Understanding the scale, pattern and dynamics of birth fathers' recurrent appearance in care proceedings

What are the challenges for fathers' rehabilitation and better life chances?  

Fathers have legal party status in approximately 70% of care proceedings (Section 31) each year, this is a sizeable population, about whom we know very little. This ambitious mixed-methods project is designed to fill this important evidence gap and provide a much more complete picture of the characteristics of father figures (including birth and step fathers and partners to birth mothers) involved in recurrent care proceedings, as well as the impact of first and recurrent care proceedings on the fathers involved.

The project brings together two research teams currently working on Nuffield-funded projects and will build on these projects – Understanding men’s perspectives on encounters with the child protection system and Vulnerable birth mothers and recurrent care proceedings. It will answer key questions around the scale and pattern of fathers’ repeat appearances in s.31 proceedings, the profile and characteristics of these fathers, and how these patterns have changed over a ten year period. It will also provide evidence on the rehabilitative challenges that fathers face and present, and seek to assess how life dynamics and service provision factors might disrupt repeat removals of children.

The study will involve analysis of an extract of Cafcass data on care proceedings, a nationally representative survey of fathers involved in first or repeated care proceedings, and a qualitative longitudinal study of 30-35 fathers involved in recurrent care proceedings.

The finding have potential to produce important lessons for practice, informing improvements to rehabilitative services and reducing the number of fathers who repeatedly have children taken into care and improving the chances that children will be able to live with or contact with their father.