Caring Dads is led by Kids First, in partnership with ReGen, Anglicare Victoria & IPC Health.

About Us

About Caring Dads

In Victoria, the three year trial of Caring Dads is being funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and Gandel Philanthropy.

The Caring Dads trial is being run across three sites in North East Melbourne (Kids First and UnitingCare ReGen), Inner West Melbourne (Anglicare and IPC Health) and Inner Gippsland (Anglicare). An independent evaluation is being undertaken by the University of Melbourne in conjunction with the University of Toronto.

Caring Dads is a Canadian intervention program for fathers (including biological and step fathers) who have neglected or physically and/or emotionally abused their children, exposed their children to family violence or are deemed high-risk for these behaviours.

The program consists of a 17-week, empirically-based, manualised group intervention for fathers alongside contact with mothers in an effort to ensure safety and freedom from coercion. It also involves ongoing collaborative work with referrers and with other professionals involved with men’s families.

The group component of Caring Dads combines elements of parenting, fathering, family violence and child protection practice to enhance the safety and well-being of children. Program principles emphasise the need to enhance men’s motivation, promote child-centred fathering, address men’s ability to engage in respectful, non-abusive co-parenting with children’s mothers, recognise that children’s experience of trauma will impact the rate of possible change, and work collaboratively with other service providers to ensure that children benefit (and are not unintentionally harmed) as a result of father’s participation in intervention.

Catchment Areas

North East: Whittlesea, Nillumbik, Darebin, Banyule, Yarra LGA’s
Inner West: Wyndham, Moonee Valley, Maribyrnong, Hobsons Bay, Melbourne LGA’s
Inner Gippsland: Latrobe City, Baw Baw, Bass Coast, South Gippsland Shires

Caring Dads Development and Evaluation

Caring Dads was developed in Canada by Katreena Scott, Ph.D. C. Psych., Claire Crooks, Ph.D. C. Psych., Tim Kelly, Executive Director of Changing Ways, and Karen Francis, Ph.D. C. Psych in collaboration with Canadian child protective services, family violence intervention programs, children’s mental health agencies, women’s advocates, centres for children and families involved in the justice system, family resource agencies and probation and parole services.

The University-community partnership at the heart of this program means Caring Dads is based on a solid foundation of both theory and practice.

An independent evaluation of this program is being undertaken by the University of Melbourne in conjunction with the University of Toronto. The aim of the evaluation is to build an evidence base for the effectiveness of the Caring Dads program, both in the Victorian service delivery system and within the broader Australian context. This will be achieved by:

  • Measuring the outputs and outcomes associated with the Caring Dads program at three Victorian sites;
  • Identifying how the Caring Dads program fits within the Victorian service delivery system;

Exploring the adaptation needs of the Caring Dads program for an Australian audience. A report on the first year of the program is due in late 2018.

CaringDads Interim Report (December 2017)

Program Goals and Activities

The 17-week group component of Caring Dads uses a combination of motivation enhancement, parent education (including skills training and behavioural practice) and cognitive behavioural therapy to improve men’s recognition and prioritisation of child needs, understanding of developmental stages, respect and support for children’s relationships with their mothers, listening and using praise, empathy for children’s experiences of maltreatment and to identify and counter the distortions underlying men’s past, and potentially ongoing, abuse of their children and/or children’s mothers. A typical group runs for 2 hours, once a week. Groups are co-led by at least two facilitators with knowledge and experience in child development and parenting, working with men who present with resistance and with a clear understanding of the dynamics of family violence.


Specific program goals and activities are summarised in the following table and described in more detail below.

Goals, strategies, activities and indicators of successful outcome
GoalDominant Therapeutic StrategicsSample ActivitiesPreferred Outcome
1. To develop sufficient trust to engage men in the process of examining their fathering
  • Motivational interviewing;
  • Supportive stance;
  • Building group cohesion.
  • Genograms for each family;
  • Reflecting on fathers’ own experiences of being parented;
  • Goal setting.
  • Consistent and punctual attendance;
  • Completion of early homework assignments;
  • Less overt hostility;
  • Goals that are focused on fathers’ behaviour, not children’s or mothers.
2. To increase men’s awareness of child-centred fathering
  • Psychoeducational
  • Behavioural (homework)
  • Family systems (indirectly) – getting dads and kids to interact in new ways
  • “How well do you know your child” quiz;
  • Nurturing wheel;
  • Developmental stages.
  • Move away from focus on abuse as a dichotomous outcome;
  • Embrace goal of increasing child-centred parenting.
3. To increase men’s awareness of, and responsibility for, abusive and neglectful fathering, including family violence
  • CBT framework;
  • Direct challenging and confrontation to take responsibility for own behaviour;
  • Integrating skills to apply in a variety of situations.
  • Discuss child abuse wheel;
  • Analyse video clips;
  • Facilitated brainstorm of child abuse definition;
  • CBT deconstruction of incidents.
  • Increasing ability to differentiate between thoughts and feelings;
  • Analysis of incidents shifts away from focus on controlling child to controlling themselves;
  • Group members question each other’s motivations and perceptions of an event and provide feedback.
4. To help men appreciate the impact of their behaviour and to plan for the future
  • Shame work;
  • Increase awareness and decrease mistrust of other helping professionals and community resources.
  • Supportive disclosure;
  • Guest speaker to describe programs;
  • Brochures, information.
  • Can take responsibility for past behaviour without being overwhelmed by shame;
  • Link to other community services.

Funded by: