210 practitioners completed an online survey about their experiences working with fathers in delivering parenting programs. Practitioners were from a range of professional backgrounds including psychologists (39%), social workers (18%), family support workers (12%), case workers (9%), nurses (6%), counsellors (4%), occupational therapists (2%), psychiatrists (1%), paediatricians (1%), and other professions (8%).
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While the vast majority of practitioners believed father participation is extremely or very important (99%) for child issues and that programs are more effective when fathers are involved (93%), only 17% indicated that fathers often attended programs.
In general, most practitioners reported that they were confident in working with fathers (67%), communicating with fathers (81%) and managing fathers’ distress (65%). The areas in which they were less confident were managing resistance from fathers (39%), working with fathers who have been abusive or violent (22%), or who are experiencing substance use issues (27%).
Use of Strategies to Engage Fathers
Most practitioners reported using a range of strategies to engage fathers in parenting programs. Most commonly, practitioners explain to mothers (85%) and fathers (77%) the importance of father engagement and give equal time and attention to both parents (81%). Fewer practitioners attempt to problem solve barriers to attendance (53%) or offer fathers separate sessions or phone calls (49%).
Barriers and Support
Practitioners reported that the number one barrier to father engagement (that fathers or families report) is fathers’ work commitments (81%). While most practitioners (61%) think their organisation is extremely or very supportive of engaging fathers, only 41% of practitioners reported that their organisation offered sessions outside of regular working hours.
Only around a quarter (27%) of practitioners reported that they had received specific training in working with or engaging fathers. Of those, the majority (75%) said the training was extremely or very helpful.