Children at risk failed by exclusion of fathers

6 September 2001

Children are at risk because child protection services often exclude fathers from discussion of their future. Dads can often take steps to protect their children as well as offering vital support. This is the key finding from research highlighted at My Dad, My Protector? – a conference in London today (Mon 10 Sep), co-hosted by Fathers Direct and the NSPCC. To download the press release in pdf format, click here.

The government-funded Working With Fathers study , written by conference keynote speaker Mary Ryan, found that many dads, particularly those living separately from their families, are too often excluded from planning their children’s future. Only a third of non-resident fathers are included in any child protection consultation, finds the research.

But many dads are anxious to have more responsibility for the protection of their children. The NSPCC Helpline receives two calls every day from dads and male carers concerned that their children are being abused or neglected by others.

Mary Ryan said: “Non-abusive fathers– particularly those who are non-resident – are often minimally involved by professionals in the child protection process. Research shows how mothers can lose out on support and vulnerable children miss out on vital care from their dads and their extended families. We know good fathering benefits children and that children speak of missing their dads. Professionals need to adopt best practice which shows how fathers can be involved very usefully.”

David Bartlett of Fathers Direct said:

“We know that fathers and stepfathers are often sidelined by child protection services. But the real tragedy is that we are missing a huge opportunity to improve children’s lives by ensuring, where fathers are not the abusers, they are at the heart of supporting children who are in danger.”

Mary Marsh, NSPCC chief executive, said:

“Children should feel that they can turn to their dads if they have a problem but sadly, many children find that they are unable to do so. Professionals need to value fathers as part of the solution. As part of the FULL STOP campaign, the NSPCC is committed to finding new ways of engaging with fathers of vulnerable children.”

The Working With Fathers study describes the case of Patsy, a two-year old girl, whose young mother was having problems coping after the father had left home. Eventually a child protection conference was called and Patsy was placed on the Child Protection Register and over the next year was placed in voluntary care on three occasions.

Patsy’s father, who had stopped visiting because of the rows the visits caused, had not been contacted. He discovered what had happened on the third occasion only via local rumour and contacted social services straight away. The report says: “He was very angry and upset that he had not known what was going on. He would willingly have had Patsy stay with him and his new partner and her children if asked.” Once he was involved the parents agreed a plan of shared care and a less intensive protection plan was agreed for Patsy’s mother.

Facts About Fathers and Child Protection

  • Only 38% of the 36,500 children whose families enter the child protection process live with both parents (compared with national average of 73%)
  • 57% of households referred to the child protection system lack a wage earner.

For further information, please call Julie Read at the NSPCC Media Office on 0207- 825 2713 or Jack O’Sullivan at Fathers Direct on 01608 737125/m 07779 655585

Notes to Editors:

Journalists are invited to the conference which takes place at The Britannia Street Conference and Meeting Centre, 27, Britannia St, London WC1X 9JP at 9.45am.

Fathers Direct is the national information centre for fatherhood, set up as a charity in 1999 to promote close and positive relationships between men and their children. It publishes the awarding-winning www.fatherhoodinstitute.org online magazine for fathers, plus guides and provides training, conferences and briefings on fatherhood. Fathers Direct, Herald House, Lambs Passage, Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TQ. 020 7920 9491.

The NSPCC is the UK’s leading child protection charity, with over 180 Teams and Projects directly helping children, as well as campaigning for children, training services and research into child abuse trends.

REFERENCE:

Working with Fathers by Mary Ryan – Radcliffe Medical Press – £14.95 (Department of Health- 2000).

 

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