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

Program overview

Program overview

Caring Dads involves three components: a fathering group, mother contact and collaboration with and referral to support services. More detail about each is provided below.

The main goals of the Caring Dads curriculum are to increase men’s awareness and application of child-centred fathering and to consolidate learning, rebuild trust, and plan for the future. For information about the theory behind the Caring Dads program, see the articles in the Resources section.

Fathering group

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.

Intake and Sessions 1 to 3

Goal: To develop sufficient trust and motivation to engage men in the process of examining their fathering.
Therapeutic strategies: Motivational interviewing to engaging men in examining their fathering, for example:

  • Fathers consider their unique experiences as sons and fathers (e.g., historic, cultural differences) to develop discrepancy between their current and desired relationships with their children and families
  • Men are introduced to the idea that their experience of their father included their father’s treatment of their mother
  • Initial goals for intervention are set between fathers and group facilitators and homework assignments begin

Sessions 4 to 8

Goal: To increase men’s awareness and application of child-centred fathering.
Therapeutic strategies: Parenting education, skills training, role modelling and behavioural practice to develop child-centred fathering

  • Introduction of the parent to child-centred needs continuum and education and application of information on child development and on the impact of abuse, neglect and trauma on children
  • Role modelling and practice in listening to, playing with and reading to children
  • Education and application of information on child development and on the impact of abuse, neglect and trauma on children
  • Emphasis placed on the need for respectful co-parenting with children’s mothers and for supporting the mother-child relationship

Sessions 9 to 14

Goal: To increase men’s awareness of, and responsibility for, abusive and neglectful fathering behaviours and their impact on children.
Therapeutic strategies: Cognitive behavioural therapy to set and track individual goals for change among fathers

  • Identification of specific abusive, unhealthy, parent-centred behaviours that fathers need to change in order to improve their relationships with their children
  • Recognition of the integral connection between the safety and wellbeing of children and their mothers
  • Individual goals set with men in group or in individual meetings. Goals target empirically-supported risk mechanisms for fathers’ mistreatment of their children and/or children’s mothers
  • Men are assigned individualised homework and their progress is tracked and modified as necessary by the group

Sessions 15 to 17

Goal: Consolidating learning, rebuilding trust and planning for the future.
Therapeutic strategies: Increasing help-seeking awareness and trust and working with shame

  • Men are supported in considering the potentially long-term traumatic impact of their past behaviour on their children and/or their children’s mothers and in setting reasonable relationship expectations
  • Support and referral provided for additional services, as necessary
  • Planning for maintenance of gains madeThis component involves contact with mothers, where appropriate, and brief intervention if required to ensure safety and  freedom from coercion.

Mother contact

This component involves contact with mothers, where appropriate, and brief intervention if required to ensure safety and  freedom from coercion.

  • Contact with children’s mothers by the female group facilitators to ensure women are informed about the program
  • Contact with a mother via her professional support instead, if this is more appropriate
  • Collaboration between professionals and with women to anticipate and work to avoid potential unintended negative consequences of men’s involvement in intervention
  • Provision of referral and of safety planning to children’s mothers, as necessary

Collaboration with and referral to support services

This component establishes a clear community-based model for accountability to ensure that child safety and well-being is enhanced as a result of fathers’ involvement in intervention.

  • Open communication between Caring Dads facilitators and other professionals working to ensure the safety and well-being of members of the family
  • Joint meetings and planning in response to ongoing or rising risk presented by father
  • Commitment to working collaboratively to support children

Funded by: