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Certified Intimate Partner Abuse Education Programs and Fatherhood Programs: What is the Difference?

Produced by Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Created August 2019

This fact sheet is a resource for those who seek appropriate services for perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Sometimes consideration is given to fatherhood programs. Although these programs are often referred to as Nurturing Fatherhood Programs or Responsible Fatherhood Programs and can be a valuable resource for fathers, they are not intended to address intimate partner violence. Fatherhood program directors say that fatherhood programs should not be used as a replacement for Certified Intimate Partner Abuse Education Programs. While Certified Intimate Partner Abuse Education Programs address parenting, their primary focus is to help people build skills for making non-violent choices. These programs also provide contact with partners, assess and make referrals for substance abuse and mental health problems.

Questions Fatherhood Programs Certified Intimate Partner Abuse Education Programs
Who do the programs serve? Fathers, step-fathers, and father figures whether or not they have custody of their children Domestic violence offenders, including those with children and step-children.
Do the programs address domestic violence? Not typically although some programs might devote 1-2 sessions to this. All 40 sessions are devoted to this.
Do programs contact partners of program participants? No Yes. If the partner chooses, the program will provide regular contact, make referrals to appropriate services, such as safety planning and information to help protect the children.
What are the purposes of intervention? To promote father re-engagement and/or to strengthen relationships with children, to teach understanding of children’s needs, to teach parenting skills. To help participants identify all forms of abusive behavior and how it affects their partners and children. To teach participants how to avoid abusive behavior and to learn and practice behaviors that support healthy and respectful relationships.
How long are programs? Varies greatly from as low as 5 weeks to 20 weeks 1.5 to 2.5 hours per session 40 sessions with a minimum of 2 hours per session.
Do programs assess participants for dangerousness? No Yes. Programs utilized established procedures for identifying risk factors to lethality and re-assaults, and for managing risk.
Are group facilitators trained about domestic violence? There are no requirements for this although some group leaders might receive limited training. State standards specify 24 hours of specialized training at a certified intimate partner abuse education program site and 12 hours of group observation.
How is participant progress evaluated? Based primarily on program attendance. Based on attendance and level of participation. Participants must be violence-free for 20 weeks to be eligible for program completion.
Are programs apart of coordinated community responses to domestic violence? No Yes. This often includes participation in domestic violence high risk teams, domestic violence roundtables, partnerships with victim advocacy programs and outreach with community agencies.
Are the programs certified and/or monitored by a state agency? No Yes. The Programs are certified and monitored by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Certified Intimate Partner Abuse Education programs provide tailored services to meet the needs of linguistic and cultural minorities (with groups in Spanish, Portuguese,Vietnamese), perpetrators with disabilities, same-sex offenders, DCF-referred fathers who batter, and adolescent perpetrators.

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