Abstract: Nonresident Fathers' Perspectives on Engaging in Family Centered Practice (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Nonresident Fathers' Perspectives on Engaging in Family Centered Practice

Friday, January 18, 2019: 5:45 PM
Continental Parlor 7, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Qiana Cryer-Coupet, PhD, Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University, NC
Katherine McCallister, MSW, Graduate Student, North Carolina State University
Brianna Lemmons, PhD, Assistant Professor, California State University, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, TX
Background and Purpose

Scholars have increasingly highlighted the need for additional research on the factors that impact fathers’ engagement in social services. Further, these calls have noted the need to include fathers’ voices in this research in order to best understand barriers and facilitators to engagement. The Family Centered Practice (FCP) framework can be used to guide such investigations because it highlights the importance of including every member of the family system in the decision making process. It also highlights the strengths of each member of the family system, and their potential to contribute to service planning and the family-professional relationship. The current study used the FCP framework to guide an exploration of nonresident fathers’ perspectives on engagement with social service providers.


Twenty-five self-identified nonresident fathers from two Mid-Atlantic cities participated in either a focus group (n=18) or semi-structured individual interview (n=7), which ranged in length from 60-90 minutes. Fathers were recruited in local child support offices, barbershops, gyms, fatherhood programs, community agencies and via sponsored ads on Facebook. Each father was compensated $25 for his time. Focus groups and interviews were video and/or audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Two project team members attended each focus group or interview, serving as facilitator and note taker. Data were coded and analyzed by three team members, two Black women and one White woman, using the rigorous and accelerated data reduction (RaDaR) technique (Watkins, 2017). Guided by the overarching research question, the project team completed four phases of data reduction to arrive at the final themes and subthemes.


Fathers identified several perceived challenges within the social service systems with which they were engaged. These included problems related to bureaucracy, such as redundancy and unclear jargon in paperwork, biased communication, and most noted, the disconnection between systems such as child support enforcement and access/visitation. Many fathers noted that struggles with bureaucracy negatively impacted their physical and psychological well-being, while also causing financial strain and strain within their coparenting relationships. Fathers voiced that the presence of males on staff, fair decision making in child custody matters, and compassionate interactions with agency staff were factors that facilitated positive engagement. Several participants recommended that providers consider the accessibility of their programming for fathers with nontraditional work schedules and those without reliable transportation. Fathers also noted that providers should consider nuanced services to meet the differing needs of nonresident fathers across the lifespan. Older fathers returning to the community from prison may have needs that differ from younger fathers who are coparenting with their child’s maternal grandmother. Many fathers voiced a desire to consult with local agencies on program development and implementation planning.

Conclusions and Implications

The nonresident fathers who participated in the current study were engaged with a range of social service providers. Each expressed a desire to feel heard and respected throughout the service engagement process. When developing and implementing services to meet their varying needs, providers should not treat nonresident fathers as a monolith. Implications for future research and practice will be discussed.