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In partnership with Maui Family Support Services, Selva Lewin-Bizan, PhD, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa is conducting an assessment funded by the FRPN that features a 12-week text messaging intervention program. Below, program supervisor and facilitator, Kawika Mattos, and Dr. Lewin-Bizan describe their work to develop and implement the intervention.

Kawika Mattos

Why is evaluation important to you?

Evaluation work helps provide valuable empirical evidence for programs. Text messaging brings information to fathers in an easy and modern way. It also provides data that helps us evaluate information on demographics, behavior patterns and interest levels of dads.

Could you describe the text messaging intervention that you're testing?

Fathers receive texts three times per week over 12 weeks. This format allows us to reach fathers who may not attend a parenting or child development class but may be interested in receiving information on fathering. Three items are addressed in the texts: encouraging fathering skills, providing information on normative child development and age appropriate activities for fathers to do with their children.

Dr. Lewin-Bizan

How did you get involved with conducting fatherhood research?

Before pursuing a PhD, I was a clinical social worker. I worked in the Israel Defense Force as a mental health officer, providing counseling to teenagers who had difficulties transitioning from high school to the mandatory military service.

In Israel, the vast majority of mothers work and play important roles in the economic, social and political spheres while at home, both fathers and mothers are involved in childcare. The “normal” was to sometimes see moms, sometimes see dads and sometimes see both parents accompanying their children to counseling. However, in all my years providing counseling to children in the U.S., I have seen less than a handful of fathers accompanying their children, which struck me as odd.

Recognizing the different cultural practices and values of fathers (and mothers), I wanted to better understand how the role of fathers depends on their context, which led me to becoming involved in fatherhood research.

Why did you select text messaging as a strategy to engage fathers and deliver material to improve their parenting skills?

There is a consensus that one strategy to enhance father involvement is to engage them in parenting programs. In practice, however, I've found that low-income fathers are reluctant to enroll in traditional programs due to competing demands such as work shifts and family responsibilities.

I began looking for an alternative strategy to engage fathers and deliver material that doesn't require substantial time commitment; text messaging seemed to be a viable strategy to directly connect with fathers and promote positive fathering behaviors.

My main focus is to assess whether the intervention can work in terms of feasibility and acceptability. The secondary focus is to do a preliminary, descriptive examination of participant responses to the intervention.

FRPN Webinar: Two-Generation Strategies to Engage and Serve Low-Income Fathers

The ninth FRPN learning community webinar presents new approaches to engaging low-income fathers to improve their parenting skills and/or relationships with their children. It features Rachel Barr, PhD, and Terry Harrak, from Just Beginning, Cleopatra Howard Caldwell, PhD, from The Fathers and Sons Program, and Gregory Fabiano, PhD, from the COACHES Program.

Watch the webinar here.

FRPN Grantee Report

In 2014, Paul Lanier, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency (WAGES) in Goldsboro, North Carolina received funding from the FRPN to conduct a randomized controlled trial of Circle of Parents.

The intent of the study was to compare the effects of the Circle Parents peer support network on fathers of young children receiving Head Start/Early Start services to fathers waitlisted for those services. 102 fathers were recruited to participate. Using randomization, fathers assigned to a “treatment group” were strongly encouraged to attend Circle of Parents group and received regular invitations of group meetings and other activities for about a year. Fathers in the control group received usual services and were on a waitlist to join the group at the end of the study.

Three reports of this now completed study are available for download on the FRPN website.

Research assistant, Katie McCallister, Dr. Cryer-Coupet and research assistant, Casey Mackey.

Research assistant, Katie McCallister, Dr. Cryer-Coupet and research assistant, Casey Mackey.

Circle of Parents participants at WAGES.
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FRPN Co-Director Jay Fagan, PhD | Professor, Temple University School of Social Work

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The Fatherhood Research and Practice Network is supported by grant #90PR0006 from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The contents are solely the responsibility of the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network, Temple University and the Center for Policy Research and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, the Administration for Children and Families or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.