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Working with fathers

Case planning with father who use violence

Some fathers are able to stop using violence towards mothers. Often what motivates them is the realisation that their violence harms their children too.

Change is rarely spontaneous or fast. Fathers need tailored services to help them improve over a period of time.

Some interventions may make a father feel out of control, threatened and defensive. These are often interventions relying on external motivations like fear of police involvement.

Instead, take small steps towards helping him see the connections between his violence and the impact on his children. Try to prevent him from getting overwhelmed.

It is important that the goals of the case plan reflect that:

  • He takes responsibility for his violence.
  • He changes his behaviour. Work together to define what change looks like and how everyone will recognise it.

Learn about appropriate services and interventions in Working with fathers. Also watch the video The Man Box about the collective socialisation of men.


The Man Box

Some tips for case planning with fathers

Focus on him as a father:

  • Help him to value his role of father.
  • Ask him if he can be a better parent.
  • Use his desire to be a good dad to motivate change.

Hold him responsible:

  • Any case plan must address his patterns of coercive control.
  • If there is a domestic violence order
    • Talk to him about the conditions of the domestic violence order and his responsibility to comply.
    • Help him comply by looking at alternatives to violence, at his behaviour, and at options for accommodation with him if necessary.
  • Get the right help
    • Refer him to approved providers and approved intervention programs .
    • Find out if there are any delays in groups starting and follow up to see if he has agreed to attend.
    • Timing is important; you need to act while he’s motivated. If there are no men’s behaviour change programs running locally, contact MensLine to explore other options.
  • Help him to see his ability to be non-violent by asking him
    • Can you tell me about a time when you felt that same way but didn’t punch or kick her?
    • Have you ever used violence towards someone who wasn’t your partner? Why? Why not?
    • Can you tell me about a time you were angry with someone else—your boss, a member of the public—and didn’t use violence?
    • What stopped you from using violence towards them?
    • How have you resolved things without using violence?
    • What’s stopped you from using these strategies at other times?
    • What else have you tried?
    • What stopped you from doing that this time?
    • What could you have done differently?


What not to do when case planning with a father

  • Do not share information with a father that may jeopardise a mother or child's safety.
  • Do not rely on a domestic violence order alone to keep mothers and children safe.
  • Do not assume that simply attending a program will create a change in behaviour.
  • Do not refer the couple to relationship counselling or anger management programs—these are not appropriate and are likely to make mothers and children less safe.
  • Do not let a father ability as a parent distract you from his violence. Some fathers will use parenting courses to undermine mothers and assert their own aggressive parenting methods.

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