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Father Involvement in Head Start and Early Head Start

Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project

The Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project has launched research relating to the role low-income fathers play in the lives of their infants and toddlers, in their families, and in the Early Head Start programs in which they participate. The father research is being conducted within an overall study of Early Head Start impacts and program implementation.

The Early Head Start Father Studies are among the first to investigate involvement of low-income fathers in children’s lives, together with mother involvement, in the context of both an intervention program for infants and toddlers and a longitudinal study. The Early Head Start Father Studies focus on biological fathers as well as father figures (sometimes referred to as “social fathers”). The EHS Fathers Studies Project is funded by the Administration for Children and Families, the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and the Ford Foundation.

ACF/Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation Mini-Site on Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project (EHSRE), 1996–2005


Bibliography of Early Head Start Fathers Studies Papers/Presentations

A list of papers and presentations based on information from the Early Head Start Fathers Studies Research has been posted on this web site under the topic heading Caring for Young Children. The list contains research studies presented or published by the Early Head Start Research Consortium members through December 31,2002.

Father Involvement — Building Strong Programs for Strong Families

(June 2004) Head Start Bulletin No. 77, by the Head Start Bureau, Administration for Children and Youth, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is an issue dedicated to father involvement in Head Start. It provides a series of article on why fathers matter and current research findings; on getting fathers involved in Head Start; on building a foundation to work with fathers; and on planning and supporting successful fatherhood programs. Key articles in this issue include:

  • The Building Blocks for Successful Father Involvement in Head Start,” by Glenn Stanton describes The Building Blocks for Father Involvement series of five booklets designed to assist Head Start programs in developing and sustaining a father involvement program. The Building Blocks help programs understand why fathers are essential for healthy child development and has information about how to expand and sustain fatherhood involvement programs and evaluate program efforts.
  • Father Friendly Environmental Assessment” is designed to help programs provide services to fathers and support their involvement in the lives of their children.
  • Father Involvement:  Building Strong Programs for Strong Families” includes information on why fathers matter and current research findings; the important questions and obstacles a Head Start program must address; lessons learned from the fatherhood demonstration projects in Early Head Start; descriptions of six fatherhood programs from around the country; and ways programs can support family literacy.

Links to additional articles in this issue are available on the Web at http://www.headstartinfo.org/publications/hsbulletin77/cont_77.htm, For more copies of the Head Start Bulletin, contact the Head Start Information and Publication Center at 866-763-6481 or on the web.

Understanding Fathering:  The Early Head Start Study of Fathers of Newborns (May 2003)

By Cheri A. Vogel, Kimberly Boller, Jennifer Faerber, Jacqueline D. Shannon, and Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, published by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., focused on how low-income families contribute to their children’s development and understanding the factors that affect fathers’ continuing support of and engagement in relationships with their children—even if the mother-father relationship ends. It explored who the fathers are; what their level of involvement with their families and children is; and how and why involvement changes over time.

Father Involvement in Early Head Start Programs:  A Practitioners Study (2002)

By Helen Raikes, Kimberly Boller, Welmoet vanKammen, JeanAnn Summers, Abbie Raikes, Debbie Laible, Brian Wilcox, Lenna Ontai, and Lanette Christensen, published by Mathematica Policy Research Inc., presents findings from a survey of Early Head Start program practices concerning father involvement. The survey was completed by 261 of 416 eligible Early Head Start programs in the winter of 1999-2000. In the typical Early Head Start program, slightly fewer than half of the children have a resident father (44.6 percent). However, a number have involved nonresident fathers (24.9 percent). Most programs serve several children whose fathers are incarcerated (73.7 percent of all programs). Most programs think of themselves as novices when it comes to father involvement (72 percent); some think they are more experienced (21 percent); and a few regard themselves as experts in father involvement (7 percent). Nearly all programs try to involve resident biological fathers (98.8 percent) and resident father figures (94.8 percent). On average, Early Head Start programs reported they invite fathers to 13 of the 26 activities measured by the Father-Friendly Activities Scale. Most mature programs (i.e., those that involve fathers) have designated day-to-day responsibility for father involvement to a specific individual in their agency (82.4 percent). Most mature programs had hired male staff (83.3 percent). Mature programs were more likely to reach out to incarcerated fathers. Recommendations are offered to encourage father involvement in Early Head Start programs.

Fatherhood Initiative:  Resource Guide (December 2001)

This guide assists the Head Start community in its effort to support the Fatherhood Initiative, which was launched in 1995 to strengthen the role of fathers in families. This Resource Guide includes a selection of journal articles, a selected list of books and reports, and a selection of virtual sites that provide additional information on the Fatherhood Initiative and Male Involvement.

Measuring Father Involvement in the Early Head Start Evaluation:  A Multidimensional Conceptualization (September 1999)

This report published by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. briefly discusses different tools and approaches to measuring father involvement, talks about the specific measurement tools and methods used in the Father Studies of the Early Head Start (EHS) Evaluation Project, and highlights lessons from the field that have emerged as father involvement is measured in the ongoing EHS project. It concludes by pointing out advances in the measurement of father involvement as well as the challenges yet to overcome.

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Last Revised:  July 22, 2011

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