Abstract: Knowledge Gained and Services Needed after Completing Fathering Programming: Examining Fathers' Perspectives (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Knowledge Gained and Services Needed after Completing Fathering Programming: Examining Fathers' Perspectives

Friday, January 22, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer Shadik, PhD, Assistant Professor, Ohio University, Athens, OH
Erica Turner, MSW, Social Worker, Ohio University
Background and Purpose: The involvement of fathers in fathering, parenting, and child welfare services is increasingly a focus in research concerning families and engagement in family services (Lechowicz et al., 2019). Dubowitz (2009) states the importance of hearing directly from fathers to better understand their perceptions and needs. Researchers and practitioners need to understand the successes and opportunities for growth that exist within programs that assist fathers in developing skills and knowledge. This research seeks to understand fathers’ perceptions of the benefits of fathering services, as well as the remaining needs for fathers at program completion.

Methods: Data was collected from seven agencies who received funding from the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood to provide fatherhood programs. Fathers were from 52 counties in Ohio (59% of total counties in state) and largely low-income. Race/ethnicity was identified by fathers as Caucasian (52.9%), African American (36.7%), Multiracial or Biracial (4.8%), and Latino/Hispanic (4.4%). Fifty-seven percent of fathers were never married or divorced, with 13% married at the time they enrolled in programming. Regarding highest level of education, 7.5% of the sample had an associate’s degree or higher, 21.3% had some college or vocational training, 48.3% received a GED or high school diploma, and 22.9% had no degree/diploma. The qualitative analysis consisted of two open-ended questions from the exit survey fathers completed at the end of programming. Fathers answered questions on 1) the most important things learned in the fathering program and 2) knowledge, skills, or services needed after completion of programming. Responses were analyzed using the process of thematic analysis, following guidelines from Braun and Clarke (2006). NVivo 12 software was used to code and analyze data. After initial coding, the process of sorting and recoding occurred to develop the final themes.

Results: The first question asked about the two most important things fathers learned from programming. A total of 589 fathers provided at least one response to this question. Final analysis resulted in six themes, all containing multiple subthemes. The six themes were: Parenting Skills and Knowledge, Communication, Fathering Growth, Life Skills and Knowledge, Relationships, and Personal Improvement. The second question focused on the remaining needs fathers had when programming ended, with 345 fathers providing responses to this question. Final analysis resulted in five themes, all containing subthemes. The themes were Employment and Job Training, Child Support and Legal Issues, Meeting Basic Needs, Parenting Skills and Knowledge, and Self-Growth.

Conclusions and Implications: Gathering information regarding what is successful in fathering programs is important to the development of effective programs going forward. Understanding what fathers perceive they still need assistance with at the end of programming is crucial to consider when assessing program effectiveness and the challenges facing fathers engaging in these services. This qualitative data provides perspectives from a broad range of fathers receiving fathering services across the state. Practitioners can use this information when developing and refining programs to better meet the needs of fathers as high-quality programming is crucial to the success of fathers and the wellbeing of families.