Fathers Network Scotland works with organisations funded by the Cattanach Trust's Dads' Fund, which was set up in 2016 to mark the Year of the Dad. These organisations support families across Scotland, ensuring that the dads they engage with are able to be as involved in their children's lives as possible. Here we showcase three of those organisations: One Parent Families Scotland, Dads Rock and Relationships Scotland.
One Parent Families Scotland provides help to all single parent families; mums, dads, young parents and kinship carers. At a recent get together of the dads' groups supported by Cattanach, Director Brock Lueck told us about the organisation's work.
“When we think of parent care, often because of the culture we’re in, people assume we’re talking about mums. But we have four projects across the country, in Falkirk, Dundee, Edinburgh and Motherwell, that are dedicated to fathers’ work. We all know the importance that fathers play, and if you have dads involved from an early stage then they’re going to stay involved. One out of four children in Scotland are part of single parent families, so that’s not a niche group. It’s quite a big group of children. We also know that half of children in single-parent-families are living in poverty, so it seems mad not to use the opportunity to make sure that fathers are involved when it’s appropriate - and it usually is appropriate - to make sure that those children can achieve as much as they can. It’s imperative that we do that.
So at One Parent Families Scotland we have three project workers who are dedicated to working with fathers. We’re probably best known for our Saturday activities. We have two groups that are going out every Saturday with dads and kids. Sometimes dads don’t know what they can do with their kids that’s local and low cost, and particularly in Edinburgh we’re really lucky because there are some great things to do. Some of it is extortionate, but lots of it is low cost and that’s really important. Obviously it gets guys together and we all know how important it is, when dads think they’re the only on in their situation, to get them together and to form some peer support. In some ways the simplest, but also the most important thing that we can do, is to help families to not feel isolated. That’s something that happens to mums and dads. They feel that they’re on their own, they can’t share things with other people.
We want parents to feel confident in what they’re doing. If you're a dad who just has contact once or maybe twice a week, it can be difficult to build up a relationship with your child, so that you know how to respond in a way that’s going to be supportive and make sense to them. We do a lot of one-to-one support during the week. That might come out of conversations in the group, or some of the guys we see one-to-one aren’t ready for the group or need more intensive help.”
You can hear Brock Lueck talk about two families One Parent Families Scotland has supported here:
Dads Rock aims to improve outcomes for children across Scotland to ensure the best start in life by providing support to dads and families. They told us about some of those who they have supported through the early years of parenthood.
“Every dad we work with comes with their own set of circumstances and we work with them on a one-to-one basis and help them to increase their confidence and enhance the care they provide to their children. For example, two children were prevented from going into care because we supported their dad to earn the confidence of social services and the family panel. He was actually granted custody of his children instead of them going into care. Two of the young dads we worked with subsequently had the confidence to attend our playgroups, helping them to feel less isolated by building relationships with other dads. One of them who has a premature baby was able to connect with another dad in the same position.
We supported a fourteen-year-old dad, who is one of the youngest dads we’ve worked with. He was living in secure accommodation, so we helped him with practical parenting skills, antenatal basics such as going along with a baby bath and showing him how to use it. We gave him advice about other agencies he could go to for support, and we were able to support him with his mental health too. We also assisted a seventeen-year-old dad to liaise with the mother of his child. They’d completely stopped speaking to each other. When he was allowed contact, we went with him to take his children out. Signposting young dads to other agencies and services who can help them is key to the work we do. Our work is so varied, because each young dad brings with him his own challenges.”
You can hear two Dads Rock support workers talk about more of the families they have supported here:
Relationships Scotland's midweek child contact centre runs in Dumfries and Galloway. They decided to apply for funding from the Cattanach Trust for a contact centre that was specifically for dads who are wanting to have contact with children who are under 3 years of age.
"The contact centre is a safe, neutral, child-friendly environment where dads and children can meet and feel as comfortable as possible. We bring toys out for them to play with, items they can engage with, games and things. The families we work with will be facing issues such as deprivation, could be unemployed or on a low income, living in deprived areas of Dumfries, young parents or living within the justice system.
We took on an Intake Worker, who is also our mid-week child contact centre assistant. We've had some really good success stories. One dad who came along hadn't seen his son since he was just a few weeks old. The child was actually three months old when he came to us to have contact with his dad. Mum was very anxious about the contact starting as well, which is one of the issues we very often face. In the first contact, the child cried pretty much the whole way through, but as the weeks went on they started to get much more comfortable with each other. You could see the eye contact building up between the child and the parent. He was with us for six sessions and by the sixth session, the child was actually quiet and engaging, giggling and things with dad. It was great. By that time, mum and dad had been able to come to an agreement for contact to move away from the centre. They had agreed what days dad would have access and things, so we were totally out of the procedure then.
We have had some challenges along the way. Although we may get referrals through solicitors and social workers, it's dependent on the parents engaging with us. Conflict between mum and dad can mean that children are reluctant and we're really trying to start things from scratch. All of the contacts have been supervised, so we have a member of staff in while that contact is taking place. We would never force a child into a contact session. All we can do is to encourage them. Sometimes we take the child and mum into the room where the contact is happening, let mum leave and bring dad in, so we're not actually taking the child away from either parent, and that has really worked.
We have made a positive impact on the families who have used the contact centre. They have really benefited from it."
You can hear some of the feedback Relationships Scotland has received here:
Find out more about all of the dads' groups funded by Cattanach here: