The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Bringing Fathers Into Parenting Interventions: Acceptability and Feasibility of Engagement Strategies

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 9:15 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 003B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer L. Bellamy, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: Parent training (PT) and home visiting interventions are efficacious means by which to improve parenting and reduce child maltreatment risk.Fathers, however, are not well engaged in these parenting interventions. The failure to successfully provide these services to fathers is troubling given mounting evidence for the impact of fathers on child well-being and parenting intervention success. Despite continuous calls for the need to adapt child and family services to engage fathers and a large menu of suggested strategies for adaptations strewn across this literature, little research has systematically examined any of these approaches.

Methods: The aim of this study is to support the development of brief engagement strategies designed to increase the delivery of parenting support to fathers through PT layered into a home visiting program. The strategies tested in this study are notintervention model specific, but rather designed to be flexible enough to fold into existing services. Twelve mother-father pairs (hereto forward referred to as parents) were recruited from two different home visiting programs serving primarily young, low-income African American and Latino mothers at a large urban social service agency.  One site provided a 6-week PT group with engagement strategies designed to address basic barriers to attendance such as timing (evening hours to accommodate work schedules) and provision of childcare and dinner to families (so both parents could attend). The other site provided the PT intervention, the same basic engagement strategies, and the addition of 2 sessions individually delivered to pairs of parents by group facilitators to increase motivation and address couple-specific co-parenting needs.

Participating parents completed telephone interviews with pre- and post-group self-report measures of demographics, parenting quality, the quality of the mother- father relationship, general stress, and open ended questions about their experience with the PT groups as well as session evaluation form following each PT group session attended.Additional data include group facilitators’ session notes and group attendance and participation records. This paper is focused on the qualitative data collected in this study. These data are used to explore the feasibility acceptability of providing these father engagement strategies to service providers and participating parents.

Results: Results indicate that these father engagement strategies are feasibly folded into PT interventions hosted by home visiting programs, and generally acceptable to service providers and participants. Qualitative data also suggest needed improvements to maximize fathers’ participation and fit of the PT model including: consideration of cultural messaging related to the role of fathers and fathering and pre-training or preparation of group facilitators and home visitors to provide consistent engagementmessages to fathers’ about their importance and inclusion.

Conclusions and Implications: This study is one of few projects designed to empirically test any father engagement.  The package of father engagement strategies were found to be acceptable, feasible, and promising in terms of engagement providing tentative insights to the field and support for a larger study and more robust test of the strategies.Results of this study will guide the further refinement and testing of these father engagement approaches.