Research demonstrates the significant impacts of father involvement on their children and families. However, limited research exists on successful implementation strategies and processes from the perspectives of individuals responsible for overseeing and implementing community-based fatherhood initiatives. To address this gap, this study examined the processes and strategies used in the initial implementation of a community-based fatherhood program applying an adapted version of Proctor et al.’s (2009) conceptual model for implementation research. We sought to build knowledge on four implementation contexts (systems environment, organizational context, group/team context and individual context) to understand how they facilitated or inhibited initial implementation as perceived by program leaders, organizational administrators, and frontline providers.
Method: Individual program interviews or focus groups were conducted with program leaders (n=3), administrators (n=4), and frontline providers (n=7), reflecting the array of roles responsible for implementing the community-based fatherhood program in one Midwestern state. A semi-structured interview guide was created with specific attention to the implementation strategies. Interviews were video recorded, transcribed, coded, and analyzed using a theoretical thematic approach (Braun & Clark, 2006). To support trustworthiness of the results, we used peer debriefing, regular team meetings, negative case analysis, and member checking.
Results: Several key themes emerged reflecting the four implementation contexts as facilitators and barriers during initial implementation. 1) Nuances of program scaling led to siloed program delivery and processes: Although leadership worked iteratively to promote responsiveness to program adaptations, providers reported a need for a clearer foundation establishing a shared understanding of the program’s vision, components, and staff roles during initial implementation. 2) Effective communication is critical component contributing to implementation success: Implementation staff of all levels described effective interorganizational communication facilitated implementation success, especially when program leadership were available for meaningful discussion and responsive to provider feedback. Communication with external partners, however, posed challenges to implementation causing confusion during the initial implementation. 3) Influence of program factors and staff capacity: Frontline providers and organizational administrators reported confusion regarding staff expectations and capacity that may influence program acceptability during implementation. Frontline providers commented on the need for clear job responsibilities and duties. Organizational administrators noted a need for alignment between organizational and staff capacity to ensure program components are delivered as intended. 4) Organizational culture, context, and climate influenced implementation: Internal factors associated with the organization’s culture, context, and climate impacted initial implementation. Both organizational administrators and program leaders acknowledged barriers related to communication of program design, expectations, and requirements across staff levels due to changes in leadership.
Conclusion and Implications: This study contributes to child welfare implementation literature by identifying the unique perspectives of program leadership, organizational administrators, and frontline providers implementing a community-based fatherhood program. Through an implementation science framework, shared and distinctive perspectives of leadership and frontline staff were identified. Future implementations should carefully consider the various implementation contexts contributing to or impeding the success of community-based fatherhood initiatives. Although there is no singular strategy to implement new initiatives or programs, informing the process may positively affect outcomes for children and families served.