Finding Fathers

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Finding Fathers. Engaging Fathers in Child Welfare Practice. Research Focus. Population: non-resident dads whose children have been identified because of neglect Rationale: neglect is one of the most common and fastest growing forms of child abuse that leads to intervention - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Finding FathersEngaging Fathers in Child Welfare PracticePopulation: non-resident dads whose children have been identified because of neglectRationale: neglect is one of the most common and fastest growing forms of child abuse that leads to intervention (Trocm, Fallon, & MacLaurin, 2011)only 9% of child-welfare identified children live with a male primary-care giver (Trocm, 2010, p. 40) Research QuestionsWhere are the dads?Why arent they involved?What can be done?Research FocusFirst you have to find themWhere are the Dads?: Barriers to identifying fathersWhat makes a Dad?Brainstorming about what makes a dadGood dad traitsBad dad traits

People label things in order to understand them

One of the main obstacles to father involvement [] is dichotomous thinking, where men become labelled as either a risk or resource for their children as opposed to potentially a complex mix of both elements(Maxwell, Scourfield, Featherstone, Holland, & Tolman, 2012, p. 167)

Barrier 1: Dichotomous ThinkingCanadian BSW programs do not specifically address issues of fathers and fathering in lecture or in textbooks(Walmsley, Brown, Callahan, Dominelli, & Strega, 2011)Workers with specific training around fathers were: more likely to seek out fathersbetter at engaging them in activitiesmore likely to share the case planand most likely to consider dad as a placement option (Malm, Murray, & Green, 2006, p. xi )

Barrier 2: Social Work Education Who works with dads?

Has anyone had class training specific to engaging dads in their BSW?


Many non-residential fathers report not having the opportunity to participate because they were never contacted by Child Welfare during the early stages of the investigation (Burrus, Green, Worcel, Finigan, & Furrer, 2012)Researchers have found that caseworkers often do not put much effort into identifying fathers (Maxwell, Scourfield, Featherstone, Holland, & Tolman, 2012; Storhaug & Oien, 2012; Ferguson & Hogan, 2004)Question: Does that reflect your practice?

Barrier 3: Identifying Dad

Researchers have identified a number of negative discourses, or myths that are held by caseworkers, that might influence whether or not they would seek out and engage dadsScourfields Discourses:Men as a threat: men are viewed as violent, and a threat to women, children, and the social workers involvedMen as no use: men do not contribute to the care of their children, the household, or income and so they can be ignoredMen as irrelevant: mom is most present and involved, so you can just work with her and not worry consider dad. May be because he does not wish to participate, or because mom does not share info to involve himMen as absent: literally dad is not present when Child Welfare comes over he may live with family or not, but is not seen by Child Welfare workers (Storhaug & Oien, 2012; Scourfield, 2003)

Walmsley, Brown, Callahan, Dominellu, and Strega (2011) looked as case notes and saw dads described as:irrelevant (50%), a risk (20%), father as asset (20%), and father as risk and assetWalmsley also identified hidden fathers, identified as ghost fathers

Barrier 4: Negative Dad DiscoursesGhost FathersInclusion of Fathers in Social Services: New Research and Best Practices: Dr. Christopher Walmsley that you have them, what nextWhat prevents involvement?: Barriers to Engagement

Despite cultural changes in the last few decades, there is still a strong view that when we talk about parenting, we are really talking about motherhood (Storhaug & Oien, 2012)child welfare workers saw "service user men [...] as dangerous, useless, and behind the times in relation to societal changes in gender roles and parenting"(Ferguson & Hogan, 2004, ch. 2, p. 4)Fathers also identified that they did not immediately get involved because they were unsure of their own abilities to take on the nurturing role (Storhaug & Oien, 2012

