In May 2016 the Leeds Social Sciences Institute awarded £15,000 in funding for the “Responding to Young Dads” (RYD) project. This project built on findings and collaborations established from the ESRC funded Following Young Fathers (FYF) study, and related findings and analysis of a subset of this data from the affiliated Men, Poverty and Lifetimes of Care (MPLC) study1 .
The project was practitioner led and involved a collaboration between local and national organisations who were original partner organisations of the network that formed as part of the Following Young Fathers study. Dr Anna Tarrant was the academic lead and worked in close collaboration with the FYF director, Prof. Bren Neale.
The methodology of Responding to Young Fathers in a Different Way was foundational to the co-creation work in the Following Young Fathers Further study.
The RYD project consisted of three interrelated work packages that broadly sought to:
Forming a collaboration between the Family and Child Care Trust and Leeds City Council, this package was designed to roll out the very successful work of the London based Young Dads Collective (YDC). The Following Young Fathers (FYF) project demonstrated that young fathers are often marginalised and side-lined in professional settings, and that there is a pressing need to challenge – and change – the way that young fathers are represented and understood in society (Neale and Davies, 20152 ).
One of the most effective ways to do this is to empower selected young fathers as 'experts by experience', who are supported and trained in advocacy work on behalf of other young fathers and engage in practitioner training and consultation.
The Young Dads Collective is designed to do just that.
This work package enabled us to facilitate the first national expansion of the work of the Young Dads Collective, by rolling out good practice to the north of England. One of the fundamental issues identified in the FYF study was the problem of recognising young fathers, identifying them and responding positively to them. The Young Dads Collective directly addresses this finding by giving effective voices to a wider constituency of young fathers.
The establishment of the Young Dads Collective North was the first step in implementing the Young Dads Collective model nationally. Key learning from this process is now being brought to the establishment of the Grimsby Dads Collective.
In collaboration with an award winning nurse practitioner at the Oakhill STC, this package aimed to improve continuity of support for vulnerable young offender fathers when they are released back into the community. Part of the focus was on improving inter-agency collaboration between those working within and beyond the secure estate.
Findings from the FYF study highlight the effectiveness of specialist support for vulnerable young fathers in custodial settings (Neale and Ladlow, 2015).3Such support can do much to create a sense of identity as a father for these young men and can provide a positive alternative to their identity and reputations as criminals. Continuity of care is sorely needed if these fledgling identities are to be consolidated. This requires inter-agency co-operation and working, in a context where much professional thinking is currently driven by a risk/surveillance mind set.
The pilot tracked and supported a small group of young fathers who engaged well with professional support in custody, as they made the transition to resettlement. You can read more about the findings in the final report.
The FYF study found that while pockets of good practice exist, there is no coherent or unifying policy or professional approach to recognising young fathers and understanding and responding to their needs (Neale and Davis, 2015).5The focus of this work package was two-fold, including:
The training event had the scope to be delivered more widely across different local authorities to increase the capacity of professionals in health and social care to support young fathers. The work package integrated the FYF findings with evidence and good practice developed from the other two work packages, and was practitioner led.
Other members of the FYF practitioner network including academic and non-academic partners were involved.
Key outputs from the study report on the process and outcomes of the study, which proved to be foundational to the development of the key strands of the Following Young fathers Further study.Download Supporting Young Fathers in Welfare Settings: Evidence ReviewpdfDownload Responding to Young Fathers in a Different Way: Final Reportpdf
“[Speaking about support of young fathers] We’ve done a lot of kind of advocation and representing them, a lot of the time there’s involvement with statutory services. They don’t have the care of the young person, the care’s provided by the state or the mother, so we’ve attended lots of meetings with the young person to offer additional support and facilitated contact where necessary and offered just general emotional wellbeing, support, improving robustness and resilience, encouraging them to have as amicable relationship as possible.”
“And I suppose it goes back to what we were saying before about behaviours, maybe the education side of stuff and the fact that men aren’t involved in those early conversations, you know, whether it is, I know they’re invited to come along to bumps to babies but I don’t know whether we go into the detail around some of that brain development side of stuff and things like that. Maybe that is the thing that really would change things. You know, if you were given all of that information about what happens to a child as they grow, in a scientific way, as easy to understand as possible, could be the thing that impacted on behaviour in the home.”
“I think both a mother and father combined, it’s communicating and both being on the same page of what’s best for your child or children, and for both, it’s just being there 100% for them and not, like, putting yourself first, it’s, you know, putting the child’s interests first... ”
“We need to be including, we need to not [just] be focusing on mum and child […] That’s a great focus but dad … dad’s not invisible, dad needs to be in the picture as well because there’s research that shows you the effect it has on children and families as a whole when dad isn’t in the picture, so services need to be changing the way in which they work so it’s more inclusive.”
“Cause I think a lot of the time, some of young people who end up having children have been through the care system or support systems and they can feel quite judged or labelled by organisations and it’s breaking the cycle and breaking them out of that to feel empowered to be able to take stuff back, that’s the real interest to me. So, it’s about getting support right, as in being there and giving advice and guidance and all them things that we can do, but also making sure that we are doing with people as opposed to people.”
“One of the most successful projects we ever did was an informal dads’ group, and it used to be on Saturdays […] they did what they wanted, they used to do things like breakfast, and they would have breakfast together and talk about dad stuff and where they were taking their kids. And that group was always really well attended because there was never an agenda. They were never judged. They were just there together.”
“...the whole stay at home dad thing is not something to be ashamed of, you know, if you’re a dad and you wanna take your daughter out for the day, or you wanna take your kid out for the day on your own, well why is that frowned upon, why can’t you take your child out for the day ”
“Oh…patience…compassion…tolerance, a whole boatload a’ that! Honestly, I like a whole lot of life. Sacrifice…compromise, yeah I think, yeah I think they, they would be the, the big, the five, I feel, I think that was five, they would be the main. ”
“We’re currently in touch with social services for two [dads] because they don’t understand why they can’t see their children because they haven’t been informed by social services, their partner. So there’s a massive communication breakdown with those young men, so that’s the main focus of what we’re dealing with at the minute.”