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Family Strengthening Scholars

Grants to USA Nonprofits, For-Profits, Agencies, and IHEs
for Dissertation Research on Strengthening Families

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - Administration for Children and Families (ACF) - Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE)

LOI Date:


Deadline Date:

05/29/18 4:30 PM ET Hard Copy Receipt; or 11:59 PM ET Electronic Receipt


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Grants ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 per year to USA nonprofit organizations, for-profits, government agencies, and IHEs to support dissertation research on responsible fatherhood and healthy marriages. Applicants are advised to create or verify the required registrations well in advance of the deadline date.

The Administration for Child and Families (ACF), Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) is soliciting applications for the Family Strengthening Research Scholars grants to support dissertation research on healthy marriage/responsible fatherhood (HM/RF) policy issues. These grants are meant to build capacity in the research field to focus on questions that have direct implications for the HM/RF field and to foster mentoring relationships between faculty members and high-quality doctoral students. These grants are intended to address issues of significance to inform policy decisions and solutions, particularly for underserved and understudied populations (e.g., low-income families, minority populations), use rigorous research methodology (both primary data collection and secondary data analysis), and help inform the development of future intervention research. Awards are dependent upon the availability of funds and the best interest of the federal government.


Family Strengthening Scholars grants are to support dissertation research to build empirical evidence in the HM/RF field and to strengthen the capacity of next generation researchers to conduct rigorous, policy-relevant research related to HM/RF programs. These grants are also meant to help graduate students form active, collaborative partnerships with HM/RF practitioners. These grants can support projects for either primary data collection efforts or secondary data analysis of datasets, including, but not limited to, Supporting Healthy Marriage, Building Strong Families, or Community Healthy Marriage Initiative datasets.

These grants inform HM/RF programs funded under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, as well as other HM/RF programs. TANF was first authorized in 1996 as part of title IV-A of the Social Security Act and has four main purposes:

1. Provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives;
2. End the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage;
3. Prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies; and
4. Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

HM/RF programs were authorized in 2005, in 2010, and again in 2015, as part of TANF. These programs were designed to offer marriage/relationship education and fatherhood engagement services to low-income families. Current legislation for marriage/relationship education programs specifies eight healthy marriage activities (e.g., educating high school students on the value of marriage, relationship skills, and budgeting; providing pre-marital education and marriage skills training for engaged couples and for couples or individuals interested in marriage; and marriage skills training for married couples). The three types of fatherhood activities specified in the legislation include healthy marriage, responsible parenting, and economic stability are noted in the statute.

The overall mission of the HM/RF work is to improve the lives of children and parents and promote economic stability. The goal of these programs is to help participants build and sustain healthy relationships and marriages and to strengthen positive father-child interactions. Although much work has been done in the family strengthening arena related to HM/RF programs, more work is needed.

Some specific areas where knowledge development is needed include:
-Understanding effective ways to reach and retain low-income couples and fathers for these programs;
-Developing effective measurement of relevant constructs in the context of low-income couples and families;
-Understanding the mediators and moderators of family strengthening programs' impacts;
-Understanding features of these programs related to impacts in relevant domains;
-Providing effective curricula for low-income couples and fathers enrolled in family strengthening programs; and
-Measuring impacts of family strengthening programs on low-income couples and families.

Goals of Family Strengthening Scholars Grants:

The specific goals of the Family Strengthening Scholars grants are:

-To address issues of significance and relevance to policy decisions related to low-income families in order to further the HM/RF field. These grants are meant to build capacity in the field and increase our understanding of understudied/underserved populations, and to further our understanding of effective HM/RF programming.

-To directly support graduate students’ engagement in HM/RF research. Along with supporting the students' training and professional development as researchers, these grants contribute to the knowledge base about best approaches to delivering services to diverse, low-income families and their children. Students are expected to become autonomous researchers with specialized knowledge of HM/RF policy issues.

