Overview and Inventory of HHS Efforts to Assist Incarcerated and Reentering Individuals and their Families . National Evaluation of the Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage, and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated and Re-Entering Fathers and their Partners

02/01/2011

Type of Activity: Evaluation

Funding Mechanism:  Contract with RTI, International

Total Available Funding:  $11 million

Number of Awards: 1

Award Amount:  $11 Million

Length of Project Period: FY 2006 - FY 2014

Federal Partners: Office of Family Assistance within the Administration for Children and Families

Summary: The Evaluation of the Marriage and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated and Reentering Fathers and their Partners (MFS-IP) is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF) initiative to support healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood. 

While incarceration takes a huge toll on families and children, research suggests that supportive families and positive marital/partner relationships are important for promoting positive adaptation for children of the incarcerated and for preventing subsequent criminal involvement among reintegrating prisoners.  To evaluate the overall effectiveness of the MFS-IP grantees, the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), awarded a contract to RTI to conduct an implementation evaluation as well as a multi-site, longitudinal, impact evaluation of selected grantees.

The implementation and impact evaluation includes on-site data collection regarding program implementation and a longitudinal survey data collection effort of 2000 couples to study the effect of program participation using experimental and quasi-experimental designs.  Outcomes of interest include couple and parent-child relationships, employment, and recidivism.  This evaluation will add to research, policy, and practice by helping to determine what types of programs work best for those involved in the criminal justice system, what does not work, and what effects these programs may have on fostering healthy marriages, families, and children.

Background:  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. The majority of incarcerated and reentering prisoners are parents, with 1999 estimates indicating that 55 percent of state and 63 percent of federal prisoners had a minor child (the total estimated minor children of these parents was 1.5 million). 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. Originally fourteen awards were funded under the Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated and Reentering 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.  Twelve grantees are currently operating programs.

Location(s) of Projects: Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage, and Family Strengthening Priority Area V Grantees — Child and Family Services of New Hampshire, Indiana Department of Corrections, Maryland Department of Human Resources, New Jersey Department of Corrections, Shelby County Division of Corrections (Memphis, TN), Centerforce (Bay Area, CA), Council on Crime and Justice (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN), Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota, Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency (MI), Osborne Association (New York), People of Principle (West Texas), Ridge Project (Northwest Ohio)

Evaluation Activities:  This is the national impact and implementation evaluation of ACF’s Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage and Family Strengthening grantees that implemented programs under the MFS-IP priority area.  A description of the Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated Fathers and their Partners is located in the Office of Family Assistance section of this compendium.

Future Prospects:  One-time funding

Contact:

Erica Meade
Social Science Analyst, ASPE-HSP
Phone: (202) 690-5937
Email: erica.meade@hhs.gov

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