The Father Factor

Working with Men as Parents—and Being Domestic Violence-Informed

Posted by Ave Mulhern

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Sep 29, 2020

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so I thought it important to talk about domestic violence as it relates to your work in fatherhood and working with men as parents.

A Brief from the Safe & Together Institute (STI) for social workers titled “Working With Men—as Parents” was produced for the Ohio Intimate Partner Collaborative, a long time partner of the STI. It outlines the cost of not being father-inclusive, the benefits of practice change, and practical tips for engaging men as parents. I encourage you to read the full brief here.

The brief contributors poignantly state, “In order to become truly domestic violence-informed, child protection systems need to not only focus on domestic violence-specific efforts but also commit to becoming father-inclusive in their overall work with families. (Read more about the concept of father-inclusive work, a term originated by Dr. Richard Fletcher.) This means we are guided by the very simple idea that father’s choices and actions matter to child and family functioning. We approach men with high expectations of their abilities to parent, and a definition of being a good father that explicitly includes respectful treatment of the other parent. Being father-inclusive shapes our assessments, family engagement strategies, case planning and our documentation. It can even be applied when there is no father currently involved with the family because it changes the way we talk to mothers and children about the functioning of the family. For example, father-inclusive practice directs us to ask questions about how a father’s absence from a family has affected it.”

The brief also points out:

  • There are low cultural expectations of men as parents and limited community service resources for men.
  • In many organizations “family assessments” are really “mother and child assessments.”
  • If we are serious about working with families, we cannot just work with women and children. We need to be able to work with men.
  • Combined with limited training and low expectations of men as parents, this means we often leave out a key individual who impacts the family: the father or father figure.
  • Social workers usually receive limited or no training working with fathers in general.
  • More and more agencies are asking their workers to engage with domestic violence perpetrators. This engagement requires skills, confidence and knowledge—yet there are limited resources and supports.
  • Social workers need targeted, intensive support to effectively engage perpetrators as parents, however, the issue of violence and control is complex.

To build social workers’ skills and increase knowledge, STI offers an e-Course titled, “Working with Men as Parents: Fathers’ Parenting Choices Matter”.

NFI also has a number of resources to help you and your staff increase knowledge and skills related to working with fathers – and around the topic of domestic violence:

  • NFI’s Father Factor Blog covers topics like Domestic Violence including a recent post on domestic violence HERE.
  • Assess your organization’s Father Friendliness with a free Father Friendly Check-Up™ and use the results to make changes to be more inclusive of fathers.
  • Learn key strategies to help your organization and staff better engage fathers with NFI’s Father Engagement Certificate online training course.
  • Read and share our free eBook on How to Train Female Staff How to Effectively Engage Fathers.
  • NFI’s Understanding Domestic Violence™ Booster Session can be used as a domestic violence component in serving dads. It now is available as a bundle with 24/7 Dad®. It can also be used with staff to help them better understand domestic violence and how to approach the subject with fathers.

Additional Resources:


Cutting Edge Tips for Running an Exceptional Fatherhood Program (On Demand)

Topics: Featured, General Fatherhood Program Resources, NFI-Specific Programs & Resources

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