A better understanding of the role that fathers can potentially play in a child’s life is likely to lead to improved engagement with fathers and therefore more reliable risk assessment and risk management. Whilst the father may present as a risk to the child, social care staff need to be less certain and more curious in challenging this perspective and consider, holistically the risk and protective factors he may present to the child.
Although the positives can be hard to find, children can spend many years away from their birth family and return to them following their 18th birthday. Social care professionals should therefore try to understand and work with this dynamic, acknowledging that things do change over time, especially when children become older.
Professional curiosity is required to guide staff to withhold judgments until the facts are better understood. This is in large part connected to getting to know fathers better. From the outset, the assessing position should therefore be fluid and support an empathic approach.
Contracting with fathers collaboratively so they understand what is required from them and listening to their needs in an open and transparent manner, is critical to achieving their engagement in the process. This builds rapport and trust through the process.
Helping fathers to express their emotions appropriately is key to overcoming communication barriers. As professionals, we need to avoid punitive responses and collusion with fathers. Being mindful of our own personal bias and challenging this is key. Trying to understand the function of their behaviour is pivotal in order to achieve a more meaningful dialogue and a better understanding of the risks. Developing emotional lexicon is the gateway to navigating through such challenging discussions, which if gone unchecked can develop into aggressive and abusive interactions.
This work is often emotionally challenging for professionals and so it is important to acknowledge this and look after ourselves.
Who is Engaging with Biological and Social Fathers aimed at?
Staff working directly with service users in Children’s Services and Adult Social Care.
By the end of this course it is expected that participants will:
- Have Developed an improved understanding of the significance of the role of fathers in a child’s development
- Have reflected on the risks and protective factors this relationship presents
- Understood why fathers can be hard to reach
- Become confident in starting initial discussions with fathers about risk
- Have developed skills in how to engage better with fathers
- Have improved knowledge of tools and techniques to aid brief safety focused interventions with fathers
- Be aware of when to withdraw from pieces of work and support referrals to specialist services
- Understand how to take care of yourself when working with this client group.