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Strong Fathers


Delivery Approach:
  • Group
Delivery Format:
  • Virtual
Provider Requirements:
  • DV/SA Advocate Led
  • BIPOC Led
Type of Experience Addressed:
  • Domestic Violence
  • Child Abuse 
  • Neglect 
  • Family Separation
  • Reunification
  • Verbal/Emotional abuse
  • Historical trauma
Engagement Methods:
  • Talk-based
Level of Intervention:
  • Intervention
  • Greater than 12 weeks
  • Family Service Agencies
  • Other Setting
    • Virtual
Program Details:
Type of services provided:

Psychoeducational program for fathers and male caregivers who have abused their children’s mothers. The Strong Fathers Program is rooted in the belief that all dads want to be good fathers and that their motivation should be recognized, rewarded, and reinforced without minimizing the effects of their violence or excusing their actions. Over the course of 20 weekly sessions participants develop new tools for parenting and partnering in an environment of support, friendship, education, and growth.  It is a strengths-based intervention for fathers who have engaged in domestic violence or are at-risk of doing so.

Strong Fathers differs from other parenting programs for men who’ve used violence in the home in that weekly sessions help fathers explore their childhoods, learn about child development and the importance of safety in the home, and practice new ways of partnering and parenting that can stop the cycle of violence for their children and for generations to come.

Program setting:

Virtual on-line or community-based service organizations

Length of program/number of sessions:

20 weekly 2-hr sessions – meals are optional

Type(s) of trauma/concerns addressed:

Domestic violence, child maltreatment

Education level of providers:

Para-professional, Bachelor’s degree, MSW preferred

Unique/Innovative Characteristics:

Strong Fathers is the only program that combines parenting education with information and skills fathers need to end the cycle of violence for their children and for generations to come. The curriculum draws upon other models developed to reduce child maltreatment and intimate partner violence, and essentially encompasses abuse against partners, children, and older family members. Strong Fathers aims to reduce family violence, a systematic violation of trust, which undermines safety, health, and dignity.

Date Added/Updated:


Population Served

  • 18-25 (Young Adult)
  • 25 & Up (Adult)
Population Language:
  • English
  • Spanish
Ethnic Racial Group:
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • White
  • Parent who uses Violence
Population Adaptations:
Age range of children served:

Not applicable

Are parent/adult caregiver(s) included in intervention?

The intervention is for fathers or men in a parenting relationship who have committed violence against the children’s mother.

Ethnic/racial and other groups served:

Primarily African American, White (non-Hispanic), and Hispanic

Specific cultural adaptations:

None indicated.

Languages that service/resource is available:
English and Spanish


Goals of the program/services

To help men who have been abusive to their children’s mother to learn how to relate in safe and caring ways to their children, intimate partners, former partners, and other family members.

Our goals are to:

  1. To help men who have been abusive to their children’s mother to learn how to relate in safe and caring ways to their children, intimate partners, former partners, and other family members.
  2. To increase fathers’ use of non-coercive parenting skills, child development knowledge, and understanding of the impact of domestic violence on children.
  3. To increase fathers’ perceived social support and awareness of community resources that address issues contributing to and resulting from household domestic violence (education and housing assistance, trauma-informed treatment for adults and children, employment programming, etc.).
  4. To achieve significant reductions in court-related recidivism or CPS findings and/or involvement, family services and children returned home or shared visitation between mother and father (unsupervised) when safe and appropriate.
Evaluation Studies:
Has there been any evaluation?


Key evaluation results:

Analysis of the reasons why men decided to stay with the program: Men wanted to become responsible fathers (Pennell et al., 2013)

Analysis of men’s self-appraisals: The men set goals and assessed goal achievement and their self-appraisals were supported by child protection data (Pennell et al., 2014)

Pre/post analysis of child maltreatment assessments of 177 men enrolled in Strong Fathers: Significant decrease in child protection reporting and household domestic violence as contributory to child maltreatment (Pennell, 2015)

Analysis of the men’s feedback on the program: high satisfaction with the program and its curriculum (Pennell & Brandt, 2017)

Is there an evaluation currently in progress or planned?

We are currently working with Elon University’s Professor Kaye Usry on evaluation of all of our programs to test our theory of change: increasing the hours of re-education has the potential to inoculate our participants from committing future acts of violence against women and children.

Publications about the program:

Pennell, J., Sanders, T., Rikard, RV, Shepherd, J., & Starsoneck, L. (2013). Family violence, fathers, and restoring personhood. Restorative Justice, 1(2), 268-289. doi: 10.5235/2050472.

Pennell, J., Rikard, R. V., & Sanders, T. (2014). Family violence: Fathers assessing and managing their risk to children and women. Children and Youth Services Review, 47, 36-45. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2013.11.004

Pennell, J. (2015, September). Child maltreatment and domestic violence: Before and after enrollment in Strong Fathers. Strong Fathers Project Subcontract: Annual report to the North Carolina Council of Women, fiscal year 2014 – 2015. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University, Center for Family and Community Engagement. Retrieved from North Carolina State University

Pennell, J., & Brandt, E. (2017). Men who abuse intimate partners: Their evaluation of a responsible fathering program. In T. August-Scott, K. Scott, & L. M. Tutty (Eds.), Innovations in interventions to address intimate partner violence: Research and practice (pp. 227-243). New York: Routledge.

Pennell, J., with Shepherd, J. (2018). Domestic violence. In T. Maschi & G. Leibowitz (Eds.), Forensic social work: Psychosocial and legal issues with diverse populations and settings (2nd ed., pp. 183-192). New York, NY: Springer.

Training & Resources

Training Language:
  • English
Training Available:
  • Yes
Training Details:
Training manuals/protocols:

Ake III, G., Bauman, K., Briggs, E. & Starsoneck, L. (2009). Strong Fathers curriculum & facilitators manual. Durham, NC: Center for Child & Family Health.

Availability of Training:

Training available from Deana Manley, Strong Fathers Program Director

Training costs:

Vary depending upon number of days and number of trainees, includes curriculum in English and/or Spanish plus other teaching aids

Training Contact:

Deanna Manley

John Williamson

Program Contact

John Williamson (Executive Director)

Deanna Manley (Strong Fathers Director)

Pathways to Change
960 Corporate Drive
Suite 408
Hillsborough, NC 27278