Strong Fathers Program


Strong Fathers is a psychoeducational and skills-building group for men referred by Child Welfare and with a history of domestic violence. It aims to help men relate in safe and caring ways to their children, partners, and other family members, and become strong fathers who

  • Provide time and support
  • Model non-violence and respect to their children
  • Show their children that they care and want safety for them and their mothers

In groups, the men learn parenting techniques and talk with each other about good ways of fathering and caring for their families. 

The program started in the fall of 2009 at Family Service Inc. in Winston-SalemThe Center for Child and Family Health in Durham developed the curriculum and the Center for Family and Community Engagement evaluated its outcomes. The program was funded first by the North Carolina Division of Social Services  and then by the North Carolina Council for Women, with a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services (Family Violence Prevention and Services Act). In the fall of 2011, Durham County Department of Social Services teamed up with the Center for Child and Family Health to deliver the program as well.

The curriculum integrates parenting education with raising awareness of the impact of domestic violence on children and their mothers, and addresses how the men’s childhood experiences affect how they relate to their children and their partners. The goal is for men to become strong fathers who work with the children’s mothers to promote positive child development. The curriculum draws upon other models developed to reduce child maltreatment and intimate partner violence, including Fathering After Violence, developed by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, EVOLVE, developed by Fernando Mederos; and Caring Dads, developed by Katreena Scott, Karen Francis, Claire Crooks, and Tim Kelly and piloted under the leadership of David Adams.

Other partners include Marie McCabe (American Humane Association), Juan Areán Carlos and Lonna Davis (Futures Without Violence), and Mary Koss (University of Arizona).​

Sample materials

The program was evaluated using exercises in which the men set goals for themselves, rate their own growth as fathers, and complete pre- and post-tests of their knowledge of child development. The evaluation seeks input from the group facilitators, the mothers of the children, the social workers, and other community partners. Social Services data were also analyzed. 


Pennell, 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.

Pennell, J. (2017). Family risk and responsive regulation. In M. Connelly (Ed.), Beyond the risk paradigm in child protection (pp. 161-175). Basingstoke, Hampshire, United Kingdom: Palgrave.

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., 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., 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. {keep the article that is in manuscript form linked to this--we are allowed to post the article in its pre-print format}