Caring Dads: Helping Fathers Value Their Children Katreena Scott, Ph.D., Claire Crooks, Ph.D. & Karen Francis, MA & Tim Kelly Background and Rationale The Caring Dads initiative aims for primary and secondary prevention of father-perpetrated child abuse and neglect. Child maltreatment is a major societal problem. For example, in Canada approximately 20 in every 1000 children come to the attention of child protective services each year (Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, Trocme et al., 2001). Fathers are responsible for a significant portion of this abuse. In Canadian two-parent families, fathers are one of the alleged perpetrators in an estimated 71% of the physical abuse cases and 69% of the cases involving emotional maltreatment. Despite the prevalence of father-perpetrated maltreatment and associated negative impact on child development, and the potential benefits of healthy father-child relationships, intervention and prevention programs addressing maltreatment are almost exclusively focused on children's mothers. Across North America, there is a severe lack of programs for fathers at-risk for child maltreatment. This need has been documented in the academic and social service literature (Peled, 2000) and has recently become the focus of many communities. The Caring Dads: Helping Fathers Value their Children program for at-risk fathers fills this important gap. Aimed at fathers who have abused or are at risk for abusing their children, this group intervention focuses on helping men end the use of abusive parenting strategies, recognize attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that support healthy and unhealthy father-child relationships, and begin to appreciate the impact of child maltreatment and domestic violence on children. Caring Dads groups run for 2 hours, one night a week, for 17-weeks with approximately 12 men are in each group (men's children and partners do not attend). Groups are co-facilitated by a male and female co-facilitator with knowledge and experience in intervention with men, child protection, child development, and woman's advocacy. The Caring Dads group helps to ensure that fathers are the ones held accountable for their abusive actions, rather than their partners or children (the concern when mothers are investigated for failure to protect their children from witnessing domestic violence perpetrated by their partner). Moreover, providing intervention to fathers offers concrete recognition that, even when fathers have been abusive, their children most often value the relationship and want it to be "fixed" rather than eliminated. A Brief History of Caring Dads The Caring Dads program was developed by Katreena Scott, Ph.D. C. Psych. from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) of the University of Toronto along with three co- developers: Tim Kelly, Executive Director of Changing Ways (lead clinical site for the program); Dr. Claire Crooks, C. Psych. from the University of Western Ontario's Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children; and Karen Francis, M.A. from the University of Western Ontario. Development has also been informed by feedback of Advisory Committees in London and Toronto, which consist of representatives from child protective services, family justice services, probation services, children's mental health programs and women's advocates. There has been recognition in communities of the need for a service such as Caring Dads, and for this reason, individuals with many years of experience and considerable expertise have offered their service on these committees. This representation, along with the university-community partnership at the heart of this program, means that Caring Dads is based on a solid foundation of both theory and practice. The first Caring Dads groups were offered in London, Ontario and in Boston, Massachusetts the fall of 2002. Since then, groups have been offered continuously in London and Boston. In addition, in response to requests to share the information and resources of this program, the Caring Dads program is currently collaborating with three additional sites in Ontario to offer the Caring Dads groups: Thunder Bay, Brantford, and Toronto. Intervention Goals and Activities Goal 1: To develop sufficient trust and motivation to engage men in the process of examining their fathering. A first therapeutic goal is to develop trust and engagement so that men can be challenged. Suggested exercises help men do this by encouraging them to explore their own experience of their fathers. Difference, and the potential for difference, between the fathering of men in the group and the fathering they experienced as children are used to help men develop motivation for intervention. Counselors remain flexible to having men voice their concerns about attending group and work towards building a sense of trust and group cohesion. Goal 2: To increase men's awareness and application of child-centered fathering. Focus is next placed on men's awareness of child-centered fathering. Suggested