Five Years Later: Final Implementation Lessons from the Evaluation of Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated and Reentering Fathers and Their Partners. Characteristics that Supported Program Continuation

05/01/2013

All grantees, regardless of whether they had delivered family strengthening services to justice-involved families prior to the MFS-IP grants, expressed a strong commitment to continuing this work after OFA funding ended. As the grant period drew to a close, program leaders focused their sustainability efforts on federal grant-seeking, with some also exploring potential support from their state departments of correction.

Five of the twelve grantees received new federal grants to continue the work begun under the MFS-IP initiative. These federally-funded sites retained many of their original program components, and made adjustments to eligibility criteria and specific program components based on new federal requirements as well as lessons learned during MFS-IP implementation (see text box, “Where Are the MFS-IP Grantees Now?”).

Where Are the MFS-IP Grantees Now?

All twelve MFS-IP grantees were re-contacted in fall 2012, one year after the end of their 2006-2011 OFA grants.

  • Three former MFS-IP grantees (SD, NJ, OH) continued their programs with funding from OFA’s Community-Centered Responsible Fatherhood Ex-Prisoner Reentry Pilot initiative.  All three programs retained their core MFS-IP services, increased their focus on meeting men’s post-release needs, and dropped or lessened their focus on couples-based services and services for female partners.
  • Two (MI, TN) continued their programs with funding from OFA’s Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood initiative.  Both retained their MFS-IP service delivery approaches and added more employment-related activities.  MI added economic education and dropped couples-based relationship education.
  • One (MD) continued all of its MFS-IP services with support from the Montgomery County Department of Human Services, adding housing and child support related services. 
  • Three (IN, NY, NH) offered aspects of their MFS-IP programs (e.g., parenting and relationship education, video visiting, child-friendly visitation) with support from their state departments of correction, supplemented with support from other local funding sources.
  • Two (CA, MN) continued to provide some of their MFS-IP services on a smaller scale via local public and private foundation funders.
  • Former staff at one grantee agency (TX) could not be reached for interviews.

Six other programs continued to deliver services in a variety of ways. They returned to projects begun before the MFS-IP grants, embarked on new federal grants in other areas, or found local funding to implement their MFS-IP activities on a smaller scale. One program ceased operating.

Several characteristics made it easier for some grantees without ongoing federal funding to continue offering MFS-IP services. First, programs that brought substantial prior experience (and a mission focus) in delivering family-oriented services to justice-involved families often offered related services through other funding streams. This allowed MFS-IP program components to be more readily incorporated into other, similar programs or to be delivered by longer-term agency staff members who were retained after the MFS-IP grant ended.

Second, certain program models lent themselves more readily to “scaling down” to lower funding levels. Curriculum-driven programs (those that centered on delivery of relationship and parenting education courses) proved easier to sustain in the absence of federal funding than programs focused on high-intensity, individualized service delivery (such as intensive case management). Sites found they could offer family strengthening courses as frequently or infrequently as their resources allowed. In addition, some grantees had the opportunity to train a wide pool of volunteers or long-term staff on their curricula during the course of their MFS-IP grants. This gave them the option of continuing relationship or parenting courses at lower cost after the grant ended.

“Right now inside San Quentin, there isn’t a day that I go in there that a member of the corrections staff or a person who lives there doesn’t ask me when we’re going to bring back the program. I’ve committed myself to do that.”
                —former MFS-IP grantee (CA)

Finally, the strength of the reputation that programs developed in the prison system—with state-level correctional administrators, facility-level administrators, correctional staff, and incarcerated men—exerted an important influence on their ability to continue delivering family strengthening services without federal funding. Programs that built a strong reputation inside the correctional institution(s) where they operated found that stakeholders would not accept the program’s discontinuation, and in some cases decided to fund continued programming rather than see it disappear.

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