PA: Another progressive voice for change (Part II)

Part II of our guest post from a professional head of social care.

Parent Alienation: Is it Me?

In part one I talked about the need to make a concerted effort to combat parent alienation, positively targeting marginalised men as an antidote to the growing problem of fatherless children.

I talked about my belief in shared parenting, the importance of my own father in my life, and what an inspiration he has been to me.

In part two, I would like to share some simple but effective tactics we’re employing to make this belief and need a reality.

Social Workers love an acronyms

So, in my training for father engagement, I use: IS IT ME ?

  • Invite them
  • Share with them
  • Include them
  • Talk to them
  • Meet with them
  • Engage them

It is my firm belief that we should offer fathers the same services that we would provide to mothers — as this is in the child’s best interest. If we don’t, we may soon face legal consequences, aside from the moral and social ones.

I believe there are already a range of best practices or principles we can and should apply.

Some Principles of good practice with fathers

  • Genograms — every case-child should have a Genogram which covers at least three generations of both maternal and paternal families
  • The biological father must have been involved in order for all assessments be agreed or considered completed
  • Practitioners must be prepared to involve fathers and paternal family from the outset
  • Understand family dynamics, culture, ethnicity — social differences
  • Recognise the value of fathers to children
  • Commit to empowering parents — both of them
  • Be aware of how our own assumptions, prejudices and personal biography may influence our view of fathers… consider our own experiences
  • Be empathetic and respectful
  • Be consistent, open and honest
  • Be prepared to understand and support difference
  • Family Group Conference should be used at the earliest convenience

In some cases, social workers have failed to identify who fathers are as result of the focus on the maternal relationship.

How do we Identify Fathers (IF)?

  • Be curious, creative and persistent
  • Make time to investigate (even if there are multiple potential fathers, as any of them could be a risk, or a resource and protective)
  • Speak to family networks, school, partners, professionals
  • Locate a copy of child’s birth certificate
  • Utilise all public services including the Police, Local Authority, the DWP, or tracing agencies if required
  • Ensure accurate information is obtained and recorded
  • Proactively investigate Mothers, who often ‘gate-keep’ a father’s identity (research evidence this occurs in 66% of all cases)
  • Do not give up — ask at every meeting and challenge non-compliance

If in any doubt about the additional workload, I have to hold in mind my own experience. My father was the best anyone could have wished for, and of course I know not all fathers are like mine, and not all children have the experience I had. But most parents love their children if given a chance.

In alienation cases, most often perfectly good fathers have been desperately trying to maintain a connection, often for a very long time. We need to support them more. It keeps me awake at night worrying:

“What if there are more and more fathers out there who are like mine? What if more and more children could and should have an amazing father in their lives, an amazing role model and someone who loves them unconditionally… what if?”

Doing nothing must not be an option

The case social worker has to build trusting relationships. Sure, we have to consider the unthinkable when working with families, but we must remain open-minded and assess the whole situation. What if the unthinkable is that a good father or co-parent has been deliberately alienated by the other parent’s deliberate actions? We all know it happens.

Help is needed for both parents in order to provide support for the the children and the whole family.

There has been a “sea-change” happening and there appears to have been increasing numbers of cases where:

  • Children have secured permanent residency with their father when appropriate investigations have revealed him to be the protective parent, despite deliberate and multiple attempts to depict otherwise
  • Co-parenting can be successful if both parties focus on the best interests of the child. Many cases have been able to close as a result of both parents managing to put the needs of the children above their own differences
  • We have seen an increase in father participation in case work, including attendance at meetings, and engagement with us in a meaningful manner
  • Assessments increasingly have the father’s voice within them
  • We have taken a new attitude towards feedback, learning from experiences, and collating feedback from families — including developing a new complaints procedure — so we can develop and improve our work.

There is still a long way to go, but social workers must actively engage, and commit to continuing on this road of change and inclusion, in order for the gears of progress to turn.

Parental Alienation; including not excluding fathers← PREVIOUS

NEXT → Yet to be published!

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