It is widely accepted that, over recent decades, fathers' roles have changed to include more care of infants and young children. It is now normal, for example, for fathers to attend the birth of their first child, and in many areas antenatal classes include special topics or discussions for fathers. More fathers are also noticeably pushing strollers, dropping off toddlers at child care and volunteering for literacy tutoring in schools.It is not surprising then to find that health, education and welfare services are looking for ways to recruit and involve fathers, alongside mothers and other family members, to support their infants and children. Father-specific parenting programs have been developed for a variety of groups, such as expectant fathers, fathers of children with a disability, fathers in prison, Indigenous fathers and fathers of primary school-age children (Family Action Centre, 2005). General services, such as the newly developed Raising Children Network website, have special pages for fathers, and in some policy areas, such as family law, there is explicit recognition of the importance of fathers (Foster, Chudleigh, Lenton, & Gibson, 2005; Raising Children Network, 2007).Incorporating fathers into established family-related services, however, has not proved to be straightforward. Everything from publicity (in which the language and images may be pitched at mothers) to opening hours, referral procedures and staff training has required rethinking or, at least, reviewing. Simply advertising programs for "parents" instead of for "mothers" has not brought dads flocking to the services, and highly trained practitioners have not always found it easy to interact with fathers (Fletcher, 2004). In this paper, the research relating to fathers' involvement with children is described and the evidence of effective practice for including fathers is summarised. Factors that may influence fathers' involvement with services are reported and the competence of practitioners to engage with fathers when they do come into contact with the services are discussed. (Author abstract)
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