Barrier 5: Parenting = MotherhoodOscar:The Child Welfare Services wanted to take the children away from home because of the wife's alcohol problems, despite the fact that Oscar, according to his account, had no problems. Oscar felt that the Child Welfare Service thought that it was irrelevant that he cared for and protected the children.(Storhaug & Oien, 2012, p. 299)George:A case conference had even been arranged to try to organise appropriate foster care. It was not until the possibilities of relative care were exhausted that even the community care social worker considered George as a possible carer of his own daughter.(Ferguson & Hogan, 2004, ch 4, p. 18)

Case ExamplesMany fathers are not considered as possible placements for their own childrenOne study suggests only 45% of contacted fathers were considered as possible placements, even though more than half expressed interest in taking custody (Malm, Murray, & Green, 2006)Children with identified fathers are more likely to find a permanent kin placement and more likely to result in permanent placements with a parent (Burrus, Green, Worcel, Finigan, & Furrer, 2012)

Barrier 6: Not Suitable for PlacementDads do not feel included or feel like they have to constantly "prove themselves to social workers (Ferguson & Hogan, 2004; Maxwell, Scourfield, Featherstone, Holland, & Tolman, 2012)Many parenting services are shaped to mothers, which reinforces the idea that dads are unwelcomeWhen activities and services are shaped to intentionally engage men, more fathers participate and stay engaged (Cabrera, 2010; Maxwell, Scourfield, Featherstone, Holland, & Tolman, 2012)

Barrier 7: Services for DadsConclusions

Cautions: I acknowledge sometimes dads are not safe, do not want to participate, and cannot be found, but the research indicates this is not as often as we claim. Dads are valuable to the development of children, and their presence improves case outcomes. We need to do a better job at working with them.Burrus, S. W. M., Green, B. L., Worcel, S., Finigan, M., and Furrer, C. (2012). Do dads matter? Child Welfare outcomes for father-identified families. Journal of Child Custody, 9(3), 201-216.

Cabrera, N. (2010). Father involvement in public policies. In M.E. Lamb (Ed.), Role of the Father in Child Development (5th Ed.) Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley.

Ferguson, H. and Hogan, F. (2004) Strengthening families through fathers: Developing policy and practice in relation to vulnerable fathers and their families. Bristol, UK: TheCentre for Social and Family Research..

Malm, K., Murray, J., and Green, R. (2006). What about the dads? Child welfare agencies efforts to identify, locate and involve non-custodial fathers. Washington, D.C.: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.Maxwell, N., Scourfield, J., Featherstone, B., Holland, S., and Tolman, R. (2012). Engaging fathers in child welfare services: A narrative review of recent research evidence. Child & Family Social Work, 17(2), 160-169.Storhaug, A. S., and Oien, K. (2012). Fathers' encounters with the Child Welfare Service. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 296-303.

Trocm, N. (2010). Canadian incidence study of reported child abuse and neglect, 2008: Major findings. Public Health Agency of Canada. Ottawa : Public Health. Agency of Canada.

Trocm, N., Fallon, B., and MacLaurin, B. (2011). Canadian incidence study of reported child abuse and neglect: Changing patterns of reported maltreatment, 1998 and 2003. In K. Kufeldt & B. McKenzie (Eds), Child welfare: Connecting research, policy, and practice (2nd Ed.) (pp. 23-36). Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Walmsley, C., Brown, L., Callahan, M., Dominelli, L., and Strega, S. (2011). Engaging with fathers in child welfare. In K. Kufeldt & B. McKenzie (Eds), Child welfare: Connecting research, policy, and practice (2nd Ed.) (pp. 385-398). Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

ReferencesDiscussion & QuestionsAssess your Father-friendliness

1. Does the entire staff have an understanding of the role men play in childrens lives?2. Do fathers believe there is value to using the program?3. Is there a male on staff that fathers are able to connect with? Is there a male volunteeror representative (another father) who is the point man for fathering activities?4. Is the physical environment welcoming to fathers?5. What biases may be influencing your efforts to engage men?6. Are there resources available that speak to fathers?7. Do promotion materials reflect fathers in the wording and images?

* adapted from: Best Start Resource Centre. (2012). Step By Step: Engaging Fathers in Programs for Families. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: author. Retrieved from