Abstract: Changing the Narrative Around African-American Fathers: A Mixed-Method Study of a Fatherhood Partnership Program (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Changing the Narrative Around African-American Fathers: A Mixed-Method Study of a Fatherhood Partnership Program

Friday, January 17, 2020
Independence BR H, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Dara Lewis, PhD, Research Associate, Loyola University, Chicago, IL
Rana Hong, Research Associate, Loyola University, Chicago, IL
Jang Ho Park, MSW, Doctoral Student, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL
Philip Hong, PhD, Professor, Loyola University, Chicago, IL

Background/Purpose: Media representations, public discourse, and literature oftern portray African American men as absent or uncommitted, uninvolved deadbeat fathers. To change the narrative around African American and their roles in their families and the community, four social service agencies in Chicago initiated a fatherhood partnership in 2018. This partnership supports meaningful involvement and engagement of fathers in their children’s lives, particularly low-income African American fathers in some of Chicago’s most socio-economically vulnerable communities.

A Chicago research center collaborated with the fatherhood partnership to implement the Transforming Impossible to Possible (TIP®) model along with fatherhood specifc content curriculum through 12-group sessions between July and December, 2018. This study examined psychological self-sufficiency (PSS) as an empowerment process among the program participants using a mixed-method approach.  TIP® is an evidence-based, transformative social work model developed out of fifteen years of empirical research on PSS that leads to successful employment and retention outcomes among low-income jobseekers in employment training programs (Hong, 2016).

The study’s first implementation of TIP® toward non-employment related outcomes—i.e., fatherhood and family strengthening policy outcomes is significant, adding to the current body of literature. It was hypothesized that TIP® would improve executive functioning thereby producing successfully personal, child engagement and the co-parent relationship outcomes. 

Methods: A mixed method approach was employed to evaluate the PSS process among particpants. A one-group, pre-expereimental design was used to assess the change in PSS over three time points: intake, midpoint and program completion.152 participants completed PSS surveys. The measures used to evaluate PSS include: perceived employment barriers scale (PEBS), employment hope scale (EHS).

Ten in-depth interviews, semi-structured interviews were conducted to learn more about the PSS process through the particpant’s, staff and program leadership’s thoughts, perceptions and experiences. Interviews were audio recorded, and the transcripts were used as the basis for qualitative data analysis. After the texts were reviewed and coded, major themes were identified using thematic content analysis.


Quantitative findings indicate that the mean score of participant’s PSS increased at a statistically significant rate over the course of the program (both T1-T2 and T2-T3). PSS is the dynamic process of moving forward despite facing barriers in achieving goals. A path analysis results show PSS having a positive significant effect on executive functioning, resilience, and grit.  

Qualitative analysis explored of the PSS process among participants and revealed ways in which the PoF program supports and motivates participant to keep “TIP®ping”- moving forward despite barriers in achieving personal goals and challenges in engagement with children and co-parenting.

Conclusions and Implications:

Results suggest social justice implications for social work practice with African American fathers in programs that address fatherhood. Traditional fatherhood programs assume deficiencies in the fathers and that there is something to be taught about how to be better fathers. Instead, TIP® brought out fathers’ best version of broken, beaten up, and struggling but authentic, loving, and striving self to invest in the lives of their co-parenting partners and children.