Ten Key Findings From Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives

by Demetra Smith Nightingale; Karin Martinson

Feb 1, 2008

Fatherhood is crucial to child development and presents challenges to poor unmarried men. Yet services addressing these problems are not highly developed or widespread, and program results so far have been mixed. This paper analyzes five programs that support low-income noncustodial fathers and presents takeaway lessons.
  • Low-income noncustodial fathers and single mothers face similar challenges, in part because they are both disproportionately likely to be poorly educated and minorities.
  • Employment services in fatherhood initiatives should combine work and training; without training, higher earnings cannot be achieved, but fathers also need to pay child support in the short term.
  • Parents' Fair Share successfully encouraged child support payment by revealing to the group of participants when any one among them either increased their payments or were found to have unreported income. Another effective strategy was providing accurate information on the child support system to fathers, since many were unsure of their rights and responsibilities.
  • Child support enforcement agencies could mitigate the problem by moving from unrealistically high child support orders to more flexible ones.
  • Systemic change for low-income fathers may require procedural, regulatory, or legislative efforts at the state level.