Engaging fathers in child welfare services: A narrative review of recent research evidence

Nina Maxwell, Jonathan Scourfield, Brid Featherstone, Sally Holland, Richard Tolman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Citations (Scopus)


It is widely recognized as problematic that there are generally low levels of engagement with child welfare services from biological and social fathers. The result can be limited resources for children's care and potentially poor risk assessment and management. This paper reviews the published research from 2000 to 2010 about the barriers to and facilitators of better father engagement, as well as the very limited evidence on the effectiveness of work with maltreating fathers. There is relatively little known about what works in engaging men, but there are some promising indicators from family support and child protection practice contexts. These include early identification and early involvement of fathers; a proactive approach, including an insistence on men's involvement with services; and the use of practical activities. In the light of what is known about the characteristics of maltreating fathers, there is a logical fit with cognitive-behavioural approaches. Although there is no direct evidence of the effectiveness of motivational interviewing in this context, its effectiveness in allied fields of practice would suggest that it may hold some promise for the initial engagement of fathers who pose a risk to children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-169
Number of pages10
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number2
Early online date8 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012
Externally publishedYes


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