January 2001 our project has been responsible for childcare training for
over 1,200 men. They have come from all walks of life, from Bank Managers
to Bus Drivers and from Banff to the Borders. Very few having ever worked
in childcare and the vast majority thinking they never could.
have we done differently ?
We haven’t changed the qualifications.
But we have changed the training.
We haven’t improved the salary.
Only because we can’t.
We haven’t improved working conditions.
But we have introduced support
have we done ? Why the success?
We directly aimed our advertising at men.
We responded quickly.
We were able to speak to them at each and every stage of their training.
We provided support.
We were able to provide a complete pathway of training.
We established good relationships with colleges.
Daily or weekly.
Other forms of advertising - radio.
will respond in numbers.
Quick turn around has been effective.
Follow up class absenteeism.
Face to Face and telephone support for Students.
Meetings with College Lecturers.
All course fees met.
Course -16 weeks evening class - 2 hours per week
Fast Track Courses
HNC in Childcare & Education - HNC
Caring for Young Children
Course - 16 weeks, 2 hours per week, accredited (evenings)
Fast Track Course -16 weeks, accredited (evenings)
HNC full time or part time, 2 evenings per week (where possible) with
weekend and holiday placements.
In Childcare have now established live links with other organisations
throughout the world.
Resulting in a sharing of ideas and with colleagues from contributing
to our conferences.
FOR RECRUITING MEN
there benefits from having men in childcare?
could benefit because of a male perspective, men and women are different.
Fathers could benefit because they have someone to relate to and may feel
more at ease.
More gender balanced staff group different ways of looking at issues.
children now grow up in one parent household and maybe don’t meet
a man in a caring role until secondary school.
Male children often are told they are like the absent father no good,
this can leave a sense of no self worth.
Male children like to run jump play fight in day care setting this is
often not encouraged.
We celebrate differences culturally yet often not about gender. Equal
done suggests fathers often find family centre’s and nurseries too
feminine and not male friendly
Men often feel they are having difficulty parenting without requiring
Woman with bad experiences benefit from meeting safe males
discussion with staff teams working with pre-fives suggests that more
of a gender balance would facilitate different approaches.
It can also provide an opportunity to see a different perspective from
both sides of an argument - quite simply, men are different.
Lone Fathers' Project
worker : Thomas Carrol - 07796 212498
Ian Maxwell, Deputy Director (One Parent Families Scotland - 0131 556
Spence, Manager (Gilmerton Children and Families Centre - 0131 664 1202)
Edinburgh Lone Fathers Project is a Sure-Start funded project. It is jointly
managed by Kenny Spence at Gilmerton Childrens and Families Centre and
Ian Maxwell from One Parent Families Scotland. 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 children.
the project first announced itself in SouthEast Edinburgh we expected
a stampede. The reality was that the solitary Dad and his kids who did
take advantage of the initiative must have been pretty bored of my company
after the first few weeks.
Two years make a difference. To date, we support or have supported over
fifty families. This may not appear a high figure. However, if you consider
that the average family has more than three members, then the numbers
become more significant. In addition there are innumerable individuals
how have phoned looking for advice and in their words ''to get a weight
of my mind.'' Many of the callers commented that they appreciated ''having
another man to talk to.''
order to attract more lone Dads, the poster campaign had to be supplemented
with something extra. By using the expertise and resources at both Gilmerton
and at One Parent Families Scotland we were able to establish contact
with a number of families. By accompanying nursery officers from the children's
centre and Health Visitors on home visits, I could explain the ethos behind
the initiative and possible benefits. I believe the home visits were crucial
in attracting the lone Dads. They felt comfortable and at ease in their
home environment, and were receptive to the ideas and suggestions offered.
When asked if they had seen any of the posters advertising the project,
they answered in the affirmative, but did not feel comfortable using the
children's centre or indeed any statutory agency.
The reasons were varied and complex. The most common reasons were that
they preferred to talk to a man, that they could not identify with the
centre. Most common was that when they had previously used statutory or
voluntary agencies they felt disempowered, that they had not been listened
to, and were ''not part of the process.'' They felt that they were not
being listened to and their point of view disregarded - ''you're just
the sperm donor'' one Dad was informed by a social worker.
After making initial contact the Dads were invited into either the children's
centre or the OPFS offices for a very informal chat in order that the
issues and concerns could be discussed. Much of what the Dads disclosed
was strikingly similar. They shared many common hopes, fears and issues.
Low levels of self-esteem and self-confidence.
perception that they are less able at parenting than a mother.
feel that if awarded residency, they are reluctant to ask for help
as they do not want to be viewed as deficient or unable to cope.
of being unsupported during the legal process, and frustrated after it.
feel that many agencies are happier or more accustomed to dealing with
the mum rather than the dad.
is a major issue, particularly overcrowding and homelessness.
These issues affect contact fathers more so than lone fathers.
of benefit entitlement.
of familial and peer support.
feelings of not belonging and feeling unwelcome.
The biggest fear the majority of the dads have is that of the legal system.
