Partnering with fathers and valuing them as an equal parent with the mother helps reduce the gender bias in child protection.
Within the care arrangements context, there are many ways fathers can be included more in decision-making processes and information gathering, such as in finding out the children’s routine, medical history, immunisation record, consent for procedures, Medicare card details, favourite foods, favourite books and much more.
It is important to engage fathers in decision-making processes and information gathering, as research demonstrates they are much less likely to engage with Child Safety than mothers.
The reasons for the lower rate of engagement include the ‘traditional ideal of mothers as the primary carers of children and fathers as breadwinners’. (Berlyn et al, as cited in Tehan and McDonald, 2010)
Involved fathering—where men participate more directly and equitably in child rearing, rather than at arm's-length or through their financial contributions—has emerged as a new social ideal. (Lamb, as cited in Tehan and McDonald, 2010)
As practitioners we can continue to support and encourage fathers to be active in their parenting and not sideline them when engaging with families.
When considering the gender bias in parenting, how could your engagement with fathers improve/change?
How may this change contribute to the child’s care arrangement?
The literature reflects that fathers make a positive contribution to the development of their children and overall family functioning (Tehan and McDonald, 2010). Fathers who are actively involved can support their children to achieve positive outcomes socially, behaviourally and educationally (Lamb & Tamis-leMonda cited in Tehan and McDonald, 2010).
When children are in safe and supportive placements, and retain positive, healthy relationships with their father, they will reach better outcomes and help break cycles of abuse. Child Safety plays an important role in supporting fathers to engage positively with their children and families as part of ongoing intervention.
Practitioners may find it challenging to engage fathers as fathers may:
- not attend meetings, family contact visits and safety and support network meetings
- not actively participate in programs, meetings, family contact visits and safety and support network meetings
- appear reluctant to develop a bond with a service or a practitioner (Tehan and McDonald, 2010)
Similarly, fathers may find it difficult to engage with practitioners because:
- they don't know how a practitioner can help
- their working hours present a problem when seeking to access services
- Child Safety is often seen as primarily supporting women and their children and, as a result, men can be reluctant to seek help or work with practitioners
- perceptions that men are not natural nurturers (Tehan and McDonald, 2010)
Reflect on your time as a practitioner and consider how many fathers you have engaged with and treated the same as you treated the mother of the children.
How can you help increase the engagement of fathers in their children’s placements and decision-making processes?
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