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Fathers Figure

Fathers Figure

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Published by Simon Redgrave
This was a report I wrote for Surestart on how to engage Fathers more fully in parenting early years children
This was a report I wrote for Surestart on how to engage Fathers more fully in parenting early years children

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Published by: Simon Redgrave on Sep 17, 2009
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12/23/2012

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Interim report – One Year On -Draft
1. Engaging fathers is not easy 
1 - 
Why work withthem? 
SureStart Kingstanding has taken the boldstep of committing time and resources towork with fathers and male carers in itscatchment area. In this they are attemptingto fulfil part of the stated aims of the nationalSureStart philosophy; to raise theachievement and standards for the wholefamily group.
FACT - When in positive contact with their fathers,
 
children grow up to have fewer troubles with the police
 
and are
 
less likelyto have mental health problems
.
2
Yet many SureStart branches have choseneither deliberately or by omission not to work with fathers
7
– why? Fathers arethe major earners, they are out of the house all day, they already have enoughflexibility and resources in their lives to deal with problems as they arise. Evenif this truth were as widespread as its acceptance, it still would jibe with theaims of SureStart, derived from the U.S programmes “HeadStart” (1965) and“Early HeadStart”(1994). Our British version is being evaluated via a £16.9million programme at the “Institute for the Study of Children, Families & SocialIssues”, Birkbeck College. ISCFSI’s Director - Professor Jay Belsky – is aworld reknowned expert on the effects fathers can hace on child development,and holistic childrearing generally.The National Evaluation of SureStart (NESS) has conducted a root andbranch evaluation of how well many SureStart programmes are engaging withfathers.
1
It has identified a number of issues common across the country,citing predominantly femaleenvironments and lack of anymeaningful male presence inSureStart services. In a gender imbalanced climate the ongoingprogramming of work oftenunintentionally results in themarginalisation of fathers and other male carers.Social policy makers have yet tocome to grips with the changing and diversifying roles of British men, in thesimon@scholarsandwariors.orgPage 1DRAFT
Fathers Figure!
Work and Play with Fathers 
 
inner cities and now in the outer ring estates, which Kingstanding typifies. Thefirst aim of SureStart Kingstanding’s work with fathers must be to exploreways in which the reasons for and results of working with fathers can becomethe foundation for best practice elsewhere. Only by changing the way thatstatutory services are delivered at a national level can real change be madelocally to improve real peoples’ lives. The second aim must be to createopportunities for personal change via exciting and educational experiences for the fathers in the area, enhancing the way fathers feel about themselves andincreasing their ability to contribute to their children’s lives.
FACT - In Kingstanding nearly 200 children are being lone parented byfathers
4
.
2. Who Does The Work ? 
Usually, though not exclusively, male workers are considered key for this kindof engagement work. Negative responses to fathers from female SureStartstaff (and male managers) are documented repeatedly in SureStart surveysand evaluations,
1,7,8
SureStart Kingstanding has shown a lead in trying tosource male staff with the skill and temperament to work in the Kingstandingcatchment.I have spoken to several dozen residents and adozen or so professionals working on theground through various agencies and all saidthis was beneficial. All the fathers and malecarers I spoke to said that it was important tothem to have a face that dads and other mencould identify with.The initial work in the area was done by
Lee
, anagency worker recruited by SureStart. This is avery difficult position to fill, as it requirescertified skills and experience, combined withcredibility on the ground. Like primary schoolteaching this is a field that men do not tend togo into, and when they do they either charge tothe top or move on through.Lee worked from August to November and did an excellent job on the ground,meeting fathers and making his face known in the area. Lee and I walked thesimon@scholarsandwarriors.orgPage 2DRAFT
Fathers Figure!
Work and Play with Fathers 
 
estate and beyond at least three times, meeting fathers and other outreachprofessionals, and putting forwardthe SureStart agenda.Lee ran his Fathers’ Groups at theEx Service Mans’ Club on alternateweeks, befriending fathers anddiscussing their issues.After Lee had moved on, we werelucky enough to have the help of 
Alan
, the most active Fathers’ Groupparticipant, volunteering to lead it between November and January.Alan, (who with his experience as bus driver beat all the other dads to claimfirst prize on the Karting day) lives on the Kingstanding estate, close to “ThePimple”, in one of the areas suffering most from poor housing design and “antisocial behaviour”. Alan was the key to a deeper understanding of local lifeand the realities and expectations of local fathers.Alan took over the biweekly Fathers’ Meeting, but this had now outgrown itsusefulness and relevance. We worked together to follow up Lee’s plan tocreate a snooker session, and while this generated some interest it finallyproved unworkable.
FACT - While volunteering at the branch Alan became interested intraining to be a Fathers’ Worker professionally. Working Links picked uphis reemployment contract and have given him the opportunity toretrain.
3. Prospects for Local Fathers - “Worklessness” at the root ? 
Outwardly, Kingstanding seems a pleasant and stable place to live and raise afamily. It is highly accessible from central Birmingham, with well maintainedpublic transport, infrastructure and roads. Land use is fairly well zoned, andthere are excellent schools, shops, a library and a modern leisure centre.Many houses have their own gardens, and there is also abundant greenspace - yet it features so prominently in Government deprivation indexes
3
 The movement out of the area of the two major semi-skilled employers – WestMidlands Transport and IMI - has lead to a sense of dislocation anddisenfranchisement amongst local men.
9
‘Employability’ is the capacity to gainand keep a job, to cope with changes at work and in the wider economy, andthe ability to get a new job if necessary
6
. Promoting the employability of parents is an important function of SureStart local programmes.
FACT - Current research links parental employability with children’smental health, behaviour and social integration.
6
There is also evidence
simon@scholarsandwariors.orgPage 3DRAFT
Fathers Figure!
Work and Play with Fathers 

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