Mencare Too

The National Parenting Strategy
Scottish Government, 2012
Fathers National Advisory Panel


Introduction


We will better represent fathers, including those who live apart from their children, in our policies and services, and take steps to increase the number of men in the children and families workforce


We will invest £1 million per year in the Play Talk Read campaign from 2012–2015, and over the coming year will:– Focus on fathers and male carers, including those who live away from their children


We will also promote the role of fathers in their child’s health and development ...making our policies and services more ‘dad-friendly’ is a priority – including addressing fathers’ wishes to see more men working in children’s services
However the Strategy as a whole is relevant to fathers.

Section 1: Why parenting matters
This section is a broad statement regarding the importance of positive parenting that does not specifically refer to fathers.


Section 2: Every child’s right
This section also makes a broad statement of children' rights to positive parenting.


Section 3: Parenting today
This section offers an overview of changes in parenting and acknowledges changing expectations on fathers (it should be noted that fathers too have altered expectations of themselves, i.e. both society and men have changed).

Section 4: Coordinating our efforts
This section discusses various existing strategies such as the Early Years Framework.
Attention to the father-absence in existing policy documents has already been noted and others referred to in this section probably share the same deficiency, for example the Common Core of Skills, Knowledge &Understanding and Values for the Children’s Workforce In Scotland is mentioned; this has seven references to "mum" and none to "dad".
Dad-proofing across a wide range of official publications?

 

Father and Son

Section 5: Positive parenting for all
This section contains an explicit reference to fathers. The following subsections suggest tasks for the Fathers National Advisory Panel:
- Information and advice.
A suite of father-specific material and contact points, e.g. fathers support workers or groups?
- Play.
The PlayTalkRead ‘parenting club’ initiative (p.21) may need specific targeting, i.e. the website is pink and pastel themed and populated mostly with images of mums.
- Parenting programmes.
The best outcomes are from programmes that work with both parents (irrespective of whether they live together or not), yet many work only with mother and child. More emphasis on programmes that specifically seek the inclusion of fathers, feature men in their publicity and have male trainers?.
- Post-natal depression.
This is not a mother-only problem. How can we promote an understanding of a) the challenges for fathers as carers when mothers are suffering from PND and b) the knowledge that some fathers are affected?
- Funding support for fathers' support groups and initiatives.
How can this be developed in a consistent fashion? Many of these efforts are local and may not necessarily qualify in all-Scotland strategic approach. Can we encourage local funders, e.g. local authorities to appreciate the relevance of support for father's initiatives?

-Nursing.
Is there a father's dimension included in pre-and post-qualifying training? And can the plans for improving public health nursing services do the same?
- Child care options, e.g. pre-school, out-of-school care, non-term times.
We know relatively little of fathers' needs in this area, however it would not be difficult to establish, by for instance, asking existing fathers' support groups such as Dadswork.
- Employment.
This raises the issue of both employers and fathers' attitude and behaviour. Scope the practices of a number of large employers and work towards the establishment of some good practice advice?
- Parental involvement in education.
How can education authorities and schools be encouraged to include non-resident, imprisoned fathers in parent's evenings, receipt of report cards etc? The impression is that practice is incredibly varied. And, similar to nurses, is there a father's dimension pre-and post-qualifying training?
- Relationship support.
Plans outlined for this could be 'man-proofed' to ensure that specific advice and counselling and male counsellors are available to fathers.
The listening to parents research that is referred to in this section is valuable, especially because of its inclusion of fathers' voices. Should this kind of exercise (a national conversation with parents) be part of the ongoing evaluation of the Strategy?

Section 6: Additional challenges
Fathers get their own subsection here. However there are other subsections with direct implications for fathers.
- lone parents.
Lone fathers face specific obstacles such isolation because they are not necessarily as skilled as mothers in networking and developing informal supports. Can we come up with an accurate number of lone fathers/fathers with main care? The latter issue suggests a larger gap. Is there scope for 'Scottish father figures': a two-pager of one-line father facts?

-parents of children with disabilities.
Fathers experience any obstacles that arise in different ways however, the little that is known is that fathers have been identified as ‘hard to reach’ and lone fathers' experience will be intensified. Research needed?
- teenagers.
Fathers can make a unique contribution here. How can policy development recognise this?
- teenage parents.
Teenage fathers have a specific set of needs, sometimes related to their not living with the child and mother but not always. The need for male mentors and a combination of hands-on parenting support and job/housing advice has been recognised. The Strategy recognises this and reference is made to including teenage fathers in various strategies. Monitoring?
- Families affected by imprisonment.
This is a vast area however much is known about what is necessary to promote the best interests of children and their families. The challenge is to encourage the prison and other authorities such as social work, to regard these men as fathers too (Prisons Service) and cease considering them as 'out of the picture' (social work) . Specific conversations with key service personnel such as managers and those responsible or training?
- Youth crime.
There is much evidence that fathers can bring a unique contribution to the table. How can policy development be helped to recognise this, particularly in relation to the initiatives that are referred to such as systemic practice and family interventions?
- Domestic abuse.
This is a vast and complex area fraught with the possibilities of ideological stand-offs. Can conversations begin with appropriate women's interest groups? Can the various initiatives for men who have been responsible for harm be scoped and evaluated together with finding out what works at a local level e.g. in the various fathers' support groups? It is also the case that there are a number of men affected by domestic abuse and they and the needs of the children in these families also need recognised. Evaluate initiatives such as the men's abuse helpline?

Section 7: Looked after children
This is another vast area and there are a number of guides, training materials and resources around. The issue is about changing a culture that regards children as women's work and tends to be reluctant to work with fathers either because of experience, prejudice or lack of know-how. The consequences are also well known e.g. in the failure to use paternal and paternal kin resources. As with the other major services such as education and prisons, can a dialogue begin with managers and training people about how to encourage change?
Some specific sections need their own mention:
- Foster and kinship carers and adoptive parents.
Generally, the contribution of male carer/fathers receives little recognition. Social Work training, support etc tends to reflect this. How can this be changed? (ps. birth parents are not included in this section although their needs and value to children are well demonstrated).
- children looked after away from home.
Non-resident fathers do not tend to be included in communications from Social Work, Children's Hearings etc. How can this be changed?
- Policy in general.
Any overall strategy for looked after children needs a father's dimension from the start. Can a dialogue commence between the various other silos of the Scottish Government such as the 'Looked After Children Strategic Implementation Group' referred to in this section, so that, for example, the latter body proposals for mentors include men?

Young children are connected emotionally and share experience with others, from birth. Our feelings and actions affect their capacities and learning. Through short talks, films and interaction, we aim to discuss the importance of connection to improve early years policy and practice, and how we can encourage the best possible parental and professional engagement.

Drawing on psychology, philosophy and policy research we explore together the imaginative and sociable nature of childhood and the relations between small children and their environment. We then discuss how this knowledge can translate into collaborative relationships in the early years field, by bringing together academic experts, policy-makers and practitioners from a wide range of backgrounds.