Mencare Too

Dads Club History

Dads club student

The Dads Club is an activity-based parenting support project for single and contact fathers with young children in Edinburgh. It is carried out jointly by Gilmerton Child & Family Centre and One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS), with financial support from The City of Edinburgh Council.

The Dads Club idea emerged from observations of fathers playing with their young children in a holiday centre swimming pool. Rather than using centre-based groupwork for parenting support, we planned a programme of sport, visits and outdoor activities, all activities that would allow the fathers to take part alongside their young children.

The parenting support comes as an added ingredient - provided by the project worker and by the other families as they take part in the activities.

The project sought to involve single fathers with young children, both those who are the main carers of their children and those who are contact fathers who look after their children for shorter periods of time.

Staff from Gilmerton Child & Family Centre and One Parent Families Scotland, a local authority/voluntary sector partnership, brings together local parenting support with experience of providing assistance on financial, legal and other issues to single parents. Working together, we felt that we could come up with a successful formula for involving single fathers and their children.

Following a successful Sure Start application, a project worker was appointed in October 2000. After initial publicity we spent a lot of time spent contacting and visiting as wide a range of other agencies as possible.

In under a year the project attracted over fourteen fathers and thirty children who successfully used the project on a weekly basis for Saturday visits and outdoor activities. Other fathers used the drop-in service held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, raising a range of parenting and other issues with the Project Worker and with other staff at the Children's Centre and OPFS.

In conversation, it was apparent that all the fathers in the group had very similar issues and concerns and from this a collective strength was nurtured and channelled into a positive direction. This allowed the individual fathers to learn, through empathy, that the experiences of others were similar to their own.

There were very few services to support them with their parenting skills. Many felt a frustration as a result of feeling unacknowledged. None of the fathers were aware of any other resource, apart from the project, which addressed the issues related to being a lone/contact father.

All the fathers have been encouraged to allow their children the time and space to talk, express their own opinions and for these opinions to be acknowledged. With this in mind, it was decided amongst the group that it should be the children who should decide the venue of the Saturday trips, time, travel and finance permitting. As a result the children became more expressive, talkative and confident. They feel that they are an integral part of the project and are, as many of the fathers have confirmed, reliant on the Saturday routine.

The Project is the only one of its kind in the UK which targets lone and contact fathers. The project also works in a very specific way using an activity based approach to support Fathers, this makes the interaction between the fathers and their children, and fathers and the workers

Gilmerton Child & Family Centre, 66 Gilmerton Dykes Street, Edinburgh - Tel. 0131 664 1202, has been providing a service to families in South Edinburgh for over 46 years. The City of Edinburgh Council service works closely with health visitors, children and family social workers and other local agencies in providing group care and support for young children and their families.

One Parent Families Scotland, Gayfield Square, Edinburgh, 0131 556 3899 has been offering advice, information and support to lone parents and their families for over 50 years. As well as working at a national level, the charity has a strong track record of starting and running locally based projects providing innovative services to lone parents, many of which have developed into successful independent organisations. They have pioneered ideas such as sitter services, shared parenting support and development of a men and childcare support network.

The group helps lone fathers take part in a range of sport and other activities with their young children, as well as offering advice and support though the Gilmerton Child & Family Centre, OPFS information service.

The project continues to attract dads and their children who take advantage of the free, fun trips on Saturdays. We regularly visited Deep Sea World, Megabowl, Beecraigs Country Park, Dynamic Earth, Yellowcraigs Beach as well as many others.