Family Rights Group calls for greater risk assessment of abusive fathers

7 February 2011

‘Working with Risky Fathers’ – a study of how Local Authorities work (or don’t work!) with domestically abusive fathers – by the Family Rights Group.

The Charity Family Rights Group has published the first research study in the UK which specifically examines how social workers work with fathers who are domestically abusive. One of the most important reasons for engaging with fathers is – as with mothers – when they are not ‘good enough’ and specifically when they pose a threat to children and/or their children’s mothers.

The two year research report is entitled ‘Working with Risky Fathers – Fathers Matter volume 3: Research findings on working with domestically abusive fathers and their involvement with children’s social care services‘. The report concludes that there are significant lessons that all local authorities, social workers and senior managers and Government need to learn:

  • The onus of child protection social work continues to be focused on the mother to protect the child, even when she is a victim of domestic abuse.
  • Fathers (especially non resident) are too often not engaged or assessed as a risk or resource to the child.
  • Even where the father had perpetrated domestic abuse, they were often in contact with their children, yet all too rarely were parenting assessments undertaken/or perpetrator programmes offered that force them to face up to their abusive behaviour.

The audit of 70 case files in three authorities found that:

  • In 57 cases the perpetrator of the domestic abuse was the birth father and in 12 cases the mother’s partner.
  • In 41% of the cases the adult victim had been pregnant at the time of being abused.
  • In at least 37% of the cases there had been more than six separate reported incidents of domestic violence.
  • Only 12% of perpetrators were noted on the files as having definitely lost contact as a result of the domestic violence.

Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group, said:

“This pioneering research highlights that too often Children’s Services are neither assessing fathers as a risk or a resource to their children. The research on domestically abusive fathers found that although most did not live with the children’s mother, many had contact with their children (sometimes at the children’s instigation).  Yet these fathers weren’t routinely undergoing a parenting assessment or being offered services designed to confront their behaviour. It is critical that the government invests in effective perpetrator programmes, and that we see a shift in the culture within children’s services to working directly with fathers, including those that may be a risk.”

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