CH FBR 010

Working effectively with men in families – practice pointers for including fathers in children's social care: Frontline Tool (2017)

Published: 27/07/2017

Author: Swann G


This guide draws on various sources, principally:

  • ‘A Good Practice Guide to Engage Fathers’ by Gavin Swann (2015), developed in the course of a Master’s degree, in Breaking Down Barriers: Developing an approach to include fathers in children’s social care.
  • The Research in Practice Frontline Briefing Working effectively with men in families (Featherstone, 2017).
  • New research by Marion Brandon et al (2017, in press) ‘Counting Fathers In’: Men’s experiences of the child protection system.
  • Karen Bateson et al (2017) ‘Engaging fathers: Acknowledging the barriers’, Journal of Health Visiting 5 (3) 122-128.

Fathers in child protection are rarely either ‘all bad’ or ‘all good’. Fathers are important to children, and (like mothers) most present a combination of positive and negative factors. Men and social workers need to recognise and work with this so that, wherever possible, children can stay safe and be involved with their fathers.Brandon et al, 2017

Expectations about fatherhood have changed. Active involvement throughout pregnancy and childbirth, and shared caregiving once a baby arrives, are now the norm. While most men embrace these changes, evidence shows many are not well prepared for the impact of parenthood, especially if they did not have a strong father figure in their own lives (Bateson et al, 2017).

Ideas about ‘being a man’ and what it means to be a father are also deep rooted and vary across culture, class and ethnicity. Practitioners in social work and family support need to be curious about masculinities and about individual men in order to assess them and their role in wider family dynamics. Non-resident, black, ethnic minority and white working class fathers all have particular circumstances and pressures that need to be understood and assessed (Swann, 2015).

Research highlights the hugely constructive role fathers can play in a range of child and family outcomes (see Bateson et al, 2017). However, when in contact with practitioners – from midwives and health visitors in a child’s early weeks through to child protection social workers – men say they feel overlooked, both as a resource for their children and in terms of the difficulties they might be facing with health, housing, money or relationships (Bateson et al, 2017; Brandon et al, 2017; Hogg, 2014).

Professional Standards

PQS:KSS - Relationships and effective direct work | Communication | Child development | Adult mental ill health, substance misuse, domestic abuse, physical ill health and disability | Abuse and neglect of children | Child and family assessment | Developing excellent practitioners | Confident analysis and decision-making | Purposeful and effective social work | Developing excellent practitioners | Support effective decision-making

PCF - Knowledge | Critical reflection and analysis | Intervention and skills