Are All Fathers in Child Protection Families Uncommitted, Uninvolved and Unable to Change?

Journal Name
Children and Youth Services Review
Journal Volume
Page Count
Year Published
Author (Individual)
Zanoni, Lee.
Warburton, Wayne.
Bussey, Kay.
McMaugh, Anne.
Resource Type
Journal Article
Resource Format
Although much is known about 'parents' in child protection families, very little research has specifically examined fathers in these families. The scant extant research indicates that child welfare workers in many countries tend to have negative stereotypes of these men, assuming them to be uncommitted and uninvolved parents, and unable to cease drug use. The present study sought to add to the knowledge about fathers in child protection families, and to investigate whether or not there was support for these negative stereotypes within this sample. Study participants were 35 fathers associated with a parenting program in Sydney, Australia, who completed quantitative demographic, family and psychological measures. In addition, a subset of nine participants provided life story qualitative data. Findings from both the quantitative and qualitative data indicated that, in contrast to the negative stereotypes, these fathers were typically committed and involved parents who were no longer abusing substances. They experienced considerable psychological distress as a result of having their children removed, and fathers with custody of their children reported the best psychological well-being. Study participants were shown to have similar demographic, family and psychological profiles to those found in child protection populations elsewhere in Australia and in other countries, suggesting that these findings may have wider relevance. This study highlights the importance of child welfare workers engaging with and accurately assessing fathers without preconceived assumptions, as it is possible that some fathers are viable placement options for at-risk children. (Author abstract)

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