Information for health professionals
Tips for ensuring your practice is inclusive of Dads:
1: Benefits of positive father involvement
It is firstly, important to understand that positively involved fathers are associated with great health and wellbeing outcomes for kids. Conversely, absent or negatively involved fathering is associated with poor cognitive, emotional and behavioural outcomes for their children.
Therefore, father inclusive practice aims to encourage and empower fathers to be positively involved in their children’s lives.
Find out more at: Father Involvement Research Alliance
2: How Is Dad Going? Engaging dads about fatherhood
Dads may need a different style of engagement from mums – at a home visit or at an infant health appointment, some men will pull back, expecting that mum and bub is your focus. Please invite them to join in, by asking: How are you going dad?
If your service offers parenting sessions, some men will feel comfortable having a chat but others would much prefer to have a more activity based session, so a discussion based group may not have much appeal to some dads. However these dads may respond better to a hear-watch-do-review format, where, for example, they hear you talk about attachment process, watch some footage about attunement and then do a pairs listening exercise to practice tuning in, and then to review how that all went.
Some dads need flexible service hours, which can involve either current staff being open to working flexible hours, or by gaining funding to employ afterhours staff, for example a facilitator for a Saturday morning dad’s playgroup.
Finally, fathers need to be engaged visually. What does the father see when he arrives at your service?
Sometimes the only posters featuring men relate to the issue of family violence. That’s an important issue however you can also have posters promoting father involvement. You can order posters from the University of Newcastle Family Action Centre.
When it comes to father engagement, you and your service don’t have to do it all!
It can be helpful to do a quick scoping exercise within your agency to see the services that you could form a partnership with to reach more dads or marginalized dads. For example, co-facilitating a parenting group with a drug and alcohol worker, using their group room and admin support.
If you’re not used to working with men then Father Inclusive Practice might pose some new challenges and take you into unfamiliar territory.
It is helpful to reflect on your own strengths that you bring to engaging fathers as well as identifying any areas that pose challenges for you or your staff.
For a variety of reasons, some dads can make a bad first impression. Some men who have grown up in tough neighbourhoods learn from a young age to mask their vulnerability by wearing a fairly gruff and tough exterior that masks their vulnerabilities. You certainly don’t have to put up with poor behaviour but some men will need to get to know you first before confiding in you.
*FACHSIA/Fletcher R (2009) Father Inclusive Practice Guide, Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra.
For further information:
Australian Institute of Family Studies – https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/father-inclusive-practice-and-associated-professional-compet
ARACY – http://www.aracy.org.au/publications-resources/command/download_file/id/268/filename/Engaging-Fathers-Evidence-Review-2014-web.pdf
MENGAGE – http://www.mengage.org.au/Work-Effectively/Father-Inclusive-Practice
DSS – https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/families-and-children/publications-articles/father-inclusive-practice-guide?HTML
Groupwork Solutions – http://groupworksolutions.com.au/downloads