Low-Income Fathers and "Responsible Fatherhood" Programs: A Qualitative Investigation of Participants' Experiences.

Journal Name
Family Relations
Journal Volume
Page Count
Year Published
Author (Individual)
Anderson, Elaine A.
Kohler, Julie K.
Letiecq, Bethany L.
Resource Type
Journal Article
Resource Format
This study documents the opinions of twenty low-income fathers about their participation in a Responsible Fatherhood program in a large urban area. The program offered life skills training, job readiness and placement assistance, mental health counseling and other services to help fathers become involved in their children's lives and to comply with child support orders. Formal services were provided for six months, with opportunities for follow-up maintenance groups. The fathers who participated in the study were at various levels in the program, from entry to ongoing support. Four focus groups were held to obtain information about participants' memories of becoming fathers, their perceptions of the benefits and the barriers to remaining involved with the program, and their suggestions for program improvement. A hermeneutic phenomenological methodology was used to analyze the discussions. Fathers reported individual, relational, and contextual benefits to the responsible fatherhood program, including an increase in self-confidence and optimism, emotional support, and assistance with substance abuse and legal problems. Improvements also were noted in the fathers' relationships with their children and the mothers of their children. Barriers to involvement were noted as personal fear or reluctance, limited time, lack of education, and job schedules. The participants suggested incentives for encouraging men to participate in the program, such as involving program graduates in initial assessments and providing greater choice in meeting times. Several programmatic changes also were recommended, including stipends for participants and assistance in resolving immediate problems. The results provide a preliminary evaluation of the program's services. (Author abstract modified) 44 references.

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