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Understanding men’s perspectives on encounters with the child protection system

Researchers: Professor Marian Brandon

Project overview

Engaging effectively with fathers is not currently a core part of social work practice. Consequently, assessments may not accurately reflect men as either a risk or a resource for children they care for, potentially endangering children and excluding men. To date, this problem has been investigated mostly from the viewpoint of professionals rather than men.

This project investigated the encounter between the child’s birth father, or mother’s current male partner, and the child protection system, focusing on the the perspective of the men. Thirty five men across three local authorities were followed up over a period of a year. The study followed the men in real time and captured critical moments in the child protection process and the lives of the men. To contextualise these findings, an analysis of 150 case files in the same local authorities was also undertaken to identify the nature of the involvement of men during the child protection process.

The study identifies the possible benefits, for fathers and their children, of better engagement with men during the child protection process. It sets out how ‘gendered’ expectations may provide fathers with different constraints and opportunities and that understanding these and the lives of men is important in improving their engagement during child protection and their agency and ability to be effective fathers.


  • Professor Marian Brandon
    University of East Anglia

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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