Caring Dads is a group intervention program for men who have abused, neglected, or exposed their children to domestic violence.

Global estimates published by the WHO indicate that one in three (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime [1].

We know that young children are frequently present when this violence happens or live in households where it takes place. An alarming statistic published by the US Department of Justice indicates that 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence every year and that in 90% of those cases children are eyewitnesses to this violence [2].

Underlying these undeniably deplorable acts are the social factors that shape our conceptualizations of masculinity and femininity, the power relations that exist between these identities and the societal structures that create and reinforce these power relations.

Research done over the past two decades has clearly established that, when fathers are positively involved with their families, children benefit cognitively, socially, emotionally and developmentally.

Despite the importance of fathers in families, our child protection and child and family mental health service systems tend to work primarily with mothers; a trend that is exacerbated when fathers are deemed to be high risk. 

Ironically, this means that those fathers who most need to be monitored and helped by our intervention systems are not involved. Men’s children pay the price with higher rates of aggression, substance use, criminal involvement, suicide attempts, mental health problems and chronic health conditions.

There are numerous advantages to changing practice to better include fathers in efforts to enhance the safety and well-being of their children. This includes the potential to improve father-child relationships, offer an additional route to ending violence against women, model accountability, address fathers’ potential use of abuse in other relationships and with other children along with an opportunity to monitor and contain risk from fathers during follow-up from the child protection and justice systems.

The Caring Dads program was specifically designed from the premise that violence against women and violence against children are intricately intertwined, and that these two issues both can and should be addressed together. 

The program was developed by Katreena Scott (Ph.D. Clinical Psychology), Claire Crooks (Ph.D. Clinical Psychology), Tim Kelly (Executive Director of Changing Ways), and Karen Francis (Ph.D. Clinical Psychology), in collaboration with child protective services, batterer intervention programs, children's mental health agencies, women's advocates, centres for children and families involved in the justice system, family resource agencies and probation and parole services.

Funded by the Queensland Police Service, Lifeline Darling Downs and South West Queensland are delivering the Caring Dads program to men in Toowoomba and its surrounds.

Caring Dads consist of an engaging 17-week program beginning early march 2021. Men looking to improve themselves, improve their relationship with their children and make a change can connect with this service.

Those wanting more information are encouraged to call Lifeline Darling Downs on 1300 991 443 or fee call 1800 951 052 to learn more.

Acknowledgements: Large portions of this article are extracted from the Caring Dads website, the full text can be found and read here