Just call me dad: Health and social benefits to fathers and their children
In the past 20 years, social change and expectations for both maternal and paternal responsibilities have highlighted the need for services for families to better understand the role of a father in family relationships. In Australia, as well as internationally, there have been many contested understandings about what constitutes 'good fathering' in research, social media and in the political sphere. More specifically, there has also been an emerging trend to understand the challenging task of recruiting and maintaining men's involvement in child and family services programmes, particularly those fathers who are deemed a risk to children and mothers, violent or have been separated from their children. That many child and family/welfare services have exercised dedicated effort to work with fathers is still a relatively recent phenomenon, and has only emerged following criticism that services have been too geared towards working only with mothers. Despite this increasing interest, there is still ongoing need for more research to be undertaken in Australia. An important area of focus is the views of professionals about their perception and engagement of fathers, particularly the views of fathers who are described as being absent from family-based services. The purpose of this article is to report briefly on a study undertaken to examine how child and family welfare workers engage fathers in their work. First, this paper will describe some of the social and health benefits to fathers and their children, focusing on the key role of attachment through play. Research into effective service delivery involving fathers will then be presented, concluding with key practice factors necessary for fathers to be involved in family life.