This webpage is designed as an induction tool for staff involved in community health/welfare/counselling contexts and how their program/organisation can best involve fathers. Organisations and programs are encouraged to complete the whole FIP process to ensure best service delivery outcomes. Click here, for more information.
Cowan and Cowan (2009) identified four common issues in child protection research:
Despite recent interest in including fathers, research and services for families still primarily focus on mothers and children.
Children benefit when non-violent, non-abusive fathers play an active and positive role in their daily lives.
Family services should make greater efforts to include fathers in their intervention programs.
Interventions to improve parenting skills should include a focus on improving the quality of the relationship between parents (Cowan, 2009).
A meta-analysis of studies on attachment interventions designed to enhance positive parenting behaviours found that those that included fathers were, on average, more effective than those that involved mothers only. Including fathers in such interventions will be more effective if the unique value of father-child relationships is well understood and taken into account.
Unless there are contra-indicators of family violence, involvement of the fathers that surround the children’s lives will mainly have significant impacts for the mothers, children and men. Cowan’s (2005) research, using random allocation and a control group, indicates that involving fathers directly in family support, home visiting and couple programs resulted in the following:
Decreased post natal depression (Burgess, 2010)
Men were significantly more involved in the day to day care of their children (bathing, feeding, taking to the doctor, etc.) (Cowan, 2005)
Children experienced less behaviour problems and stress (Cowan, 2005)
Lower parenting stress (Cowan, 2005)
Lower personal adult distress (Cowan, 2005).
Significant forces that shape men's lives
There are many different forces that shape men's lives. These forces include level of income, experience of poverty, level of education, social determinants (conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age) community conflict, war and the impact of their own family's upbringing.
Practice experience indicates that men's lives:
Contain deep connections and desires for deeper relationships, even if they are less spoken about.
Are shaped by choices and consequences made throughout their life.
Often invest in outward focused expressions, rather than inward focused expressions.
Are best defined by generativity.
Watch the following segment and reflect on what connections are important in the lives of men you work with?
How can you build on discussions with men about these important connections, the choices and consequences they make and how generativity is expressed in their life?
For more information about generativity, click here
For more information about the quiet revolution that has occurred with fathers, click here
What are the important micro-steps along the way that enable you to achieve your program's purpose?
Most fathers shy away from being in the spotlight when they are the primary focus of service delivery. An example of this is, play group programs appeal to a broader range of men when they are called a 'Kids and Dads playgroup' rather than 'Dads and Kids' Playgroup. This is due to their desire for a stronger connection with their child/ren is in the foreground of the title. While this may seem a small difference, language plays a significant difference in making good service delivery happen.
At the end of it, a range of programs with specific target groups is required to create strong families and communities.
Watch the following segment and reflect on how your program achieves its purpose.
2. Pre-natal class example
Separate programs or inclusive programs - including mothers as well as fathers?
There is currently a debate about if fathers' programs should be inclusive of partners or specifically only target the men.
Watch the following segment and reflect on the unspoken stories in men's lives:
Present at birth of the children
Voicing of their experience... expression of deep desires
Knowing how to have an impact on the key relationships in their life
Need for solo time with the children to develop their confidence
3. Separate-inclusive services
Father specific programs are often a step along the way to having programs for mothers and fathers. The specific focus of targeting men may enable them to develop their confidence in what is important for their family. Often with both parents together in the early stages of a group program, especially if underlying conflict already exists, one parent is more likely to dominate and one parent is likely to isolate their experience and understanding of what is happening in the family.
Also, many men do not know much about what other fathers experience, so providing some father specific programs, builds on this curiosity and the development of normalisation and proactive (rather than reactive) responses.
However at the end of the process, teamwork parenting needs to be the primary goal.
When is it good to have programs for all mothers and fathers and when do they need to be father specific?
What can services do?
Watch the following segment and reflect on:
The range of programs you use when working with men. Click here for a list of programs that have been trialed across Australia.
Importance of using gendered language rather than being gender neutral. For an example of involving fathers in Primary Birth Visits, Lincolnshire, UK, click here.
Click here for information about how to talk about ‘mums and dads’ without excluding ‘non-traditional’ families.
The use of the engagement circle - relevance, faith building and honest/directness. For more information about the engagement circle, click here.
Complete the FIP Checklist, click here. For more information about the checklist, click here.
Use the FIP logos on program advertising and your emails. For more information, click here. For the logos, see the webpage.
Review the free downloads section for useful tools, click here.
Review the links page for useful tools, click here.
4. What can services do?
Key messages for fathers
A key aspect is for practitioners to highlight to men the significance of the role they play in their family's life. Most men are not aware or trivialise this significance.
Watch the following segment and reflect on:
Importance of fathers spending time with their children
Play... the significance of rough and tumble play - risk and exploration
Essentialness of mother respect, regardless of what has occurred
Parenting - The 18-year+ investment
For more information about key messages for fathers regarding the impact they have, click here or click here.
For a copy of the Fathers Matter Report UK - click here.
Appreciation for this supporting the development of this webpage is given to Peter Slattery, Michael Webb, Anthony Brown and the Men's Health Information and Resource Centre.
For feedback about this webpage or for information about training workshops in your local region, contact us.
Click here, to join the working with men and generativity learning group. It is a multimedia site that shares ideas about generative change and working with men with articles, with a special focus on working with culturally diverse fathers and family separation, 15 good practice exercises, video segments and forums to provide the best in on-going learning and reflection.