The FNS Understanding Dad training is transforming organisations across Scotland as services embrace the win-win from involving fathers. Senior trainer CHRIS MIEZITIS hears how it worked for Janie Tydeman of Home Start, Glenrothes.
“Attending the Understanding Dad training has hugely changed our practice – and in a very good way," says Janie Tydeman, senior family support and volunteer coordinator at Home Start in Glenrothes, Fife.
"A lot of the mums we have worked with have had very negative experiences with men - domestic abuse and so on - which is real and is bad. But I had lost sight of all the positives there are with men being involved with their children."
"We work in a female-dominated culture - family work, social work, health visiting, midwifery, nurseries and primary schools – and I think men get a bad press within these services and I had gone along with it.
Going to an initial Where’s Dad seminar really challenged my thinking – but it was going to the Understanding Dad training that changed me and my practice.”
Small Changes with Big Impact
Home-Start is one of the leading family support charities in the UK. Home-Start volunteers help families with young children deal with the challenges they face. They support parents as they learn to cope, improve their confidence and build better lives for their children.
“Since Understanding Dad we’ve made some small changes to our practice that have had a big impact," says Janie, who has been with the organisation for 17 years. "For instance we used to always address any letters to the mum. Now, if we know that there’s a dad at home, we address letters to both mum and dad. Since doing this dads will usually be there for the initial visit. Prior to this change they assumed they weren’t invited to it so stayed out of the room.
Now we’ve got a dads’ badminton group, and we’ve run dads’ cookery groups. Every now and then we write to all the dads and invite them to the badminton, cooking and any of our other groups. So although they don’t all come, we are helping them to feel included.”
Impact on Dads
“Individually we see major changes in some of our dads. One single dad with three daughters has managed to lose two and a half stone since coming to the cookery group. He has told us that his children get freshly cooked food every single night, and that he loves cooking and would now love to learn how to bake!
"Another dad is mum’s carer, and had been quite socially isolated. By coming to our groups he not only benefits from the social contact, but also from some male company. We are also involving dads in upskilling and learning opportunities: dads are obtaining Health & Hygiene certificates through us. We now have one dad who is helping out and leading other groups.”
Impact on Service
“We’ve always run informal drop-ins for our parents – they’re a really important part of our service – but previously we had no dads attending; it was always just mums. Now, we have a regular group of around eight parents, four of them dads who always come along.
"One of the dads attends instead of mum – whereas before he never came at all! He enjoys the conversation and mum gets some time to herself. This is entirely because we sent out letters with dad’s name on it.”
Impact on Partner and Children
“In some cases dad’s participation has given the partner a bit of a break. Dads are also telling us that they are more involved at home with things like cooking, taking some of the pressure off mum. They tell us they feel more confident and relaxed, even about something seemingly simple like playing with the children.
"Most of our dads find engaging with services difficult in general. Our hope is that as they engage with us, then they become more used to this type of environment and so will be more involved in nursery and school.”
A Win-win for Families
“When I first started at Home Start, 17 years ago, you just got the mum and the kids. Now it’s great to see whole families together, all working with us. Our next step is to recruit more male volunteers.
None of this would have happened before we did the Understanding Dad training!”