This protocol details plans for a feasibility study evaluating the Southwark Fathers Group, delivered by parenting practitioners in Southwark’s Family Early Help Service. The Group aims to offer support for fathers, to encourage them to be more involved in their child’s life and in plans made as a result of children’s social care (CSC) involvement, ultimately improving outcomes for children. We have commissioned the Anna Freud Centre to conduct this study.
Social care services have been placing significant importance on getting fathers to engage with children, however often men are not sufficiently included in care plans. Fathers with social care involvement may need support to develop their relationship with their child, particularly in relation to co-parenting. Although interventions exist to support co-parenting and the mother-child relationship, there is a limited evidence-base informing the delivery of support services specifically for fathers. Southwark has a high number of single fathers, and the Southwark Fathers Group creates a space for male carers to connect with others to talk about their parenting concerns and achievements, while also learning about child development, and parenting techniques which focus on positive relationship management and conflict resolution.
The intervention consists of ten weekly sessions which include peer-support and information aimed at improving fathers’ relationship with their child. During the study, parents invited to three cohorts of the Southwark Fathers Group will be exclusively male carers of children aged 4 to 12 with a social worker in this local authority. Each Group is attended by approximately 20 fathers, although numbers vary slightly per cohort. Fathers will be referred to the Group via existing pathways in Southwark CSC. All those who accept taking part in the Fathers Group intervention during one of the three cohorts starting September 2023, January 2024, and spring/summer 2024, are eligible to the study.
This feasibility study aims to determine the feasibility parameters and conduct the preparatory steps necessary to pave the way for a full-scale trial of this intervention. The overarching research questions are as follows:
- Is a full-scale evaluation of the Fathers Group feasible with a high degree of rigour?
- What are the necessary processes for implementing the Fathers Group in CSC?
Data collection will run between September 2023 and October 2024. Reporting of findings is planned for February 2025.