SCIE (Social Care Institute for Excellence) Knowledge Review on Disabled Parents

13 August 2008

Supporting disabled parents and parents with additional support needs:  SCIE ADULTS’ SERVICES KNOWLEDGE REVIEW

Authors: Jenny Morris and Michele Wates

Published: November 2006 in the UK, by the Social Care Institute for Excellence

This SCIE ‘knowledge review’ is about parents with physical and/or sensory impairments, learning difficulties, mental health problems, long-term illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, and drug or alcohol problems.

Because most of the research into disabled parents has focused on mothers, the review has less to say about dads. But the researchers grasp and acknowledge that this is an important issue. They point out that there are clear entitlements within the legislative framework for adult social care to support disabled fathers as well as mothers, that parenting roles are not treated as a central issue within the adult social care policy framework; that men’s parenting roles and responsibilities are particularly unrecognised; and that the research literature needs to address specifically the experiences and needs of disabled fathers.” Parents” they write “want support that strengthens their parenting role and this support should encompass the role of both fathers and mothers.

Specifically, the Research Review comments:

• Within the context of disability, men’s parenting roles and responsibilities are particularly unrecognised
• Most of the focus within children’s services is on the role and responsibilities of (disabled) mothers, with insufficient attention paid to supporting fathers
• Disabled fathers’ roles represent a gap in the research literature
• A study on child protection applications to family courts found that 16% involved a mother and/or a father with learning difficulties
• There is no published research that examines the role and involvement of disabled fathers in the child protection process
• Lack of research about the role of fathers in families affected by learning difficulties, can create negative stereotypes of such fathers – e.g. that they are often paedophiles or are routinely violent : in fact, and contrary to this, the one study that has examined fathers in these families found ‘supportive men’ in the majority among the families surveyed
• Future research needs specifically to address the experiences and needs of disabled fathers
• The specific support needs and experiences of disabled fathers generally remain invisible.
• Disabled parents want support that strengthens their parenting role and independence – and this support should encompass the role of both fathers and mothers
• In special care baby units, fathers (and mothers) who misuse drugs are frequently not encouraged to bond with their babies
• In the early days of a baby’s life, assistant to a father (or mother) with a physical/sensory impairment or learning difficulty must be provided sensitively to avoid it affecting the bonding process
• A national gathering of parents with learning difficulties, and those who support them, identified ‘support for fathers’ as a key element in helping both parents be good parents.
• In the SCIE ‘good service’ survey, disabled parents identified ‘including fathers’ as a characteristic of ‘good’ support and said both mainstream and specialist support for fathers was important, that dads needed access to parenting education and that it was particularly important to consult with them to find out why they find it difficult to use services – or services find it difficult to engage with them
• Parents with HIV/AIDS say that services for men, and especially single fathers, ‘are few and far between’
• About a third of fathers who misuse drugs are still living with their children
• SCIE’s review of research on interventions to support substance misusing parents and their children suggests that ‘support for substance-misusing fathers’ (as well as parent education and residential programmes) is helpful
• Among parents with drugs and alcohol problems, several (including fathers) had found TV programmes such as Supernanny and Little Angels helpful.
• Stockport Midwives’ resource pack about the needs of parents with learning difficulties includes procedures to refer mothers and fathers to a specialist support service from their earliest point of contact.

The full text of ‘Supporting disabled parents’ can be downloaded by right-clicking on the link belw, and choosing “Save Target As . . .”


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