Using Young Dads’ Experiences to Change Services That Support Families

CHPR Blog March 2019 – Susan Coan

The Centre for Health Promotion Research have recently completed an evaluation of a project supporting young fathers which aimed to not only develop the skills and confidence of the young men involved, but also influence organisations working with them and national policy around young fathers.

The project staff trained young dads to facilitate training sessions with professionals working with families and children, including social workers, family nurses, children’s centre staff and trainee teachers.  Each session was led by a group of up to 5 young dads who were paid employees.

The project was designed to have three key areas of delivery

1) Influencing policy

2) Engaging professionals and changing practice working with young dads

3) Developing the professional and personal skills of the young fathers involved

The young men structured the sessions around their own personal accounts of times when they felt excluded or discriminated against when accessing services.  The training gave professionals ideas for small changes they could make as soon as they returned to their workplace, as well as encouraging them to think about bigger organisational change that was needed regarding attitudes and procedure.

Quick fixes

The young men involved in the project benefited from peer support, developed communication skills and grew in confidence.  They found that telling their stories to professionals was a way of tackling the injustice they had faced, and they felt that they were having a real impact that would mean other young dads wouldn’t have to go through the same treatment.  This was reflected in the interviews with professionals who had attended the training.

What worked well

  • The first-hand accounts of young fathers were cited as the best aspect of the training by 60% of participants surveyed.
  • Having a group of facilitators was a key strength of the model.
  • The young dads gained knowledge and transferable skills that they could use to secure other paid employment and/or further study.

Challenges in this project

  • The model is expensive as it requires a group of facilitators and they need support to be able to carry out the work.
  • The young men this type of project needs to engage have significant support needs that require an experienced professional to deal with in addition to a project manager.
  • Finding further funding for the project was difficult and it was not possible to cover costs from workshop revenue.

Barriers to working with dads in practice

  • Most organisations do not have father inclusion policies and fathers are often overlooked.
  • Biases and stereotypes lead some professionals to believe young men will not be interested in parenting or be a positive feature in a child’s life.
  • Computer systems do not allow professionals to record both parents’ contact details.
  • Resources and promotional materials are aimed at mothers and there are fewer images of male carers.

Quote YDC

What next?

The logical development of this model would be to embed it in local organisations that are already equipped to provide intensive support to young dads. The organisations can expand their related work into this area by training small numbers of young dads to work with services in their area. This would remove travel costs, make the training even more relevant to the services, build capacity in the local population, and allow the necessary flexibility to adapt the model to the local landscape.

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