New ante-natal programme for dads launches with Radio 4 slot

15 September 2008

4 September 2008


Father changing nappyThe Fatherhood Institute is inviting Children’s Centres and other family services to take part in the UK version of a groundbreaking American ante-natal peer support programme for dads-to-be.

‘Hit the Ground Crawling’ – which is already up-and-running as a pilot in Staffordshire and features in a Radio 4 documentary to be broadcast on Monday 15 September* – involves groups of expectant fathers learning childcare skills from new dads and their babies.

Specially trained Children’s Centre staff, health visitors, midwives etc facilitate the sessions, which are very informal and are designed to provide space for the dads-to-be to discuss their thoughts and concerns with other dads in a relaxed setting; to watch their peers caring for their babies; and to have a go at changing nappies, cuddling, massaging, etc.

The result is more confident, less-isolated dads….and a great opportunity to ensure local fathers become familiar and comfortable with the full range of local services. One dad-to-be in Stafford said: “Well at first I was very nervous and I hold my hands up…I was panicking about fatherhood. But this session has given me EVERY confidence and done me the world of good. I am full of confidence now”.

The Fatherhood Institute has developed the Hit the Ground Crawling programme from a similar and hugely popular scheme in the US. It is a response to research about the huge impact fathers have on the wellbeing of mothers and children, and helps local authorities fulfil Government policies about supporting fathers. A full package of training and ongoing support is now ready to roll out to Children’s Centres and other ante-natal providers for just £5,000 plus VAT.

Nicola Ellis, community development worker at East Staffordshire Children’s Centre in Burton-on-Trent facilitated the session recorded for the Radio 4 documentary. She has more than three years’ experience of working with fathers in her locality, and is planning four more Hit the Ground Crawling sessions this year.

‘We have really positive relationships with our dads, and seeing them building up relationships with their children is easily the best part of my job. The Hit the Ground Crawling approach is brilliant – it was great to see the dads so keen to come along and I was surprised how open they were. Some of these dads know a lot of stuff, and many of them are staying at home while the mum goes back to work – a lot of the time it’s just giving them the confidence to know that they’re doing ok.’

Notes to editors

Buying in Hit The Ground Crawling is one of a number of ways in which children’s services can work towards meeting key Government policy objectives about engaging with fathers, including those in Every Parent Matters, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy; the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services; and the Children’s Centre Practice and Performance Management Guidance. It also helps meet statutory obligations about equal treatment of men and women in public services (in the Equality Act 2006).

• ‘Boot Camp for Dads’ – a documentary made by writer/ broadcaster/ father/ Hit the Ground Crawling ‘graduate’ Richard Johnson – will air on BBC Radio 4 on Monday 15 September at 11.00 to 11.30 am.
• For more information about Hit the Ground Crawling, its development in the UK from the US ‘Boot Camp for New Dads’ model, and the ongoing evaluation of the Staffordshire pilot, contact David Bartlett, Services Manager, Fatherhood Institute on tel                01422 847825         or mob                0795 804 2476         or email

• For photos and a grassroots perspective on the scheme, contact Nicola Ellis at East Staffordshire Children’s Centre can be contacted on tel                01283 233400        .

• More than 150,000 fathers in 42 US states have attended Boot Camp for New Dads schemes. For more details visit