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Fatherhood is in the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 27th August 2015

Home -> Articles -> 2015 -> August -> Fatherhood is in the Spotlight

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With Child Protection Week just around the corner, fatherhood is in the spotlight. Child Protection Week, which begins on Father’s day, is an apt opportunity to promote the importance of fathers as active participants and carers in their children’s lives.

It’s often lamented that the responsibility of fathers for the care and wellbeing of children is seldom discussed and rarely highlighted. More often than not mothers are seen as responsible for children’s care provision. In terms of child protection, experts such as David Mandel and Professor Cathy Humphreys are amongst many who speak of the invisibility of fathers in the child protection system with total accountability placed on mothers. They focus largely on the significantly unequal weight put on mothers to protect and nurture with minimal or no expectation of fathers. David Mandel notes this issue to be evident even in cases of domestic violence whereby the mother is expected to protect the children as opposed to professionals seeking the father’s understanding of the impact of his violence on the immediate and long term safety and developmental needs of his children together with his commitment to behavioural change.

In 2013, Dr Michael Kaufman in a report to an international aid organisation entitled: How Save the Children Can Transform the Role of Fathers and Improve the Lives of Children noted that: Creating a world of non-violent, equality-minded, nurturing fathers is critical to meeting the needs of children, securing the rights of the child, supporting maternal health, reducing gender-based and other forms of violence, and transforming the lives of boys and men. Kaufman speaks to the positive life outcomes for children with involved and committed fathers.

The recently released Global State of the World's Fathers Report calls for global policy, societal and service system reform that recognises the importance of gender equity in caring for children. It focuses on international research with regard to men’s participation in care giving, sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal, newborn and child health as well as violence prevention and child development.

This report speaks to the reality that approximately 80 percent of men will become biological fathers in their lifetime and almost all will have a connection to children; albeit through various means, such as: teaching, via family members or as sporting coaches. The participation of men in the daily care of others is deemed to have lasting impacts on children, men and women and the world around them:

Fathers matter. Father–child relationships, in all communities and at all stages of a child’s life, have profound and wide-ranging impacts on children that last a lifetime, whether these relationships are positive, negative, or lacking. Men’s participation as fathers and as caregivers also matters tremendously for women’s lives. And, it positively affects the lives of men themselves.

This report by MenCare, a global fatherhood campaign, released at the United Nations headquarters found that:

  • Involved fatherhood helps children thrive.
  • Involved fatherhood allows women and girls to achieve their full potential – now and in future generations.
  • Involved fatherhood makes men happier and healthier.
  • Men’s involvement in caregiving is increasing in some parts of the world, but nowhere does it equal that of women.
  • Fathers want to spend more time with their children.
  • Men’s participation and support are urgently needed to ensure that all children are wanted children.
  • Engaging men – in ways that women want – early on in pre-natal visits, in childbirth, and immediately after the birth of a child can bring lasting benefits.
  • Promoting fathers’ involvement must include efforts to interrupt the cycle of violence.
  • Children, women, and men benefit when fathers take parental leave.
  • Men’s greater involvement in care work also brings economic benefits.

The recommendations of this report are to:

  1. Create national and international action plans to promote involved, non-violent fatherhood and men’s and boys’ equal sharing of unpaid care work.
  1. Take these action plans and policies into public systems and institutions to enable and promote men’s equal participation in parenting and caregiving.
  1. Institute and implement equal, paid, and non-transferrable parental leave policies in both public and private sectors, as well as other policies that allow women’s equal participation in the labour force and men’s equal participation in unpaid care work.
  1. Gather and analyse data on men’s involvement as fathers and caregivers and generate new evidence from programs and policies.
  1. Achieve a radical transformation in the distribution of care work through programs with men and boys, as well as with women and girls that challenge social norms and promote their positive involvement in the lives of children.
  1. Recognize the diversity of men’s caregiving and support it in all of its forms.

There’s little question of the important role fathers play in their children’s lives. Navigating policy, social and family based decision making about the caring role fathers play is an issue for ongoing discussion and debate in various public and private arenas. With gender role assumptions so focused on the caring role of women as mothers, the role of men as fathers requires focus in order to ensure their responsibilities are of equal significance. In terms of child protection, engaging men at the earliest point possible and ensuring they are on board with the physical, emotional and developmental needs of their children across the whole gamut of requirements is key. When issues arise that need to be addressed the tendency to rely on communication with mothers is one that all across the child protection system need to be cognisant of and challenge because fathers are significant and they matter in the lives and wellbeing of their children.