"Like walking into a trap"

It can feel like they are walking into traps

“Their attitude is a habit, can I put it that way?  It’s hard to change a habit, to change your whole way of thinking and way of talking. And then you walk into these professional meetings where they are judging everything. From the way you smell,  the way you look, the way you talk, your posture, the way you present yourself, how sincere you are sounding, or not.“

Our young father’s practitioner has been working with young dads for eight years.  He’s been to dozens of case conferences and core group meeting where professionals make life-changing decisions about families. He explains why these processes can be difficult for young dads. 

Overlooked, undervalued

“Dads, and especially young dads, aren’t seen as part of the family eco system. They are overlooked and undervalued. When they aren’t overlooked they may be labelled, slotted into stereotypical boxes such as:  absent, violent, non-engaging, doesn’t want to be there.

“Sometimes they might be one or all of those things. But we also find they may be the product of a rigid system and have had little support. In this system, there is a lack of time and capacity to understand the causes of their behaviour – and therefore how to motivate change.” 

Dads are really important when it comes to raising children and we’ve been supporting young dads since 2007. The Early Intevention Foundation has an information hub with research findings on why parental conflict has such a destructive, long term effect on children’s wellbeing and potential, how we need to help build positive relationships between parents and promote co-parenting. We see time and again that involving the dads and listening to them can have a huge, positive impact on the lives of their children, partner and even future partners.

We know that the best future for a child is where parents work together with the child’s interests their first priority. Conferences and meetings with professionals rightly focus on what is best for the child. But what is also best for the child is to have both parents engaged in the process. With the proviso, always, that this is safe for child and mother.

Meet the Professionals – a daunting experience

Case conferences can involve lots of people: the child’s mother and her family, sometimes more than 10 professionals – the chair, social worker, housing key worker, student social worker, police, housing officers, health professionals, midwife. Rooms are normally set up in a U Shape.

It’s an intimidating experience for all members of the family, but our young father’s practitioner  explains why it can be even harder for dads working through these conferences.

“It would be a daunting experience for anyone.  ‘And now you want to ask me questions about my personal life. In front of all these people that no one has told me about. I’ve not been told what I will be expected to say or how this meeting will go.’ And this is your first time. Even if it’s your second time, you are spoken about and not listened to until it’s your turn.”

The dad has no one

“Mothers generally have support. It could be a family member plus health visitor and a midwife.

“So in essence the mother has one to three professionals speaking about the engagement - or maybe the disengagement - they are having from the mum. But even if they are having disengagement, they at least have a professional who can support them through the process. Whereas the dad has no one. “

Dads are in unfamiliar territory and they aren’t sure how to act.

“If you interrupt you are seen as aggressive. If you want to make a point, you may be seen as not engaging with professionals and not being responsive.

“They can feel like they are walking into traps. Because they have no professional support with them, unless they have a fathers support worker. And, even if you do have a worker, there is only so much prepping you can do.”

Even prepping can be difficult if these young men already have a negative mind set when it comes to dealing with professionals and establishment figures. They have spent their lives feeling like no one is listening to them.  

It’s our job to help young dads understand what is happening to them and their children and to look at how they can improve their lives and become the best father they can be towards their child and for their family unit.

 As well as working with the dads we do a lot of work with the young mums, so we have a really rounded understanding of each family’s situation and the different nuances of family life and relationships.

We also run a Caring Dads group programme that helps these young fathers understand where their anger and frustration may stems from and work with them to challenge their attitudes and beliefs and change their behaviour towards becoming more child centred in their approach.

If you know any young dads in Lambeth who would benefit from one to one support or would like to find out more about our services please contact us admin@stmichaelsfellowship.org.uk  To make a referral, download the form below. 

 

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