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How the Honda Accord Helps Demystify Evidence-Based Parenting Programs

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Mar 27, 2024


Is your program evidence-based?

Is your program evidence-informed?

Is your program well-supported?

Is your program promising?

Is your program listed in a clearinghouse?

As more human service organizations choose or are required to use evidence-based parenting programs, National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) has seen a significant increase in those types of questions about our programs.

How does our staff answer them? It depends on the program, of course. More importantly, it depends on the basis for our answers. I’ll share that basis shortly, particularly in answering whether a program is evidence-based.

But first, let’s step away from evidence-based parenting programs for a moment and examine the world of evidence-based programming generally. That’s because what qualifies a program as evidence-based varies greatly from one source to another. A birds-eye view helps cut through the morass.

Models are to Cars Like Evidence-Based is to Programming

Before I became a BMW fan, I owned Hondas. The Accord was our family’s go-to model. The Accord comes in LX, EX, Sporting, and Touring trim levels. They're all Accords, but each successive level has more bells and whistles and is, theoretically, a better value and justifies a higher price. The Accord is the model (or umbrella) within which there are different levels based on the equipment and special features they contain.

Think of evidence-based as the umbrella (or model) within which programs are stratified into levels based on the research that’s been done on them. The equipment is the rigor of the research, such as a randomized controlled trial and a quasi-experimental study. The special features are the other aspects of the research, such as the sample size and diversity of the participants involved. A source might call the levels of evidence “lacking,” “promising,” and “good,” for example.

NFI’s Basis

If you’re a regular reader of this blog or partner with us in any capacity, you know about our commitment to using research to develop and enhance our fatherhood programs and resources. For example, we meticulously monitor independent evaluations of our programs and share the outcomes via our website and this blog.

In that vein, we rely on federal entities to determine whether our programs are evidence-based. We use a combination of the definitions of evidence-based programs from the United States Department of Justice and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).i This combination provides a basic definition and describes the strength of evidence (or the level/rating) for a program independent of bias. 

Basic Definition

Our evidence-based programs have one or more rigorous outcome evaluations demonstrating effectiveness by measuring the relationship between the program and its intended outcomes. This includes measuring the direction and size of a change in outcome and the extent to which a change may be attributed to the program. The methodology of the evaluation(s) should rule out, to the extent possible, alternative explanations for the documented change.

Strength of Evidence

Our evidence-based programs fall into one of three levels of strength of evidence: strong, moderate, or promising, or they demonstrate a rationale that they can improve a targeted outcome. We rely on the definitions of each level in the ESEA. For more information on these levels, click here.

Which NFI Programs are Evidence-Based?

The following NFI programs are evidence-based:

  • 24:7 Dad® (Strong Evidenceii)
  • InsideOut Dad® (Moderate Evidenceiii)
  • Understanding Dad™ (Promising Evidenceiv)

When you look at descriptions of our programs, you might wonder why we don’t identify Understanding Dad™ as evidence-based. We don’t because our programs need research with more rigor before we’re comfortable calling them evidence-based.

Program Rating Entities

There are entities in the public and private sectors, such as government agencies and nonprofit clearinghouses, that apply their own rating systems to a variety of programs, including parenting programs. Some of these entities select programs to rate without the consent of program developers, while others accept submissions from program developers to rate their programs.

These systems use specific criteria to determine whether programs are evidence-based and categorize them based on the strength of that evidence. Some entities go a step further and categorize programs that do not meet their definition of evidence-based.

These criteria vary greatly and are beyond the control of program developers. Moreover, most of these entities review programs through the lens of one or more outcomes, such as their impact on physical health or substance abuse, that a program is not designed to address. As a consequence, a parenting program rated by multiple entities might have a different rating in each one. 

To find out the rating for one of our programs from a specific rating entity, and to learn about the criteria they use to rate programs, you can visit their website or contact their staff.

Contact Us for More Information

Organizations applying for funding to implement father-inclusive efforts have asked us to provide the kind of information in this article. Feel free to use this content if it will be helpful. You can also visit the Program Evaluations area in our Free Learning Center to review and download studies on our programs. They might be helpful to include in an application or proposal for funding.

And if you need anything at all related to research on our programs, contact me at cbrown[at]fatherhood.org.

Did this article help you better understand how we and others define an evidence-based parenting program?

Did it help you better understand the basis we use to classify our programs as evidence-based?

i Sources: United States Department of Justice/Office of Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Programs. Retrieved 07/21/23 from https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/evidence-based-programs; National Center on Improving Literacy. What do we mean by evidence-based? Retrieved 07/21/23 from https://improvingliteracy.org/brief/what-do-we-mean-evidence-based
ii Has at least one experimental study on the program.
iii Has at least one quasi-experimental study on the program.
iv Has at least one correlational study on the program.


Learn more about the Father Engagement Academy by National Fatherhood Initiative

Topics: evidence-based programs, evidence-informed programs, evidence-based InsideOut Dad, evidence-based fatherhood program, evidence-based 24/7 Dad, Featured, General Fatherhood Program Resources, NFI-Specific Programs & Resources, General Fatherhood Research & Studies, NFI News & Updates, Understanding Dad™, InsideOut Dad®, 24:7 Dad®

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