Reaching Young Fathers
Reaching and engaging young fathers is the ‘bread and butter’ of young fathers work. We asked a number of projects and organisations about the methods they had used that had worked and the ones that had not. We also asked what they had learned about engaging young fathers. Here we also present some examples of promising practice during the first decade of the 21st century In terms of reaching school-age and teenage fathers.
Accessing young fathers
Projects reported a wide range of methods to raise awareness of their work and reach and/or engage young fathers, though most projects told us that reaching and engaging young men nearly always takes longer than anticipated.
To help promote their project, B2b+ in Sunderland use simple written material (e.g. leaflets and posters) with straightforward, jargon-free language. Offering a range of services, B2b+ has enjoyed strong successes in reaching young fathers. Other examples include the Great Yarmouth Young Men’s Project (GYYMP), DVD in Rotherham, the Teenage Pregnancy Support Service (TPSS) in Hull, and Sure Start in rural Berwick-upon-Tweed where young fathers have been accessed through antenatal services.
DVD in Rotherham offered sports and activities such as football, cricket, and rugby sessions as ways of engaging with young fathers, arguing that such activities were a vital tool to draw young fathers in and help them gain confidence and esteem, before starting parenting work.
Reaching teenage and (school-age) fathers
Accessing school-age fathers raises quite different challenges to accessing older young fathers. There is a considerable lack of understanding and research about teenage and/or school-age fathers.
Significant gaps remain in service provision for teenage and/or school-age fathers. Few projects and agencies work specifically with fathers under 16 years. Practitioners wishing to offer support for the youngest fathers mentioned a number of barriers they have faced. For example, the difficultly in finding such fathers (their ‘invisibility’), the lack of support mechanisms if such fathers are identified, complicated circumstances with the mother and her family, educational difficulties (sometimes including behavioural problems), and the negative attitudes of individual professionals. But some projects told us that not only can the work be done, it can be done well.
The Health Initiatives Team at Education Leeds work exclusively with school-age parents (and parents-to-be; mothers and fathers) and the teenage male partners of school-age mothers. Other projects and services currently delivering support for teenage fathers (but not necessarily school-age fathers) include :
- Young Fathers Project in Lewisham – Lewisham Young Fathers
- B2b+ in Sunderland – B2b Sunderland
- T-BAG in Halifax – T-BAG Halifax
- Fathers First in the Isle of Wight – Fathers First IOW
- TPSS in Hull – TPSS Hull
This article was written for the Young Fathers Network site developed and maintained (2007-11) by Young People in Focus (YPF – Registered charity No: 800223). YPF has now ceased operating and has given this article to the Fatherhood Institute.
Tags: Young fathers