Many are unaware of their legal status. ''Unmarried fathers have no legal
rights whatsoever in relation to their children unless they have made
a legally binding agreement with the mother or obtained a court order''(1)
Unmarried fathers can apply for a Parental Responsibility Agreement, if
both parents are in agreement. However, many of the dads have left acrimonious
relationships and a parental responsibility agreement is therefor difficult
to obtain. They fear that although they are nurturing their children as
best they can, their position as main carer is insecure and fragile. The
future difficulties and uncertainties lead to the whole family feeling
the overwhelming majority of dads their hopes are for their children to
have a better, more fulfilling life than they have had. They want their
children to achieve their potential, to grow happy and content in a safe
secure and comfortable environment. Above all they want to ''be there
issues mentioned are only a few of the concerns that effect their day-to-day
lives. It was vital therefore, that we established strong links with both
the voluntary and public sector services from which the families may benefit.
Many of the dads use the expertise available at the children's centre
for practical parenting advice and as a gateway to accessing health visitors,
social services and specific children's services. Staff at OPFS offices
offer invaluable help regarding benefit entitlements, careers advice and
practical financial advice. Both agencies are used as a medium for referral.
Our collaborative approach has meant that we now work together with agencies
on a local and national level. Housing Associations, food co-operatives,
health agencies, further education establishments, family lawyers, drug
agencies and trust funds. The list is endless and reflects the complexity
of the group.
impact on the families has been significant, the self-confidence and self
-esteem amongst the group continues to grow. Dads who feared the future
now embrace it and have a positive perception of themselves. Children
who were withdrawn, had behavioural or emotional problems have been acknowledged
and referred on to the appropriate agencies. Many of the Dads no longer
perceive themselves as ''deficient'', ''we know we're on the right track,
we're getting there.'' Many simply needed
Reassurance - to be told that they were doing okay.
Many of the Dads use the project as a way of socialising. Meeting other
Dads provides a forum for peer support and practical parenting advice.
The advice is tried and tested, if one family have benefited from a particular
resource, the other Dads are more inclined to use it.
the numbers using the project have increased so to have the referrals
to a multitude of agencies in and around Edinburgh. Families who were
previously homeless and in need of furniture, have been housed and furnished.
The emotional security and stability offered by a safe, clean and comfortable
environment which you call 'home' cannot be underestimated.
number of the Dads have children who have special needs. As a priority,
respite and sitter services have been secured. Holidays in the Highlands
and week-end breaks in Blackpool have brought much needed relief and enjoyment
to numerous families. Funding for the trips was secured from a number
of trust funds. Namely, The Prince's Trust, The Glasspool Trust and Children
hardship has been softened by an increasing awareness of the benefits
system. Many of the families who use the project were unaware of their
entitlements. Accessing the relevant advice and information available
at the OPFS offices has impacted on the families directly. Many of the
children are now in receipt of Disability Living Allowance. This benefit
has made a very positive difference to many lives. The disability income
group has provided an invaluable service when wading through the application
many of the Dads used the project as an advocacy service as they did not
feel confident enough to deal with certain agencies on their own. They
are now confident enough to challenge their children's behaviour and ask
for professional help when needed. Previously they viewed a request for
help as some display of weakness or being unable to cope.
children are an integral part of the Project. They are encouraged to express
their own opinions, are given the time and space to talk, and to appreciate
and acknowledge their peer group. They benefit indirectly, through their
Dads. Whichever resource or service their Dad chooses to access they will
benefit from by proxy. They also benefit from having a less stressed Dad.
midweek and Saturday trips are what the kids look forward to the most.
It is the kids who dictate where we go and over the past two years I'm
sure that we have exhausted most of the places in East and Central Scotland
where kids would be attracted. From stroking llamas in Blair Drummond
to pottery making in Marchmont, soft play and water remain the most popular
visits. That said, both Tammi and her sister Mary-anne, aged three and
four respectively, have yet to grasp that a visit to Disneyland Paris
would burst the budget for the year!
future for the Edinburgh Lone Fathers Project is bright. A number of Dads
have realised that they are now confident to move on to more challenging
issues in their lives. Employment is now a reality. One Dad has gone on
to buy a cheap car and start a small cleaning business, another a very
competent salesman. Others no longer "have to fight their own Demons".
They realise that many other families are in similar situations as themselves.
The feelings of isolation and frustration become more remote as they focus
on all the positives in their lives. Further collaboration and partnership
with the childrens centre, youth agencies, family mediation, family service
units, schools and social work is inevitable.
funding from Sure Start has provided a space in the newly converted "old
library" in Gilmerton. This space has been designed with young children
at its core, it is a space where kids can access toys and educational
resources, a book and toy library, and take advantage of the staff provided
by Gilmerton Children Centre. A development worker and art therapist are
on hand to provide specialist information and support.
Project continues to grow and is genuinely dynamic. The approach has been
to work with where the families are in their lives, not where we want
them or imagine them to be.
was reported in recent Sunday broadsheets that a survey by The Equal Opportunities
Commission reveals a new genre: the New Dad. The new Dad comes in four
categories: the Enforcer Dad, the Entertainer Dad, the Useful Dad, and
finally, the Fully Involved Dad.
it unlikely that any of the Dads that use this Project fit neatly into
the above categories. They don’t want to be viewed as either one
type of Dad or the other. What they want is to be acknowledged, to feel
that they have a positive contribution to make to society and, above all,
to be viewed not just as a good Dad but as a good parent.