exercises help men focus on their children by encouraging them to define good fathering and develop some skills for healthy fathering behaviour. Men are also taught that healthy fathering involves supporting children's mothers. Goal 3: To Increase men's awareness of, and responsibility for, abusive and neglectful fathering behaviors and their impact on children. One of the important guiding philosophies to this section of the manual is that until men have stopped abuse and at least begun developing a trusting and positive relationship between themselves and their children, there is nothing they can do as fathers to successfully manage their children’s behaviour. With this in mind, a number of weeks are focused on challenging men to become aware of, and take responsibility for, their abusive and neglectful fathering behaviour. Men are also challenged to examine their style of interaction with other people and systems in their children's lives. Goal 4: Consolidating learning, rebuilding trust, and planning for the future. By the end of the group, fathers sometimes feel that they have begun to interact differently with their children, but that their children are not reciprocating. They may also feel that children's mothers, or other individuals in their children's lives are not adequately rewarding the changes that they have made. Potential reasons that children may take some time to trust changes in men’s fathering are discussed. The importance of consistency in non-abusive behavior and in greater cooperation with other individuals and systems in their children's lives is emphasized. Overall, fathers are given a clear message that this is only a first step to better fathering. Men are encouraged to seek other means of improving their parenting. For more information: Scott, K .L. & Crooks, C. V. (2004). Effecting change in maltreating fathers. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 11, 95-111. Scott, K. L., Francis, K. & Wolfe, D. A. (in press, February, 2004). Intervention with fathers who have been abusive in their families: Accountability guidelines and implications for practice. Chapter to appear in J. Edleson & O. Williams (Eds.) Parenting by Men who Batter. Crooks, C.V., Scott, K. L., Francis, K., Kelly, T., & Reid, M. (in press, April 2004). Eliciting change in maltreating fathers: Goals, processes, and desired outcomes. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice. Information can also be found on the Caring Dads website at www.caringdadsprogram.ca. Caring Dads Activity Summary Weeks Activities Goal 1: To develop sufficient trust and motivation to engage men in the process of examining their fathering Orientation Program Overview Group Rules Week 2: Considering Genograms Fathering Family experiences (i.e. what I want to do the same /different as my father) Week 3: Developing My goals Discrepancy – Helping Continue to develop discrepancy with: men make the choice - Continued discussion to do things differently - Fathering circles - Facing the wall Goal 2: To increase men's awareness of child-centered fathering Week 4: Child- Continuum of parenting behavior centered fathering Responsive and unresponsive praise Week 5: Building Review of praise relationships with our How well do you know your kids? children Week 6: Listening to Listening to children children Relationship building challenges Week 7: Eliminating The connections between thoughts, feelings and actions barriers to better Thoughts and beliefs to watch out for relationships Week 8: How are Understanding child development children different from Practical applications adults? Week 9: Fathers as What do my children learn from living in my family? part of families Setting a good example Appreciation for my children’s mother Goal 3: To increase men's awareness of, and responsibility for, abusive and neglectful fathering behaviors and their impact on children Week 10: Recognizing The other end of the continuum: child maltreatment Unhealthy, Hurtful, A closer look at emotional abuse Abusive and Video analysis Neglectful Fathering Behaviors Week 11: How am I Emotional abuse and neglect as forms of abuse responding to my Effects of abuse on children (review and synthesis) children's needs Problem-solving for parents Week 12: Problem- Problem-solving for parents solving in difficult What children learn from abusive and controlling fathering situations Week 13: Relationship Domestic violence as a form of abuse with my child's mother How use of systems can be abusive Importance of adult boundaries Problem-solving for parents Week 14: I am not Exercise on shame and secrecy in abusive behaviour proud of … How denial effects children Problem-solving for parents Goal 4: Consolidating learning, rebuilding trust, and planning for the future Week 15: Rebuilding Taking responsibility for the past and moving into the future trust and healing Rebuilding trust Week 16: What about Summarizing alternatives to punishment discipline? Defining discipline Week 17: Wrapping Review of main concepts up Where am I going from here?