-To foster mentoring relationships between faculty members and graduate students who are pursuing doctoral-level research in the HM/RF field. Each student will work in partnership with a faculty mentor to foster the skills necessary to build a graduate student's career trajectory. Within this mentoring relationship, scholars are expected to become independent researchers with the skills necessary to address HM/RF issues with a high level of technical quality.

-To form collaborative partnerships with HM/RF practitioners. It is highly recommended that applicants consult with a HM/RF administrator/practitioner in the development of the proposal. Examples of strong partnerships, include, but are not limited to working directly with a current or former ACF Office of Family Assistance (OFA) HM/RF grantee. Another example of a strong partnership is forming a collaborative relationship with a local community organization that does HM/RF work but is not a current OFA grantee. These collaborative partnerships strengthen the student’s dissertation work and help the student gain a greater understanding of HM/RF work. For example, these partnerships will help the student address issues of significance related to HM/RF services and programs; develop research projects with direct implications for policy decisions and solutions, particularly for underserved and understudied populations; and use the most rigorous research methodology to answer the selected research question(s). Additionally, these collaborative partnerships are meant to form a wider network of HM/RF colleagues to further the student's professional development.

-To encourage active communication, networking, and collaboration among graduate students, their mentors, and other senior HM/RF researchers. Students are encouraged to connect with senior researchers whose research interests overlap with their projects. To facilitate connections among researchers interested in HM/RF work, OPRE also supports the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network and a Center on Hispanic Children and Families.

-To disseminate information about good marriage relationship education and fatherhood practices by building research and practice knowledge capacity, as well as increasing collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and capacity building among practitioners and researchers. In addition, OPRE sponsors various conferences and meetings, such as the Research and Evaluation Conference on Self-Sufficiency (RECS), where opportunities for collaboration, networking, and dissemination may be supported. In order to facilitate communication and dissemination between researchers, policymakers, and program administrators, grantees are required to participate in the following activities:

a. Conferences and Meetings. Participation, by both the mentor and scholar, in two conferences is mandatory. The first required conference is the grantee meeting which is anticipated to occur during the late Fall, likely in Washington, DC. Additionally, participation in RECS (historically held in May) in Washington, DC is required. This is a biennial conference. The next scheduled conference is in May 2020. On the off years that RECS is not being held, grantees are required to attend an additional conference of their choice.

b. Research Briefs. Twice a year, the scholars are expected to prepare a 1-2 page brief describing the objectives, hypotheses, findings (when available), and the potential practice or policy implications of their research projects. The briefs will be posted on OPRE’s website, and distributed at the grantee conference.

Research topics that are of particular interest for this year's Family Strengthening Scholars grants include, but are not limited to:
-Exploring mediators and moderators for program effects;
-Father involvement;
-Complex families;
-Incarceration (including effects on relationships, relationships that are sustained throughout an incarceration, and issues with re-entry);
-The dynamics of relationships that terminate following a marriage/relationship education program;
-Outcomes from marriage/relationship programs, other than partnership status, such as family-wide outcomes, parent mental health, and child adjustment;
-Effects of mental health on couple and parent-child relationships, especially in the context of low-income families;
-Program features associated with program outcomes (program characteristics, staff characteristics, curricula, dosage);
-Studies that address measurement issues for family strengthening programs (e.g., how to measure father involvement with non-residential fathers);
-Studies that highlight how to enhance employment outcomes in family strengthening programs;
-Programming specific to teen parents;
-Relationship programming for youth in high schools; and
-Cost benefit analysis of family strengthening programs


Grants awarded as a result of this competition are not transferable to another graduate student.
Grants awarded as a result of this competition are not transferable to another institution without prior approval from ACF. In addition, grant funds may not be used to support project activities outside of the scope of the proposal of the awarded project without prior approval by ACF.

Sharing of Awards:

The awards are for support of an individual graduate student researcher. Awards cannot be divided among two or more students (i.e., no co-investigators).

