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November 2006Vol. 7, No. 8Fathers in Family Group Conferencing

While Family Group Conferencing (FGC) seeks to involve all members of a child's family in making decisions about the child, fathers and other paternal relatives may not be as actively engaged in the process as maternal relatives. A recent article in Protecting Children discusses some of the reasons that fathers might be overlooked or even prevented from participating in the FGC process and suggests some ways of increasing attendance by fathers and paternal relatives.

Traditional child welfare practice may focus on the role of the mother and maternal relatives in the child's life, viewing the father as transient or uninvolved. In some cases, mothers may not want the father included in decisions about the child or may not provide child welfare workers with contact information for paternal relatives. However, research on fatherhood has shown the importance of fathers to children's well-being.

FGC coordinators who attempt to engage fathers may run into a number of barriers, many of which can be addressed in conversations or activities that take place before the family conference. These might include:

  • Addressing a mother's misgivings or a child's expectations in conversations before the conference
  • Exploring cultural norms that may preclude men from participating fully
  • Drawing a child's family tree to get a full picture of the family composition before extending invitations to family members for a conference
  • Modeling respectful and open communication that is inclusive of male relatives
  • Affirming the father and paternal relatives for the roles they have already played

Actively engaging fathers in the decision-making process about their children increases the support available to children and may provide opportunities for children to have better relationships with their fathers and paternal relatives and expand their permanency options.

The full article, "The Business of Engaging Fathers (and Other Male Relatives) in the FGC Process," by J. Schmid, appeared in Protecting Children, Volume 21(1); the journal can be purchased on the American Humane website: