National Evaluation of the Partners for Fragile Families: Demonstration Projects

The goal of the Partners for Fragile Families (PFF) demonstrations, funded jointly by the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) and the Ford Foundation, was to make lasting changes in the way public agencies and community organizations work with young unmarried parents to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for children and parents.  To assess progress towards meeting this goal, OCSE and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) conducted a five-year, national evaluation of the demonstration projects that operated in nine States.  Each project was a partnership of non-profit organizations and state and local agencies to develop comprehensive services for young, low-income, non-custodial fathers and their families and children.  The PFF demonstrations were designed to help fragile families (young unwed parents and their children) by helping fathers learn to share the legal, financial, and emotional responsibilities of parenthood with their child's mother.  The PFF projects tested new ways for state-run child support enforcement programs and community-based organizations to work together to help young fathers obtain employment, make child support payments, and learn parenting skills; aas well as to help parents build stronger partnerships.

The national evaluation, which is being conducted by the Urban Institute, has three broad purposes:  to increase knowledge about systems change; to build knowledge about program operations and delivery of services to fragile families; and to describe client behavior.

The evaluation consists of four components:

  1. Implementation Analysis in each site documents project operations, services offered and used, and collaboration among the partnering agencies and organizations.  Researchers visit each site to observe program operations and hold discussions with staff and administrators.
  2. Enhanced Process Analysis of each project examines the characteristics of participants and the services they receive.  This component uses management information system and case-file data maintained by each of the projects.
  3. Outcomes Analysis examines participants' employment, earnings, and child support patterns over a two-year period.  This component uses administrative wage and child support enforcement data.
  4. In-depth Interviews provide in-depth understanding of a few families' personal circumstances and issues related to marriage, families, employment, and relationships with children (in selected sites only).

The Partners for Fragile Families projects included in this evaluation are located in:

  • Los Angeles, California
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • New York City, New York
  • West Chester, Pennsylvania
  • Racine, Wisconsin

Recent Publications

Implementation of the Partners for Fragile Families Demonstration Projects
Through site visit interviews, focus groups, analysis of program documents, and preliminary review of participant data, this report documents how the Partners for Fragile Families (PFF) programs began, changed, and evolved.  From April 2000 through the end of 2003, nine states conducted PFF demonstrations designed to help fragile families by helping fathers work with mothers in sharing the legal, financial, and emotional responsibilities of parenthood.  Services were targeted at young, never-married, non-custodial parents.  (June, 2007)

Voices of Young Fathers: The Partners for Fragile Families Demonstration Projects
This report draws on in-depth interviews of young fathers and families at two Partners for Fragile Families sites to assess the effects of services received by the fragile family itself and to explore the dynamics of fragile families, particularly around family formation issues, and how poor couples make strategic life course decisions.  (June, 2007)

Partners for Fragile Families Demonstration Projects: Employment and Child Support Outcomes and Trends
This report focuses on the characteristics of PFF participants and participants' employment, earnings, and child support patterns prior and subsequent to their enrollment in the program.  Quarterly wage data from state unemployment compensation records were used to assess employment outcomes.  State child support data on child support awards and payments were used to assess changes in participants' child support behaviors.  (September, 2007)

Ten Key Findings from Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives
This brief summarizes key findings from several important fatherhood initiatives that were developed and implemented during the 1990s and early 2000s.  Formal evaluations of these fatherhood efforts have been completed, some quite recently, making this an opportune time to step back and assess what has been learned and how policy makers and program managers can build on the early programs’ successes and challenges.  The brief highlights lessons from:  the Young Unwed Fathers Project, Parents’ Fair Share (PFS), Welfare-to-Work Grant (WtW) Programs, Responsible Fatherhood Programs (RFP), and Partners for Fragile Families (PFF).  (February 2008)

For Further Information

If you have any questions about the Evaluation of the Partners for Fragile Families Program, please call or write:


The HHS project officer:

Jennifer Burnszynski
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 404E
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
Tel. ( 202) 690-8651
Fax: (202) 690-6562
E-mail:  Jennifer.Burnszynski @

The contractor's project director:

Karin Martinson
The Urban Institute
Senior Research Associate
The Urban Institute
2100 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Tel. (202) 261-5841
E-mail:  KMartins @