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 154565

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

Expected Number of Awards: 3

Estimated Size of Grant:

-Award Ceiling: $25,000 Per Budget Period
-Award Floor: $10,000 Per Budget Period
-Average Projected Award Amount: $25,000 Per Budget Period

Term of Contract:

Applicants may choose whether they apply for funding for a 12-month project and budget period or a 24-month project with two 12-month budget periods. Each budget period is 12 months.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligible Applicants:

Eligible applicants are public, private and state controlled institutions of higher education; state, county, city or township, and special district governments; independent school districts; nonprofit organizations; for-profit organizations; small businesses; Native American tribal governments and organizations; public housing authorities/Indian housing authorities.

Applications from individuals (including sole proprietorships) and foreign entities are not eligible and will be disqualified from competitive review and from funding under this announcement.

Faith-based and community organizations that meet the eligibility requirements are eligible to receive awards under this funding opportunity announcement.

Funding Restrictions:

Costs of organized fund raising, including financial campaigns, endowment drives, solicitation of gifts and bequests, and similar expenses incurred to raise capital or obtain contributions are unallowable. Fund raising costs for the purposes of meeting the Federal program objectives are allowable with prior written approval from the Federal awarding agency. (45 CFR §75.442)

Proposal costs are the costs of preparing bids, proposals, or applications on potential Federal and non-Federal awards or projects, including the development of data necessary to support the non-Federal entity's bids or proposals. Proposal costs of the current accounting period of both successful and unsuccessful bids and proposals normally should be treated as indirect (F&A) costs and allocated currently to all activities of the non-Federal entity. No proposal costs of past accounting periods will be allocable to the current period. (45 CFR §75.460)

Grant awards will not allow reimbursement of pre-award costs.

Construction is not an allowable activity or expenditure under this grant award.

Purchase of real property is not an allowable activity or expenditure under this grant award.

Pre-Application Information:

All applicants must have a DUNS Number and an active registration with the System for Award Management.

Obtaining a DUNS Number may take 1 to 2 days.

All applicants are required to maintain an active SAM registration until the application process is complete. If a grant is awarded, registration at SAM must be active throughout the life of the award.

Plan ahead. Allow at least 10 business days after you submit your registration for it to become active in SAM and at least an additional 24 hours before that registration information is available in other government systems, i.e.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to notify ACF of their intention to submit an application under this announcement. Please submit the letter of intent by April 30, 2018.

The deadline for electronic application submission is 11:59 PM, ET on May 29, 2018.

The deadline for receipt of paper applications is 4:30 PM ET, on May 29, 2018.

Applicants will be notified of a disqualification determination by email or by USPS postal mail within 30 federal business days from the closing date of this FOA.

Key Dates:
-Due Date for Letters of Intent: 04/30/2018
-Due Date for Applications: 05/29/2018

Letter of Intent:
Applicants are strongly encouraged to notify ACF of their intention to submit an application under this announcement. Please submit the letter of intent by the 4/30/2018. Letter of intent information will be used to determine the number of expert reviewers needed to evaluate applications. The letter of intent is optional. Failure to submit a letter of intent will not impact eligibility to submit an application and will not disqualify an application from competitive review.

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Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Program Office Contact:

Aleta Meyer
Administration for Children and Families Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation Switzer Building
330 C Street SW.
Washington, DC 20201
Fax: (202) 205-3598

Office of Grants Management Contact:

Tim Chappelle
Administration for Children and Families Office of Grants Management
Switzer Building
330 C. Street SW
Washington , DC 20201
Phone: (202) 401-4855

OPRE Review Team:

Family Strengthening Scholars Grant Review
c/o ICF International
9300 Lee Highway
Fairfax, VA 22031-6050

Please submit your letter of intent to either:

By mail:
OPRE Review Team
Family Strengthening Scholars
c/o ICF International
9300 Lee Highway
Fairfax, VA 22031

By email:

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:


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USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming