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Keeping men visible

Keeping men visible as partners and fathers

It is always the right of women who are pregnant to make decisions about how involved their partner may be through their pregnancy and birth. Talk to women and help them and others follow through on what they want.

It is also important to recognise the role of men as partners—or at the least as fathers to their children, once born. Fathers can often become invisible in child protection work—especially during pregnancy.

A man can play an important role in supporting a woman during pregnancy, in meeting her goals of reclaiming her life from alcohol and drugs, and in how she seeks and maintains help from family or services. Involving men as partners and fathers in your work early can lead to better outcomes for women and children.

Ignoring men in child protection practice is problematic. It upholds the status quo, where women are entirely responsible for the care and safety of their children.

Parent relationships, substance use and child protection

Relationships between the parents you work with are likely to be complex and diverse. You will need to take the time to understand the relationships and how you can help fathers support their partner and become the father they want to be.

What if the parents are not a couple?

Whether the parents are in a relationship or not—during pregnancy and after the birth—try to keep the man engaged so safe contact can happen and he can be a positive father in his child’s life. Your work can also help a man have a better relationship with his child's mother and build a stronger attachment.

Risks of domestic and family violence

Pregnancy is a risky time when violence can increase. Be mindful of and alert to the ways  domestic and family violence can exacerbate a woman's AOD use during pregnancy as she copes and resists. You  also need to make sure the woman’s and her child’s safety are at the forefront. Refer to the practice kit Domestic and family violence for ideas on safely partnering with mothers and holding fathers accountable for their behaviour.

If the father also has issues with problematic alcohol and drug use

If a man is struggling with his own problematic AOD use, becoming a father can be a strong motivator for change. Including him in your prenatal and postnatal work can be a catalyst for him to make better choices. If both parents have problematic AOD use, help men engage in healing and recovery work to control, reduce or resolve substance use. Their treatment can assist women who are trying to do the same.

Read more about working with men in the part Working with parents.

Building an identity as fathers and partners

Young men who are navigating adolescence face the challenge of building their identity and role as a man, and also as a father.

A young man may have experienced abuse, neglect, poverty or oppression, and these can greatly influence how he builds his sense of self as a man and what it mean to be a father. Many young men may have no strong positive male role models in their life and have little life experience to draw on. This can make the role of fatherhood daunting and overwhelming.

Connecting men to their roles as fathers and supportive partners can help them connect with their ideas of masculinity in a positive way.

Talk about:

  • their childhood
  • the father they wish they had
  • their feelings when they heard they were going to be a dad. What were they happy about, worried about, and what would they like to be different for them, the mother and their child?
  • the kind of dad they would like to be
  • where their substance use fits in with their life and experience.

Ask them:

  • What would life be like for them, their partner and their child if they took back their life from AOD?
  • Who is a father in their community or network who they look up to? What is it about this man they like?
  • How could this man provide support and guidance as they become a parent?
  • What roles, values and ideas about parenting does that man have?

Further reading

Engaging fathers: evidence review—a report into practices and knowledge for engaging fathers in child protection work (2014).

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