Supporting Father Involvement/Parents as Partners:
An Evidence Based Program
The Supporting Father Involvement (SFI) Program, also known internationally as Parents as Partners (PasP), is an evidenced based approach to increasing positive father involvement and engagement in co-parenting. The program can be implemented in-person or online, although in-person is recommended when possible.
The 16 session group program includes co-led group facilitation, an interactive curriculum, case management, and childcare during the groups while parents are meeting. The program is designed to focus on co-parenting partners (parents, grandparents, same sex couples, etc.) but it can be adapted to a fathers group format. It has been proven effective in 7 trials, 4 with comparisons between intervention and control groups, for families with a range of incomes, families in the child welfare system, and across racial and ethnic groups. Results of the clinical trials show decreases in parental depression/anxiety, and harsh discipline; increases in relationship satisfaction, reductions in couple conflict and violence, increases in father involvement and co-parenting; increases in quality of parent-child relationships, and positive behavioral and emotional outcomes for children compared to those in no-intervention control groups.
A Unique Parenting Program that Recognizes the Importance of Co-parenting to Positive Family and Child Outcomes
Fathers are important co-parenting partners for family health and well-being. Historically, agencies and programs serving families have struggled to involve fathers and other co-parenting partners. From home visiting to parenting classes, most programs focus primarily on the mother-child relationship, while inadvertently excluding other important parenting partners. The difficulty of attracting fathers into parenting programs is a well-known frustration. Yet research shows that when agencies persist, fathers are positively involved as parents and co-parents, as benefits accrue to children, mothers, and fathers. SFI/PasP has proven effective at recruiting and retaining almost 2,000 fathers into the SFI/PasP program and demonstrating positive results for parents and their children.
Furthermore, research shows that parents are more effective when they have a positive co-parenting relationship, regardless of whether or not they live together as a couple. When positive co-parenting begins at birth and is consistent through the challenges of raising a child, parents are better able to provide structure and authoritative, loving discipline to their children. SFI/PasP has proven effective at increasing positive co-parental communication and problem solving, and building stronger parent-child relationships.
The Theory Base for the Program
The SFI/PasP research and intervention program focuses on father involvement and co-parenting of different configurations of parenting partners, recognizing that raising children requires a whole family approach to all forms of parenting and family structures. SFI/PasP is based on five interconnected family domains known to affect family health, mental health, and child abuse outcomes:
- individual characteristics of the parents
- parent-child relationship quality
- couple or co-parenting relationship quality
- the intergenerational transmission of parent-child involvement and relationships
- external influences such as employment, environmental stressors, and social supports.
Research on SFI/PasP has demonstrated that these domains are interconnected and that changes in one or more domains can cascade positively through the family system.
Each session of the curriculum focuses on a topic related to how daily family issues reflect the five domains, with each domain the focus of several of the weekly sessions. The domains each receive their own focus on any particular week, but the curriculum ties them together and leads participants toward an understanding of how each domain influences the others.
In 7 published studies, SFI/PasP has shown that fathers and co-parents who participate in the program, after one year show fewer symptoms of depression, less couple conflict and violence, less harsh and more effective parenting with greater father involvement, and their children have fewer behavior problems. Several studies also show increases in family income and employment.