What is the role for child and family services in improving father engagement? Translating research into practice
BACKGROUND: Fathers are underrepresented in services focused on improving child and family well-being. Despite growing awareness of benefits to father engagement in the last two decades, no significant improvements in this area have been documented. Evidence shows that father engagement is greatly influenced by organizational service provision. However, the understanding of specific service-level factors that impact father engagement is limited, and further information on strategies to overcome barriers to father engagement in services is required. AIMS: This research project had two objectives. The first was to synthesise existing research on service-level barriers and facilitators to father engagement in child and family services. The second objective was to identify the key factors that help or hinder the organizational implementation of Father-Inclusive Practice. METHODS: A systematic review of 23 qualitative studies reporting on barriers and facilitators to father engagement was conducted to distil the key elements of service provision that impact father engagement. An empirical study used Delphi methodology to gather expert opinion on strategic priorities for implementation of Father-Inclusive Practice. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Father engagement in child and family services was found to be influenced by seven key themes that encompassed a mixture of individual practitioner competence and organizational characteristics. Furthermore, the experts agreed that implementation of father-inclusive practice was more likely to be successful if it is centrally prioritized, encouraged by the service leadership, embedded in policies and staff guidance, and encouraged by government and commissioning agencies. Results highlight the areas of service functioning that should be prioritized in order to create more father-inclusive service environments and emphasize the need for tailored implementation strategies.