Dads and Trauma Informed Practice

Dads and trauma informed practice

One of our fathers workers, Lawrence, shares his thoughts on trauma informed practice with young fathers in Lambeth, and the training he's recently been on.

The training was organised and run by Lambeth Safeguarding Children’s Partnership, as part of Lambeth's plan to be a trauma informed borough. To make this happen, Lambeth is working with Project 507, a specialist organisation aiming to break cycles of violence and trauma. 

The training highlighted trauma particular to Lambeth; poverty, intergenerational trauma that may affect immigrants and refugees, and youth violence and knife crime. We also discussed distrust of the police, particularly around stop and search, racism and drug connections. All these issues feel very familiar to me as a Lambeth young fathers' worker.

What impact will the training have on my practice? 

The training highlighted five elements of trauma informed practice::

  1. Safety 
  2. Trustworthiness 
  3. Choice 
  4. Collaborate to develop service
  5. Empowerment 

'Choice' is an interesting one as sometimes young fathers are referred to us as part of a child protection plan. I stress to the social worker that we are a voluntary organisation. I make sure the dad knows that if he'd rather work with someone else or do something different, the social worker will organise that - it's his choice. 

In terms of collaboration, our 121 work comes from what the father says he wants. To start with, it's normally about him - help with a CV, job application etc. It's not so much about parenting - it's hard to focus on someone else if you're not OK. Parenting will follow.  Discussion and activities at the Dads Group are led by what dads want to talk about, where they want to do. I like to involve dads in every aspect of planning trips, transport, timing etc so they build the confidence to repeat trips by themselves. I also like to get them involved in risk assessment - so often it's referred to by professionals but young parents may not really understand what it means. Doing a risk assessment is a practical way to embed understanding and skill. 

There are challenges to implementing trauma in practice where child protection is involved, for example. Fathers still have to go to the child protection conference, but you can make sure you approach that in a sensitive way, acknowledging the trauma the dad himself has been through as a child. It also means that if necessary we can push back a bit with other services to remember the training, which is Lambeth-wide.   

One thing I found interesting was that the scientific research on brain development we discussed at the training suggests that everything stops at 18. Of course, we know this isn't the case. We work with young dads up to age 25. I and my colleagues at St Michael's are keen to get move involved, and Lambeth Safeguarding Children Partnership is enthusiastic, so watch this space!

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