National Evaluation of the Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage, and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated and Re-Entering Fathers and their Partners: Program Overview and Evaluation Summary. Introduction


Many relationships, including those between intimate partners and among parents and children, are affected by incarceration. In mid-year 2006, more than 2.2 million individuals were incarcerated in federal or state prisons or in local jails.(1) The majority of incarcerated and reentering prisoners are parents, with 1999 estimates indicating that 55% of state and 63% of federal prisoners had a minor child (the total estimated minor children of these parents was 1.5 million).(2) Relationships are at particularly high risk of disruption when parents are involved in the criminal justice system, and there is currently very little institutional support to assist inmates in maintaining these relationships and transitioning back into their families upon release.

On September 30, 2006, the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Office of Family Assistance (OFA) announced grant awards to 226 organizations to promote healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood. Thirteen(3) of these awards were funded under the Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated and Re-entering Fathers and Their Partners (MFS-IP) priority area. MFS-IP grantees include government (state, local, and tribal) and private (community- and faith-based) organizations. With a funding level of up to $500,000 per year for five years, the programs implemented under the MFS-IP priority area are designed to promote and sustain healthy marriages and strengthen families affected by incarceration.

The HHS Healthy Marriage Initiative was created in 2002 for the purpose of helping couples that have chosen or are choosing marriage for themselves gain access to services where they can acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain healthy marriages. The initiative includes demonstration projects providing marriage education programs for specific populations, evaluations of those demonstration projects, and other research on the affects of marriage on adult and child well-being. The MFS-IP grants funded, under the authority of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, are part of the HHS Healthy Marriage Initiative.

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