Last week, Secretary Solis announced seven new grant awards totaling $39.7 million – an investment to help non-custodial parents become better fathers by connecting them to job opportunities, and teaching them the skills they need to advance along a career path and support their families. In my role within the Department of Labor and as a participant in the White House’s Interagency Working Group on Fatherhood, this is one of several strategies I am proud to work on in an effort to support fathers and families.
Through research, discussions and planning, the DOL determined that the transitional jobs model is especially useful for non-custodial parents struggling to enter the workforce and earn a living wage. Transitional jobs programs place dads with open child support orders on a career pathway that will enable them to financially provide for their children. The theory is that by becoming economically stable, these parents will then be in a better position to strengthen their relationships with their children.
The new Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration will test the effectiveness of the transitional jobs model when mixed with activities such as occupational skills training; counseling and mentoring; and extended internship and work experience opportunities. The seven grant awards – located in Atlanta, Ft. Worth, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York, San Francisco, and Syracuse – will fund partnerships among nonprofit organizations, employers, the public workforce investment system and local child support and criminal justice agencies.
In addition, the structure of the grant funding will identify strategies that best promote success in the workplace, maintenance of child support payments, and stronger and healthier relationships between non-custodial parents and their children. Each grantee will serve at least 500 individuals over the course of a four-year period, many of whom will be non-custodial parents with an active child support order.
To provide a robust evaluation for this activity, each grantee is additionally required to track another 500 individuals over the same period. This set of individuals, known as the control group, will not receive services through the program but their progress will be evaluated against the progress of program recipients. Having this structure along with assistance from the research group, MDRC (formerly known as the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation), will test the effectiveness of this model.
Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships marked the announcement of these innovative grants by hosting a conference call last Friday with stakeholders from across the country. Participants had the opportunity to discuss the new grants with practitioners and others from the responsible fatherhood field. DuBois also encouraged local faith-based and community groups in the cities that received awards to reach out and develop partnerships with the newly funded consortia. Staff from several of the grantee organizations and their partners participated on the call as well, including the Doe Fund in New York City, Goodwill of North Georgia, the Center for Working Families in Atlanta, Workforce Inc. in Indianapolis, and Center for Community Alternatives in Syracuse.
President Obama often says that his most important job is being a father to his daughters, Malia and Sasha. These new grant investments from the DOL will help thousands of less fortunate dads follow the President’s lead.
Editor’s Note: The author, Ben Seigel is the Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Labor.