The evidence is clear; fathers — regardless of residential or relationship status — play a critical role in children’s health and influence maternal well-being. Fathers’ contributions to children’s development have been associated with improved cognitive development, social responsiveness, and independence across the lifespan. A growing body of research suggests that mothers whose partners are engaged in the prenatal period access health services at higher rates, experience lighter workloads, and are at lower risks for post- partum depression.

As we reimagine our public systems and services to work better for families, we have an opportunity to do so in a way that honors the full diversity of family structures and builds upon families’ inherent resilience. This requires an intentional and explicit commitment to applying a gender lens inclusive of fathers to our analyses of family- supportive policy, practice, and research.

With this recognition, underscored by ongoing gender analyses and recognition of the dearth of policies and programs that support fathers’ roles in child and family well-being, Ascend at the Aspen Institute and the Kresge Foundation Human Services Program convened leaders across policy, practice, and research to identify policy barriers, programmatic best practices, and opportunities across domains to more effectively engage fathers in efforts aimed at supporting children and families.