Several years ago the National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) conducted a survey of Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) programs to determine the extent to which they involve fathers in their services. IFPS is a brief, intensive service designed to prevent unnecessary placement of children or to reunite children with their families. Findings showed that IFPS therapists identify the biological father about half the time, know the father’s location 30% of the time, contact the father at least once 27% of the time, involve the father in the case plan 17% of the time, and involve the father in services and connecting with the child 23% of the time.
The main barrier to not involving fathers was that the referral agency did not require it. Since most referrals to IFPS come from child welfare agencies, that finding may help explain why no state has met standards for father involvement in the most recent federal audits of state child welfare systems (2007-2010).
And, yet, it’s not impossible to meet standards for father involvement. Over the course of 18 months a family preservation agency in Kansas significantly improved worker performance in the areas of assessing fathers’ needs, providing services to fathers, and involving fathers in the case plan. The agency achieved this by focusing on father involvement, providing training to workers, and monitoring progress. For more details, visit http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement/meeting-cfsr-standards.
NFPN conducted a demonstration study showing that, with training and assistance, child welfare social workers made gains in identifying the father as a resource, involving him in the case plan, and involving the father’s extended family. The report is available here: http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement/fatherhood-research-report
Why is it worthwhile to involve fathers in their children’s lives? Because research has established that
• The presence and involvement of fathers are important to healthy child development, thriving families, and communities
• With involved fathers, mothers have less stress and better outcomes during and after pregnancy
• Children have better functioning in terms of cognitive and social skills, self-control, self-esteem, and empathy
• Children are 75% less likely to have a teen birth, 80% less likely to spend time in jail, and 50% less likely to experience depression
• Children are twice as likely to enter college and obtain stable employment after high school
These benefits are included in a report on young fathers available here: http://www.cssp.org/pages/changing-systems-practice-to-improve-outcomes-for-young-fathers
If you believe that father involvement is important, there are many resources available to help you. Here’s a place to start: http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement.
NFPN has prepared a six-week work plan to involve fathers. The early emphasis on involving fathers is research-based as studies show that fathers who are not engaged early on will not be later on. To view the full report on family preservation and father involvement, including the six-week work plan, visit http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement/ifps-guide-to-father-inv.
Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director