Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre

FaHCSIA: Guide To Engaging Fathers in Child and Family Health Services

FaHCSIA This paper describes father participation in selected Stronger Families and Communities Strategy (SFCS) 2004–2009 programs and services which explores fathers' engagement with child and family services.

"Services that were most successful at engaging with fathers were specifically tailored for men and were exclusive to fathers..."
The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy (SFCS) 2004-2009 is an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA). 

The overarching aims of the SFCS are to help families and communities build better futures for children; build family and community capacity; support relationships between families and the communities they live in; and improve communities' ability to help themselves.
There is a strong sense in the literature that fathering practices have undergone significant changes in recent times. 

'Involved' fathering, where men participate more directly and equitably in child rearing, rather than from 'arm's-length' or through their financial contributions, has emerged as a social ideal. Research also indicates that involved fathering, and the harmonious and cohesive family environment that often goes along with it, has positive benefits for child wellbeing. These factors have focused attention on the role of child and family services in supporting and promoting father involvement, by understanding the obstacles that fathers face accessing services, as well as good practice in engagement and service provision.
As part of the themed study component of the national evaluation of the SFCS, this report explores fathers' engagement with child and family services.
This study describes father participation in selected SFCS programs and services and identifies successful strategies for engaging with fathers. The research employed a mixed methodology: a survey of SFCS program managers on father engagement and in-depth fieldwork with a sample of selected services and programs. Service managers and facilitators participated in one-on-one interviews, and focus groups were held with father participants. 

Key findings 

In the context of the emergence of involved fathering as a social value, and in light of research indicating the positive outcomes for children associated with father involvement, family and child-centred services are called upon to include a greater focus on fathers in their activities. The study found:
  • fathers were involved in a diverse range of services, programs and activities across the SFCS, although their level of participation was far lower than that of mothers
  • there were a number of sociocultural, service and other factors that acted as barriers to fathers' access to services and vice versa
  • by their very nature, services that were most successful at engaging with fathers were specifically tailored for men and were exclusive to fathers.
While service providers acknowledged ongoing challenges in engagement, they had put in place strategies to improve father participation. These included:
  • introducing flexible hours of operation
  • employing male facilitators
  • developing father-specific services
  • marketing services to men in male spaces
  • using male-friendly language and advertisements
  • creating service venues where men felt comfortable.
Fathers and professionals shared the view that positive father engagement is most likely in situations where the facilitator is male and a father himself, is liked and trusted, and creates dialogue by sharing personal experiences. Conversely, fathers were alienated by experts and a highly structured program format, and preferred informal, peer discussions and 'hands-on' program activities.
The professionals who participated in the research demonstrated a well-developed understanding of the benefits of father involvement, were keen to engage with fathers and were often enthusiastic and passionate about working with men and fathers. Finally, contact with services and programs was a positive and valued experience for those fathers who participated in the research, in terms of knowledge and skill development, relationships with children and partners, connecting with other fathers and the community more broadly, as well as for resolving personal issues.

Resources Available 

Contact Information

FaHCSIA Contact

Tuggeranong Office Park 
Soward Way (cnr Athllon Drive) Greenway, Australian Capital Territory 2900
Telephone: 1300 653 227


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