Successful implementation is a key prerequisite for building program models that can be rigorously tested. Strategies for program development suggested by the MFS-IP evaluation include:
- To support the most efficient use of funding resources, allow and encourage grantees to “cast a wide net” with regard to program enrollment: defining program eligibility criteria broadly, and providing as many points of entry into the program as possible (e.g., working with multiple prison facilities and/or multiple community venues serving released fathers).
- To help programs meet their enrollment targets and better retain participants, permit grantees to offer incentives that are specifically meaningful to incarcerated fathers and their partners (e.g., time credits, special visitation opportunities, storybooks or school uniforms for children).
- To increase the perceived relevance of programming aimed at improving family relationship skills, require grantees to provide ancillary services that meet families’ practical needs, such as assistance with job training and placement, child support order modification, housing placement, and public benefits applications.
- To identify applicants with organizational capacity for serving incarcerated fathers and their partners, prioritize those with experience delivering programmatic interventions in highly-structured environments, a history of strong corrections-community partnerships, and/or strong partnerships between fatherhood/reentry agencies and domestic violence organizations.
“Fatherhood and healthy marriage has been the missing component to successful reentry. Even if you have the job, the treatment, the housing, if you don’t have the connections and support, you’re just treating the symptoms and you aren’t treating the root problems that most often exist within family relationships. We’re starting to be a part of a cultural shift in which people realize the importance of family relationships in successful reentry.”
—former MFS-IP grantee (OH)
This initiative brought together organizations from fields that had not historically collaborated—corrections, human services, and domestic violence agencies—in support of healthy relationships, positive parenting, and economic stability among justice-involved families. The efforts of these pioneering practitioners have yielded insights that build the growing field of implementation science and support HHS’s continued commitment to identifying effective approaches for serving parents and children affected by incarceration.