Blog: Engaging with fathers in Child Protection: a new era?

16 May 2011

The past ten years have seen much progress in determining and publicising what works with fathers and how to get them involved in broad areas of health and social welfare. However, when it comes to child protection, routine engagement with fathers and father-figures has seemed a distant ideal: safeguarding policy has repeatedly failed to identify this as an issue despite the fact that Serious Case Reviews over a twenty year period (most recently the Ofsted Serious Case Review summary of 46 cases, as well as both of the Baby Peter Serious Case Reviews) have found failure by practitioners to engage with the men in children’s lives to be a major factor in child abuse and deaths.

In March of this year, in an attempt to bring about change in this area, the Fatherhood Institute convened a Roundtable at the Department for Education to meet with Professor Eileen Munro as she prepared her huge review of child protection. This event, which was hosted and facilitated by the Minister for Children, the Rt Hon Tim Loughton MP, heard presentations and discussion from experts in the field (practitioners and academics) on the barriers to engaging better with the men in the child protection process, and how such engagement can be encouraged and enabled.

Last week the publication of the Final Report of the Munro Review of Child Protection provided the best indication so far that things may be beginning to change. Professor Munro refers to the issue in her final report, noting the Fatherhood Institute’s role in bringing evidence on the failure to engage adequately with fathers to her attention.

We look forward to growing awareness of this issue in child protection/safeguarding. Many experts have made the point that social work training needs to review the ways in which men are represented in key textbooks and devote time and attention to developing students’ skills and confidence in engaging with men. In the field it is important that well-evidenced initiatives build on our understanding. Recently, the Family Drug and Alcohol Court reported startling success in engaging with fathers and bringing about behaviour change. And Dr Jonathan Scourfield at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences is undertaking a feasibility study for a randomised controlled trial of a training intervention to improve the engagement of fathers in the child protection system.

The Fatherhood Institute and the Family Rights Group are running a two year project, initially with six local authorities, to engage more effectively with fathers and other men around the child. A support package will be developed with training and resources (including a good practice guide) which will subsequently made available to other authorities.

We would very much like to hear about other projects and research in this area – and/or ideas you would like to pursue. Please email Adrienne Burgess, our Head of Research.

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