Ensuring Children and Families are not left behind in Fathering Groups
A focus on fathering in recent years highlights the importance of “being with”, providing support, relationship and parent education for men to develop in their roles as fathers (Bunston, 2013, Fletcher, 2003, Scott et al, 2013, Hoffman et al, 2017). Lifeworks, with funding from Communities for Children, have developed a group program for fathers with a strong emphasis on the father in the context of his family. One of the aims is to prevent family violence. In ensuring that children and partners are not left behind we maintain curiosity about the experience they have of his fathering style. This is achieved through reflection, wondering, parenting skill development, emotion and stress management. This program was evaluated over an eighteen month period, using qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods, a mixed method approach. The results indicated a positive shift in the experience of support, increased awareness and curiosity towards the child’s experience of being parented, improvement in child-father communication, an awareness and capacity to explore pathways for change in behaviours in relationships and a growing confidence in child-father interaction.
The interventions and practices used to impact service delivery, help explore and understand children and partner’s experience of their world included:
- Understanding that it can be easier, less shameful and more accessible to ‘imagine’ a need for change when looking at behaviours through the child and partner’s experience.
- Hearing individual child and partner stories and incorporating them into the group including a family genogram.
- Exploring the ‘gift of curiosity’ in children’s behaviour and in interactions with the child.
- Viewing interactions and family dynamics through the eyes (lens) of the child and the partner.
‘Roadworthy for Dads’ is one of a suite of programs offered by LifeWorks which provides a multi entry pathway for families and individuals to consider and hear the voices and experiences of all family members.
We will be basing our talk on the collective experience of fathers who have attended the groups and facilitators that have developed and run it. We will include direct quotes from fathers and case examples to provide an engaging and informative session.
Intended Contribution of the Paper
The intention of this paper is to highlight and personify the usefulness of child and family (virtual) inclusion in groups with an aim to be the change and leave no-one in the family behind. That this may help shift participants awareness of their impact and role within their family, reduce shame and open pathways for change.
Lena Bisognin is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, a Family Therapist and a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist. Lena’s experience of over 20 years includes, working in Government positions in child protection, health and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and in various non Government agencies in NSW and Victoria.