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					               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

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
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
                            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?
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
Week 8: How are          Understanding child development
children different from Practical applications
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
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
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?