Getting Started

If you are interested in starting a Caring Dads program in your area, please review the following materials. In addition, please review the page that outlines what it takes To Be Considered a Caring Dads Program.

Is this program right for you community?

Case Example

John and his partner Amy had been married for 8 years and had two children, Sarah (6 years old) and Steve (4 years old). After the birth of their second child, the relationship between John and Amy started to deteriorate. John felt that Amy was coddling Steve and spoiling him by giving into his every demand. He started undermining Amy’s parenting decisions and making comments about how his son would be better off without her. When Amy argued back, defending her parenting, John became more and more insistent and threatening, and on one occasion, physically abusive in front of their children. John also became increasingly more impatient with both the children and one night, locked Steve out of the house as punishment. The neighbors called the police who, in turn, called child protective services. John was charged with assault against Amy and the family was investigated by child protective services.

It was at this point that the system began to fail Amy, John and their children. When Amy was contacted by child protective services, she was told that John’s parenting was problematic and that, for the moment, she needed to ensure that John did not have any contact with their children. This was difficult for Amy, who felt overwhelmed by John's insistence that he should be able to visit, Steve and Sarah's desire to see their father, and by the demands of taking care of two children by herself. Eventually Amy gave in and allowed John to come back to the house, hiding this information from her child protection worker who she was sure would disapprove. Once John returned to the home, he began to blame Amy for the fact that Sarah and Steve seemed distant from him. The children started to worry about what might happen next and began monitoring all adult conversation for indications of hostility and aggression. Amy felt sure that things were just going to get worse; however, this time she was fearful that if she called the police or child protective services, Sarah and Steve would be placed in foster care. Now she was on her own. John too was feeling more and more desperate as his children seemed to be pulled away from him. He became depressed and started drinking heavily. Amy wasn’t talking to him, his children didn’t want to be with him, and he was on his own too.

The Caring Dads program got started because of cases like that of Amy, Sarah, Steve and John. Once we began to look around at what was happening in our community, we began to realize that there was a significant gap in the services being offered to fathers and that entire families were being affected as a result. Once this idea took hold, we recognized a number of other reasons to offer intervention to fathers, many of which are outlined in the Why this Work is Important section of this website

We also realized that, in order to do this work safely, we had to work together. The lives of high-risk families are complex and any intervention that focused on fathers, without taking into account risk and intervention with men’s family members, had the potential to do more harm than good. Our program principles (link) explore these ideas more fully.

Finally, we recognized that problems with existing practices were only part of the problem. The other part of the problem was that there were simply no models of intervention for fathers that appropriately addressed child abuse and exposure of children to abuse of their mothers. The few programs available to fathers targeted general parenting issues. Men's overcontrolling behavior, sense of entitlement, and self-centered attitudes -all central to their abusive behavior - were not addressed. Existing programs also failed to recognize the overlap between child abuse and abuse of children's mothers, and were not organized to respond appropriately to woman victims. Intervention programs were needed that targeted men's accountability for their past and current abusive behavior and their empathy for, and understanding of, their children. The Program overview section gives more information about the eventual program we developed.

What does it take to get started?

1. Review the program values, principles and program overview. These are all available on the website or in publications listed in the resource section.

2. Ensure that basic services for victims of violence are in place in your community. We began Caring Dads in a community that was already rich in services to address family violence. In London Ontario Canada, we have specifically designated domestic violence courts, whose work is supported by well-trained police services. We have shelter services for women who need to escape from domestic violence, and associated advocacy for women. We also have intervention groups designed for child witnesses of domestic violence and their mothers. Finally, we have services for men who have been abusive towards their partners. It was within this rich community context that Caring Dads was developed and piloted. In many of the communities now running Caring Dads, far fewer services exist, and those that do exist vary in quality and availability. This variation led to debates about when Caring Dads should, and should not be offered. We have decided that, on principle, critical emergency services for victims of violence must come before services for perpetrators. Thus, strong recommend against offering Caring Dads in communities where basic shelter and child protection services are not available.

3. Develop relationships in your community to share what you have learned. We very strongly advise that any agency interested in running Caring Dads do so in collaboration with partners in child protective/safeguarding services, probation services, women’s advocates and fathering groups. Failure to involve these key partners will lead to problems in referral and will make it very difficult to ensure child safety and well-being are prioritized in intervention with fathers. When possible, multi-agency information sharing arrangements and risk management arrangements are desired even before Caring Dads gets started.

4. Contact us for training. Although it is possible to purchase a Caring Dads manual and use it without any training, we do strongly advise that facilitators for the program get trained to do the work. The Caring Dads programs requires a set of facilitation skills that include ability to work with unmotivated men, knowledge of child development and of a range of parenting strategies, sensitivity to woman abuse and its impact on children and mothers’ parenting, and skill in cognitive behavioural therapy. Training helps facilitators appreciate and begin to develop skills in this range of areas as well as raise awareness about the partnerships that might be necessary to ensure strength in the co-facilitation team. We offer basic training in the Caring Dads program facilitator twice a year and advanced training once a year in London Ontario Canada. Alternatively, we can come to your site to train a larger group. See the training section of the website for more details.

5. Stay in touch. Let us know how Caring Dads work is progressing in your area. Find out about new program developments and research initiatives. If you complete training with us, your program will also be listed on this website as a recognized Caring Dads site.

For more information, see the Frequently Asked Questions.