Young fathers project
The Young Fathers Project is a two-year pilot project funded by the Family Policy Unit of the Home Office (now DFES) and nationally managed by the Trust for the Study of Adolescence (TSA). The project will develop, test and evaluate an approach for working with young fathers who are either disengaged or socially excluded. The aim is to enable the young men to be more involved in bringing up their children. The project runs from 2001-2004.
The pilot sites
TSA, working closely with the national organisations Fathers Direct, REU and the Community Education Development Centre (CEDC) has identified organisations to run the programmes locally at five sites across England:
- Birmingham - CEDC
- London - National Newpin
- Newcastle - Children North East
- Norwich - Mancroft Advice Project (MAP)
- Sheffield - Father Figures/Nacro.
The different sites have been selected to enable the project to reach young vulnerable fathers from different ethnic groups in urban and rural communities.
Each site will set up a programme for working with young vulnerable fathers. The aim is to work with over 250 fathers aged under 25, more than 75 of whom will be teenagers. The programmes will help the young fathers address their personal attitudes and behaviour both as men and fathers with the intention of improving their life skills and their practical child care skills. They will also find ways to manage relationships better, particularly those with their child's mother and her family.
Where possible the input will be tailored to the needs of the individual fathers and will consider issues related to being a young man as well as being a parent. The programmes will cover values and attitudes in relation to relationships and parenting, taking responsibility including sexual behaviour, communication skills, decision-making, coping with discrimination, building a child's self-esteem, helping children learn, dealing with conflict without violence and using support.
The programmes consist of semi-structured group-work, one-to-one work with a mentor/group worker and peer support. The sites will ensure that their programmes pay particular attention to meeting the needs of black young men and those from minority ethnic families. The sites will work closely with other programmes and organisations such as Sure Start, local teenage-pregnancy co-ordinators, Youth Offending Teams and Health Visitors to identify young men for the programme. There will be much emphasis on vigorous outreach work to win the confidence of the young men. The programmes will also have an educational role with local professionals to improve how services work with young fathers. The programmes will also work closely with other organisations to enable the young men to access specialist services; for example if legal advice is required or mediation work with the child's mother. Fathers Direct is working with TSA and the project sites in an advisory capacity with particular responsibility for training issues.
Evaluation of the pilot projects
The project is being evaluated by a researcher employed by TSA, who has been appointed at the start of the project. The evaluation aims to capture the hopes, intentions and plans of the five sites before operational reality inevitably causes alterations and adaptations to the programmes and their delivery.
The evaluation will set this pilot project into a national policy context by taking account of its origins in the work of the Family Policy Unit. It will cover the views of the project stakeholders, such as Home Office civil servants, the national project manager within TSA and the organisations delivering the programmes. It will also establish what works for the young fathers themselves, for the mothers of the children and for the children. The evaluation will aim to develop advice and guidelines for the pilot project to be replicated nationally.