Program Overview

Caring Dads involves three components: a fathering group, mother contact and collaborative case management. 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-centered fathering, and to consolidate learning, rebuild trust, and plan for the future. For information about the theory behind the Caring Dads program, click here.

1. 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 prioritization 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 usually runs for 2 hours, one night a week. There are usually between 10 and 15 men registered in each group. Groups are co-led by male and female facilitators with knowledge and experience in child development and parenting, working with resistant men and with a clear understanding of the dynamics of women abuse.

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


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 modeling and behavioural practice to develop child centered 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 modeling 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, for example:

  • Identification of specific abusive, unhealthy, parent-centered behaviors that fathers need to change in order to improve their relationships with their children
  • Recognition of the integral connection between the safety and well-being of children and their mothers
  • Individual goals set with men in group or in individual meetings. Goals target empirically-supported risk mechanisms for fathers’ maltreatment of their children and/or children’s mothers
  • Men are assigned individualized 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, for example:

  • 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 made

2. Mother contact

This component involving systematic outreach to mothers to ensure safety and freedom from coercion.

  • Contact with children’s mothers by devoted program staff or by those working in partnership to ensure women are informed about the program
  • 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

3. Collaborative case management

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 program 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

Program Benefits

Happy Family

Many fathers are likely to benefit from participation in this program, but especially men whose relationship with their children is problematic. This may include over-controlling, over-involved, distant and/or irresponsible, emotionally abusive fathers or fathers who have hostile, highly conflictual, or abusive relationships with the children's mothers. Men are not eligible for the Caring Dads group if a primary concern is men's perpetration of child sexual abuse. Further screening and final decisions around group suitability are done through a clinical intake interview.

In addition, to be eligible for the program, men must have some regular contact with their children. Within these guidelines, each community sets specific criteria for referral to Caring Dads. Please contact the Caring Dads program in your region for additional information.