News ID: 196451
Published: 0425 GMT July 11, 2017

Study examines fathers' experiences of child protection process

Study examines fathers' experiences of child protection process

New research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) challenges assumptions that men in child protection cases do not stay involved in children's lives and always, or only, pose a risk of harm to their child — fathers in this study were rarely 'absent'.

The study aims to improve policy and social work practice by addressing the knowledge gap about men in child protection, by focusing on fathers' perspectives and supporting the involvement of men in the process, wrote.

Most men involved in the study, conducted by UEA's Center for Research on Children and Families (CRCF), wanted to be part of their child's life and presented as both a risk and resource for their children.

The findings will be discussed at the Nuffield Foundation in London, which funded the innovative 'Counting Fathers In' project — the first to attempt to understand how men negotiate the day-to-day challenges of their encounters with the child protection system.

The team examined father involvement in 150 children's case files to provide a context for an in-depth study of 35 men's lives and their experiences of child protection over the course of a year, across three local authorities. The group included men who had lost previous children to care, and men who were, or became the main carers for their child.

Lead researcher Dr. Georgia Philip said the findings showed that social workers and multi-agency teams needed to be more curious about men's lives: "Very little is known about men's own views on the child protection process and this was at the heart of our study. This project has produced an important and vivid picture of how the system works for fathers."

For example, one father said: "I am a father to my children and I know a lot of men, well I can see why they do it now, it is so much easier just to let the women get on with it and see your kids whenever but I am not like that, I want to be an influence in my children's life."

While another commented: "In my mind the system is geared up in a way to assume that everything will be okay with mum and that everything will inevitably cock up with dad. Do you get what I mean, and that is frustrating, that is hard to deal with."

The researchers found assessments of men tend to lack depth and context, and suggested that social workers should seek the fullest picture possible of their background, relationship dynamics, wellbeing and current circumstances. What they learn should inform a shared approach, which takes account of the benefits to the child's wellbeing fathers may bring, as well as any harm they pose.

Phillip said: "Fathers are important to children and, like mothers, most present a combination of positive and negative factors. Men and social workers need to recognize and work with this so that wherever possible children can still share and be involved with their fathers."

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