When we think about a family unit, we often think about the mother, father, and the children. Now, days the family is no longer the nuclear family with the father, mother, and 2.5 kids. Families are a lot less traditional. A family can be defined in many ways depending on who you are talking to. As a social worker, we look at our own personal experience and think about the role of our mother, and father. We think about the impact each parent has made on our lives, and how an absent parent can make a traumatic difference. I want to look at the role of the father and how their involvement impacts child welfare. If social workers engage with fathers and include them in the process does that mean the child has a better chance of staying with the family?
Let's look at the research, over the course of time, we have learned more about the essential roles of both the fathers and mothers in the healthy development of their offspring. Children with involved, loving fathers are much more likely to do well in school, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as truancy, drug use, and delinquent activity, than children who have fathers who are not involved. Boys and young men growing up without a father face enormous risks compared with males who are raised with heir fathers.
Child-serving systems tend to discount the important of fathers' involvement. Typically, they only look at child support as the only critical responsibility. Financial support is key, but it takes more than finances to raise a child. When looking at this phenomenon from a behavioral health perspective, the assumption is the father is not involved if he does not attend the appointments. As a group, fathers are less likely to attend meetings than mothers. In most cases, fathers are not absent fathers. Historical and systemic factors help us to understand why fathers may sometimes be or appear to be less involved in the lives of their children than mothers are.
Statistics about single parent homes and fathers.
In the United States, 20 million children live in single parent homes. 18 percent of the single parents who currently live with their children are men, while 82 percent are women.
The number of single father has increased from 400,000 to 2.5 million since 1970.
24 million children (34 percent) do not live with their biological fathers.
40 percent of children in father-absent homes have not seen their fathers once during the past year.
Approximately 50 percent of children not living with heir fathers have never set foot in their father's homes.
Fathers are an integral part of their families as well as their communities. Fathers bring a rich perspective to systems that have historically focused primarily on mothers or female caregivers. When father are involved in their children's live the children they care enter formal systems less frequently, less deeply, and for a shorter period of times. The majority of enrolled children in the systems of care are male, inclusion of male caregivers in systems of care is especially critical.
As social workers on the micro level, we should ensure that fathers have access, voice, and choice in the development, implementation, and revision of service plans. Social workers should make efforts to make contact with the fathers. Asking caregivers if Dad will be a part of the meeting. Being able to be flexible with father's work schedule and try to schedule meetings at times that are convenient for fathers. Engaging Dad in the meeting and asking for his input. When fathers are unable to attend meetings, social workers should ask for their input in advance to have his opinion included in decision making.
It is very important to follow up with fathers when they must be absent from meetings to ensure they understand what is going on in the process. Most importantly, making sure the service plans are culturally and linguistically competent and they should meet the diverse needs of fathers by ensuring that cultural preferences, practices, and mores are learned, understood, and honored.
The next blog we can look at what we can do on the mezzo, and macro level to help further engage fathers to help bring families back together. Please comment about this issue below. Thank you reading!