• November 2017
  • Vol. 18, No. 8

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Changing Child Welfare Practice to Improve Outcomes for Young Fathers and Children

A recent brief from the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) recommends changes in child welfare practice to improve outcomes for young fathers and their children and families. The report from CSSP's Expectant & Parenting Youth in Foster Care Learning Collective highlights the important role fathers play in a child's life and notes that fathers under the age of 26 who are involved in the child welfare system face significant barriers to assuming fatherhood responsibilities and privileges.

The brief points to the following challenges faced by young fathers:

  • Difficulty in simultaneously navigating the transition to adulthood and learning how to parent
  • Inadequate child welfare resources to support them, their children, and families
  • Lack of information and understanding regarding their needs
  • Insufficient cross-system collaboration to support them and their families

The brief notes that in the 2007-2010 Child and Family Services Reviews, no state agency met the required standards for father assessment, engagement, visitation, or service provision. The brief attributes this to casework overload, limited resources, the difficulty of working with two parents who may not be cohabitating, and the perception that young fathers are not interested in being involved. To address these shortcomings, the brief recommends the following steps:

  • Promote a father-inclusive organizational culture by creating a father-friendly atmosphere through changes to agency forms, materials, and physical spaces (e.g., provide diaper changing tables in men's bathrooms, display positive images of young fathers from diverse backgrounds, recruit male staff).
  • Require the identification of young fathers as early as possible during pregnancy to establish paternity and promote involvement.
  • Create a father-focused practice by issuing guidance that removes barriers to fatherhood engagement and promotes positive father involvement in children's lives.
  • Ensure young fathers have the ability to visit with their children frequently by prioritizing family time.
  • Require the exploration of coparenting for young fathers.
  • Offer father-focused services that are both developmentally and trauma-informed.
  • Require the involvement of incarcerated young fathers in case planning, including facilitating contact and visits with their children.
  • Support young fathers who are domestic violence offenders to reengage with their children, unless it is unsafe for the child or mother.

The brief, Changing Systems & Practice to Improve Outcomes for Young Fathers, Their Children & Their Families, is available at https://www.cssp.org/pages/body/Changing-Systems-Practice-Young-Fathers.pdf (6,760 KB).

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