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June 2018Vol. 19, No. 5Trauma-Informed Approaches for Programs Working With Fathers

A factsheet from the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance, highlights the importance of a trauma-informed approach when engaging fathers and provides background information, tips, and related resources. Many fathers participating in fatherhood programs may have experienced trauma, and the NRFC advises that all programs be trauma informed by following a process of "universal precaution," which assumes all clients may have experienced trauma.

The NRFC factsheet recommends that programs and individuals who work with fathers adopt the following approach:

  • Acknowledge the broad impact of trauma and understand how it can be treated
  • Infuse and standardize a trauma-informed approach in policies, procedures, and practice
  • Understand and recognize the possible signs and symptoms of trauma
  • Acknowledge and address secondary trauma

Additionally, the factsheet points out the following:

  • Three out of five men in the United States have experienced or witnessed at least one traumatic event in their lives, but they may not have sought help.
  • These men may not recognize the symptoms of trauma that can disrupt their lives and relationships (e.g., sleep difficulties, being easily startled,  anger management issues).
  • Men of color and men who have low incomes are more likely to have experienced trauma but less likely to seek help than their White or middle-class peers.
  • Untreated trauma may cause men to engage in substance use or other risky behaviors.
  • A father experiencing the effects of a past trauma is less likely to meet the demands and challenges of parenting.
  • Parental trauma can have long-term negative effects on a child's social and emotional well-being.
  • Individuals may be retraumatized in situations or environments that rekindle feelings from the original experience.

Trauma-Informed Approaches and Awareness for Programs Working With Fathers is available at