Although partner motivation is the driving factor in deciding to participate in these programs, the number of logistical barriers facing the partner is also important, particularly for retaining partners in programming over time. Such barriers to retention include time constraints, parenting responsibilities, and lack of transportation. Grantees invested time and resources in understanding each partner and her situation, maintaining communication with partners over a long time period, offering flexibility in timing of participation, and providing material supports and incentives when possible.
"I have to work and can't get time off"
Most partners held low-paying jobs that did not offer flexible scheduling. Several programs reported that initial recruitment efforts were stymied by prospective participants' schedule conflicts and noted that they needed to adjust class times and days to accommodate work commitments. Even when staff thought they had resolved a schedule conflict and arranged for free transportation, partners were frequently no-shows.
"Who will care for my children?"
Child care was a common constraint, especially for those programs that asked partners to make a multisession commitment (i.e., those programs that involved partners in activities on a regular or repeating basis as opposed to inviting partners to a one-time couples' seminar).
"How many times do I need to do this?"
Some of the same obstacles that prevented women from enrolling in programming also hindered retention. Uncertainty about pending commitments (such as retail and service industry work schedules) prevented some partners from being able to commit to attending until the last minute, and a variety of emergent situations often interfered with the participation of others who had committed in advance.
|Program Solution: Geographic Dispersion of Partners in the Community
Several grantees that served partners residing in a wide geographic area offered a one-time seminar format. This minimized travel and made the commitment manageable for partners who did not have time for multiple program activities or weekly class sessions.
Program Solution: Competing Time Commitments
Many grantees provided participants and partners with incentives. As part of the Maryland program, partners in the community received $25 Target gift cards, and incarcerated men received 10 additional hours of family visitation time.
Program Solution: Lack of Child Care
In its program design, the Tennessee grantee planned for some of its partner programming to coincide with child-friendly visitation activities for fathers and their children.
Program Solution: Lack of Affordable Transportation
Grantees provided various forms of transportation assistance to participating partners, including bus passes, gas cards, travel expense reimbursement, and prearranged group transportation. Some programs also assisted partners with expenses for food, lodging, and child care so that they could attend program activities.