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Caring Dads: Safer Children

Helping violent fathers stop their domestic abuse and understand how their children are affected

The NSPCC Caring Dads: Safer Children programme protects children through working with fathers who are violent to their partners.

It helps these fathers:

  • stop their abuse
  • recognise the impact their behaviour has on their children
  • improve their parenting.

Protecting children from the effects of domestic abuse

Children can be deeply traumatised by witnessing violence between their parents or carers, even if they do not suffer violence directly.

Violent dads often spend time with their children, even if they no longer live with them.

Serious Case Reviews often highlight the need for a better understanding of the risks angry and violent dads can pose to children, particularly after a parent's break-up.

Working directly with fathers and families

Caring Dads: Safer Children helps protect children by working with violent fathers to stop their abuse.

The NSPCC works with dads in small groups to improve their parenting skills and to help them understand how their violent behaviour has affected their children.

The programme is working with 100 fathers for a two year period in four locations:

All the fathers are in contact with their children, even if they are separated from the child's mother. They have all said they want to change their violent behaviour.

Convicted men normally must have undertaken a relevant course to address their violence before they join the programme.

Gary's* story: learning how to deal with anger

Gary*, a father of three from County Antrim, was referred to the NSPCC's Caring Dads: Safer Children programme as a result of his domestically abusive behaviour.

Gary describes his experience of attending the 17 week group work programme:

"When I got angry my mind just went blank. In the house I was punching walls and hitting things and my wife didn’t want it around the children. She rang the police, who contacted social services and they referred me on to NSPCC.

"I wasn’t sure about the NSPCC Caring Dads programme at the start. I thought it was just bringing more outsiders into our family’s problems - the problems I was causing. But when I met the team and they explained what we would be doing, I felt happier to be involved.

"The programme isn't just about you, it involves the whole family. It allows the children to get their feelings out, so they're not holding anything back. My big fear was that the children would think it was an ok way to behave.

"It's group work rather than one-to-one, so you have other people telling their stories and how they've reacted in various situations. You listen and think "why did they do that" but you know you can't judge because you've done it yourself. As the group sessions go on you gain an understanding of how to deal with issues better.

"I'd noticed my oldest child, who is 17, starting to behave the way I was - he thought it was acceptable. I'm now trying to get it into his head that the way I was behaving was so wrong.

"My other children were also scared to come near me for a long time. I couldn't tell what would set me off - I had no control.

"The children love it now. I'm back at home and they know there'll be no arguments or damage to the house. I have a big smile on my face when they come in from school. I sit and help them do homework, take them to do things they're interested in - football, ballet or whatever it is this week.

"I've had problems for years and have been getting help from different places but nothing was changing. This really worked for me.

"There's no one lecturing - it's about talking to other people and working it out for yourself. I had to change for my partner and for my children's sake. They needed to know that how I reacted wasn't right, and that they shouldn't follow suit.

"I'd say to anyone that getting help and understanding how you can change is the only way to make their lives - and yours - better."

* Names have been changed to protect identity.

Developing better services to help more children

Caring Dads: Safer Children aims to ensure children feel safe and happy when in contact with previously violent dads.

It also aims to get dads to acknowledge how their behaviour affects their children and increase their awareness of how to be a good parent.

We will work with the Canadian Caring Dads programme, where this work originated, to share results with other organisations and professionals, so they can develop better services for children who have witnessed domestic abuse.

We aim to roll out this model to other organisations, such as local authorities and voluntary sector organisations, so more children damaged by domestic abuse can enjoy safer, happier relationships with their fathers.

Find out more about our priorities and services

Priorities and programmes
Putting a stop to physical abuse
Contacting NSPCC services
NSPCC in your area
Resources and information on physically abused children for professionals

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Services for professionals

We provide four services, aimed at high risk families, to protect children from physical abuse.

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