreatment risk. The present study describes a pilot test of a promoting father involvement enhancement component (Dads Matter) designed to be folded into standard home visiting services.The enhancement is designed to engage fathers as early as possible in services, and aims to: 1) improve fathers’ involvement in home visiting services; 2) improve fathers’ knowledge, skill, and commitment to the fathering role, 3) foster co-parenting strategies among mothers and fathers. This paper presents the feasibility and acceptability results of this pilot intervention study.
Three program sites delivering diverse home visiting models were engaged in the greater metropolitan Chicago area and 27 families were targeted for recruitment during the pilot. Using a quasi-experimental time lagged design families were recruited and enrolled in two study phases sequentially. In the first baseline comparison group phase, families received standard home visiting services and completed pre- and four-month post-tests. After this phase, staff at the three home visiting programs were trained to implement Dads Matter using a manualized intervention, coupled with ongoing clinical supervision. In this second phase, families were enrolled and studied while receiving these enhanced services over the first four months of services (completing identical pre- and posttests). Feasibility and acceptability data collection examined rates of father recruitment, enrollment and participation in the intervention, and fidelity of implementation of the prototype intervention and its components.
The study sample includes predominantly low-income African American families. Study enrollment and retention rates will be presented and are on par or better than similar clinical trials in the home visiting field. The research team was able to engage 75% of fathers. Mothers and fathers have been well engaged in program services. Study enrollment and retention varied across study sites; however, these rates matched typical enrollment/retention under usual service conditions. Study team observations from training and supervision sessions will also be presented, including challenges encountered in and strategies developed for engaging and providing the enhanced services to fathers. In addition, examining data on fidelity to the program model using a service log completed by home visitors after each clinical contact indicates that home visitors increased engagement and delivery of intervention services to fathers; however, the extent of service delivery was not as complete as intended.
Conclusions and Implications
The Dads Matter enhancement to standard home visiting services appears to be a potentially feasible and acceptable approach to increasing fathers’ engagement in home visiting services. Fathers participated in the intervention at favorable rates and implementation of the intervention appears to yield greater service focus on inclusion of fathers. However, the enhancement will benefit from continued iterative development and testing. Relatively intensive home visitor training and supervision appear to be important to the success of implementing this intervention in order to flexibly respond to diverse family needs including scheduling, parenting relationship quality, and other risks and strengths.