“They’re like a father to me” is one of the most meaningful attributes you can give to someone. Being a father figure, regardless of gender or biological factors, has the potential to have a major impact on someone’s life.
Because parenting is so important, Father’s Day is likely to bring up big emotions. As Child welfare workers, it is important to think about the parental relationships involved in each child’s life, and if we can help strengthen family connections.
Being a supportive father to children is a chosen, active role. A successful father figure continues to develop themselves. Child Welfare workers continue to partner with parents to support their children.
What does the research say about fathers with children in out-of-home care?
- Both resident father and noncustodial “nonresident” father involvement has been shown to be positively associated with child adjustment (Leon et al., 2016)
- Case Workers engage with fathers but expect more resistance than with mothers (O'Donnell, 2005)
- In some situations, mothers can either facilitate or block access to fathers (Maxwell et al., 2012)
- Child Welfare Workers need support and training on how to involve and locate fathers. Child Welfare Workers who receive training are more likely to contact fathers (Malm et al., 2006)
- Most research on foster families is based on heterosexual couples (Goldberg et al., 2012)
How can child welfare workers support fathers towards a shared goal of reunification?
- Acknowledge implicit biases you may have towards gender roles and role of father as solely financial support
- Find research and resources to build father and father figure efficacy as an important adult in their child’s family
- Find or create an Affinity Parenting Group or discussion board for fathers to share resources and communicate with others to share experiences
Child Welfare Workers’ Advice and Thoughts for Engaging Fathers (Saleh, 2013)
- Be straightforward especially when working with fathers instead of mothers
- Setting boundaries with fathers is important
- Remember your microskills and de-escalation techniques
- Assess your workplace for whether engaging father’s is a priority in your agency
Resources for Engaging and Locating Fathers