Fathering, Child Protection and MBC programs

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1 Research Program: Safety and Accountability in Families Evidence and Research (SAFER) Researching An Integrated Response to Family Violence in Victoria Fathering, Child Protection and MBC programs Dr Joanie Smith Professor Cathy Humphreys, Dr Chris Laming -0-

2 Experiences of Consequences, Accountability and Responsibility by Men for their Violence Against Women and their Children Nested research project as part of the ARC Linkage project (No LP ) Family Violence Reform: Using knowledge to develop and integrate policy and practice or The Safer Project. This research sought to hear the voices of men and women and workers and how they experienced men s accountability for their violence within an enhanced framework for service delivery. -1-

3 Methodology Semi structured interviews at two points of time: Ten couples, still living with or involved with their partners. A further five women (still with their partners) Ten more men were interviewed but not their partners four of these men were no longer with their partners. Triangulation with worker interviews provided additional verification of participants narratives. In total 69 semi-structured interviews -2-

4 Children, Responsibility and Remorse Almost all of the men (18/20) spoke with some remorse about their violence and its impact on their children and showed some responsibility for the impact of their violence Seeing my son s face when I hit her I knew it wasn t right didn t feel like a man, felt soulless (Desmond Interview 1/2). -3-

5 Understanding of Impacts Most participants demonstrated at least limited understanding of the harm caused to their children from witnessing their father s violence: Well they wouldn t be scared of me for starters. You can see, the eight year old boy, he will flinch and that breaks my heart, don t worry about that (Andrew Interview 1/2). He stills remembers. It lasted a long time, [for him] the memory of that night and I learnt a lesson for how children take on responsibility for an issue and it can be very damaging (Mitch Interview 1/2). -4-

6 Responsibility Where men have been able to acknowledge the impact of that violence on their children, they were more ready and more able to accept responsibility for that violence.. I can still see his face. I don t want my kid to be sacred of me I don t want anyone to be scared of me (Andrew Interview 1/2). -5-

7 Motivation to Change All but four of the men (16/20), talked about how their children impacted on their motivation for change and wanting to be a better parent, relating a more specific understanding of their parental role: We ve had one [argument] since we reconciled things. Um the first thing was, where are the kids? If were going do this; where are the kids? (Andrew Interview 1/2). Yeah, it's about choices. It's just like, if I want to do this to better myself, and if I can do that I'm going to benefit my kids (Dale interview 2/2). -6-

8 Worker input MBC program workers concurred with the impact of children on the men in the group: Definitely children. Separation from children and supervised access. The feeling that they are regarded as being unsafe with their own children (Worker Interview 4). -7-

9 Men and Child Protection Men s relationship with CP was almost universally adversarial. The men saw child protection as an impersonal agency holding power over them, which was used unjustly and unfairly. Used child protection involvement to create alliances with their partner against child protection. -8-

10 Perceptions of Victimisation and Powerlessness Where child protection was involved, the men almost universally saw them as the enemy with an us and them approach to their interaction: They came to the hospital. There was about five of them against me and my partner. That's how you see it, them against you? (Interviewer) Oh, they've always been against me from day one (Brian Interview 1/2). -9-

11 Links between CP and MBC programs Seven of the ten men who came to MBC via child protection identified this consequence as the reason they stayed. Access and retention at MBC programs was created via the child protection referral Adversarial nature of this relationship created resistance to engaging in the change process -10-

12 Links between CP and MBC programs Child protection was used by the men in MBCP to obfuscate responsibility and reinforce constructions of victimisation. Denial and minimisation facilitated by: inconsistent responses, time delays staff shortages, Impacted on effectiveness of CP as an accountability mechanism. -11-

13 Men Child Protection and MBC Programs No evidence of feedback loops between MBC programs and child protection. Linkages not evident to participants. Need to make any cooperative relationship between the two services a significant and visible part of the accountability process. -12-

14 Women and Child Protection Women did not feel supported by CP in their efforts to protect their children and support their partners behaviour change. CP involvement was often a catalyst for the women to leave or demand he do something about his violence. For some women the risk of losing their children strengthened their resolve to not tolerate his violence. Yet the women did not see CP as an ally in this process. -13-

15 Women and Child Protection Lost opportunities to create alliances with women faced with the possibility of losing their children. Protecting children and supporting women s efforts to keep their families intact and free from violence is an ongoing challenge for practitioners. -14-

16 Women and Child Protection Men feeling victimised: Inconsistent responses, lengthy delays in responses from CP workers, repeated adjournment of court cases Used by the men to strengthen their membership categorisation with their partners against child protection. -15-

17 Children Protection, MBC Programs and Fathering Children Protection, MBC Programs and Fathering Children and fatherhood were important concepts for men. Children were a significant informal compulsion to attend MBC programs. Children were also a strong motivator for women to demand an end to his violence, yet few women felt supported by child protection in this endeavour. Protecting children and supporting women living with violence are difficult concepts (L Radford, Blacklock, & Iwi, 2006) which can be seen as mutually exclusive (Farmer, 2006). -16-

18 Children Protection, MBC Programs and Fathering Further research is needed to explore how, or if, the interaction between the two formal consequences (MBC programs and CP) holds men accountable, and supports women s efforts to protect their children. If supporting women creates greater accountability for men, how can child protection strengthen this process? The way MBC programs manage fathering as a behaviour change is an important focus for future -17-

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