Getting Started

22 July 2013

We asked practitioners what they thought were the key issues or practice tips when setting-up and carrying out work with young fathers.  With this knowledge, we hope that developing work with young fathers may start at steps three or four, rather than beginning at step one.

Work with young fathers has particular challenges.  Negative beliefs about young fathers, lack of funding, difficulties engaging young men, low confidence in working with young men, and cultural barriers are just some of the issues those working with young fathers face.  Perhaps the most common concern reported by the projects and organisations we have spoken with is the lack of sustained funding for work with young fathers.  The short-term and irregular nature of funding can lead to low staff morale and difficulty in long term planning especially in relation to partnership working.  Setting-up support for young fathers can take a long time to get started and when it does, or is just about to, funding runs out and the work stops, often meaning valuable learning is lost.

But there is no need for doom and gloom. Some projects and agencies say that with careful focused planning, starting young fathers work is not always as difficult as it first appears. The Health Initiatives Team at Education Leeds that works with school-age fathers suggests that projects do not need vast amounts of money to start making headway; rather an understanding of young fathers’ needs, a commitment to the cause, the ability to be flexible and a willingness to challenge unhelpful professional attitudes towards young men.

See this case study for an example of a project that built on existing resources.

B2b+ in Sunderland got started in their work with young fathers following the recognition that there were large and widening gaps in service provision for young fathers compared to young mothers.  Grants received from Sure Start and the Teenage Pregnancy Unit meant extensive support work was already underway for young mothers in the region. Successful funding bids to the European Social Fund (ESF) and Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF) provided the financial basis for developing work with young fathers.

The practitioners we interviewed emphasised perseverance:

‘It’s hard work – sometimes you end up sat there on your own – but it’s about perseverance and making good connections with other agencies that will support you.  It’s a long process and can feel like you’re banging your head against a wall.’

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.