NODS (Not only Dads) Engaging fathers on their own terms

23 May 2006

Fathers of drug users need support too. It seems an obvious statement but most family support services within the drug and alcohol sector have traditionally focused on helping mothers. The need for dedicated support for fathers led to the foundation of NODS. It was established as a joint pilot project to be initiated by the Community Development Officer of the Lowedges, Batemoor and Jordanthorpe (LBJ) Drugs Forum, a project worker from Relatives of Drug Abusers (RODA) and volunteers from both organisations.

The idea of NODS was initially conceived by RODA which had already recognised that its services were predominately accessed by females. A couple of fathers that had attended RODA said that they would prefer to attend a male only group where they could seek peer support and information to enable them to communicate effectively with their children around drug issues.

The NODS programme was to include outreach and home visits to fathers; fortnightly support group meetings in an informal setting and a rolling programme of drug education in schools for parents. An audit was conducted, and fathers questioned, to find out how a service for fathers could best be delivered. Two strong themes that emerged was the desire to have male engagement workers and for support groups to take place in informal settings.

The male volunteers, including ex-drug users and a male facilitator were extremely effective in engaging fathers. The volunteers were given extensive drug awareness and facilitation training before they worked with other fathers. To meet the desires expressed by fathers the group met up in an informal venue – to begin with this was a local hotel. Alongside the fathers’ group, the volunteers also provided training in schools to parents around drug awareness, education about the impact of drug use on the family, awareness of the harms caused by drug use and advice on how to talk to your child about drugs. Fathers commented that the opportunity to speak to ex-users who had ‘been there’ and ask them questions was particularly useful. This really helped them understand what their children could be experiencing.

Evaluation forms that were carried out after six months showed that the NODS fathers had more knowledge and understanding about drugs and their effects. They also felt more confident about talking to their children about drugs. The school training also had a positive impact, leading to an increased awareness and understanding about drugs.

The success and demand for a male engagement service has meant that RODA have kept the group going beyond the initial pilot period. The NODS support group has moved to a café and the fathers hold their meetings around themed evenings such as going ten pin bowling. This innovative approach has ensured that fathers affected by a child’s drug use are getting important support and education and equally an opportunity for respite amongst non-judgmental peers.

Contact Information:
Name: Eddie Concannon c/o RODA (Relatives of Drug Abusers)
Tel: 0114 2314443