“The Government values the role of dads, understanding that fathers want to be more actively involved in bringing up their children and that more and more men are doing so.”
We have even had an approach from a Government Department asking for help engaging with fathers across the country. It really does seem that the world has gone a bit Dad.
And we’ve been fortunate to have had time to spend a couple of days catching up with some of the great grassroots projects for dads around the country and have decided to publish, for the first time, a list of some of our favourite dads projects (in no particular order).
NB: Click on the project name for more information about each project
There are surprisingly few grassroots projects dedicated to new dads that we are aware of (and if you know of any please let us know). One new and emerging project is DaddyNatal set up – as the best projects often are – by a dad who felt that existing services didn’t provide him with the support he needed as a new dad and so set about improving the service himself.
DaddyNatal offers antenatal classes (for men only), New Dads classes (for Dads & Baby only) and Study Days for professionals working with dads.
Since writing this post we’ve also come across a new project for dads with post natal depression – based in Wales and called Fathers Reaching Out.
One of our favourite young fathers initiatives at the moment is Young Dads TV which is an online social media project – created by young dads for young dads – with the flexibility to be delivered at grassroots level. After winning the Nominet Award in 2011 Young Dads TV has got 2012 off to a flying start with the launch of Newbury Young Dads TV in West Berkshire.
Other Young Dads projects around the UK include the Dads Matter Too training programme, Young Fathers Network in North Devon; The Young Fathers Project in Northern Ireland; The Young Fathers Initiative and The Daddy Cool Project!
We’re also big fans of the St Michael Fellowship that provides 1-2-1 support, group work and a young dads and kids gardening club called Father Nature.
One of the most exciting trends it the world of dads is the emergence of peer-led social groups operating at a local level. As more and more dads share the care of their children pre-school, fathers are finding existing services don’t meet their needs and forming their own groups and creating their own support networks.
Just a few examples are our personal favourites from our neighbouring seaside town – Worthing Dads – which works in partnership with local children’s centres to provide a manageable entry point and then operates activities independently.
It’s an astonishing fact that there are around 27,000 church-based play groups for parents and their children and like most play groups there aren’t many dads using them. With this in mind a weekend playgroup just for dads and kids called Who Let The Dads Out set up at Hoole Baptist Church in Chester in 2003 and the idea has now spread to more than 40 churches.
A new group just at the beginning of what could be a similar journey is Fathers Outreach which has been set up by Tom Jones a Salvation Army dad with personal experience of family breakdown. Disappointed at the level of support he got from the church as a separated father, Tom has set up Fathers Outreach to work with fathers through the Salvation Army starting with a 2012 pilot project in Romford, Essex.
There are also many child contact centres based in churches which are accessed by fathers all over the country.
Check out “Dangerous Dads” run by Totnes Children’s Centre who run activities like rocket building, campfires and storytelling, muddy nature days etc. Also promoting active fatherhood is Derby-based Dedicated Active Dads.
Also we’ve only recently discovered Days Out With Dad which is run by dads in South Herefordshire and looks like a fantastic group. Have a look at the Days Out With Dad website to see what they’re up to.
We’re big fans of our friends at SuperDads In Brighton & Hove. Run by Alistair Mayor SuperDads facilitates dads’ groups in primary schools which both promote the quality of dads’ involvement with their children and helps engage them with the school. The initial point of contact is a 6 week course and many of the groups continue to flourish independently as either informal support networks or formal groups.
Brighton & Hove Library’s Dads’ Baby Boogie has been one of our favourite projects for some time as it demonstrates that dads will engage with services if you give them a great service AND if you have a motivated and passionate leader like the wonderful Norah Carr.
Dads’ Baby Boogie is a sing-along sessions for dads with children under five which runs monthly and attracts as many as 100 dads plus children on a busy month.
Staying with a musical theme a new project launched in Scotland this weekend called Dads Rock which is a musical playgroup just for dads and kids. You can find Dads Rock on Facebook or listed on the Fathers Network Scotland site.
There aren’t many services specifically for single dads but there are a couple of initiatives worth looking at including Dads House run by the passionate Billy McCranaghan who says he wants to see single fathers given the same degree of support as is available for single mothers in the UK.
Additionally the Lone Fathers Project in Scotland has a focus on improving the parenting skills of lone fathers who need support in that area.
There appears to be very little father work being done with dads who are homeless but Orbit Housing is running a pilot project with support Bristol fathers and families at risk of becoming homeless. If you know of other initiatives please let us know.
DADS IN PRISON
We love Storybook Dads a charity that helps dads in prison record bedtime stories for their children and would love to see much more work being done with dads in prison.
We haven’t connected with this group yet but we’d like to flag up the Black Fathers Support Group in London.
We have met several gay dads over the years but have yet to make contact with groups working specifically with gay dads -though online you can find Gay Dads UK, Gay Dad Support, Gay Dads Scotland and Stonewall’s Guide for Gay Dads.
We’ve always been impressed by the Centre For Separated Families as an organisation that has a real commitment to helping the whole family – including dads. The longet-standing separated dads group is Families Need Fathers (FNF) which has volunteer support groups across the country.
Recently, FNF Cymru (Wales) has asserted itself as a new kind of FNF group looking to provide a much broader ranger of services and outcomes including father involvement projects, greater legal support and partnerships with women’s organisations to help mums and dads who have child contact issues because of domestic violence.
There are numerous father’s rights campaign groups in the UK with the controversial Fathers-4-Justice inspiring the formation of a number of smaller groups. As well as campaigning, the original Fathers-4-Justice group also provides some advice and support through written guides and online support groups.
WE’RE KEEN TO HEAR ABOUT ANY GROUPS WORKING WITH DADS SO IF THERE’S A GROUP YOU THINK WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PLEASE EMAIL OFFICE@THEMENSNETWORK.ORG.UK.