Caring Dads: Safer Children: evaluation report Evaluation of a parenting programme helping fathers change their behaviour after domestic abuse

Father and son walking in a parkLiving in a household where there is domestic abuse puts children at risk of physical, emotional and psychological harm. Caring Dads: Safer Children (CDSC) is a group work programme to help improve the parenting behaviour of fathers whose children have experienced living with domestic abuse.

We deliver CDSC in 5 NSPCC centres in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. This report builds on our previous Caring Dads: Safer Children interim evaluation findings. It is part of our Impact and evidence series.

Authors: Nicola McConnell, Matt Barnard, Tracey Holdsworth and Julie Taylor
Published: 2016

The evaluation provides promising evidence that Caring Dads: Safer Children (CDSC) can help to improve the welfare of children who have lived with domestic abuse.

  • Fathers and partners reported fewer incidents of domestic abuse after completing the programme.
  • Risks to children reduced because fathers generally found being a parent less stressful and interacted better with their children after they had attended the programme.
  • Qualitative information provided evidence of how the programme can bring about positive improvements in the fathers' behaviour. For example, some children talked about seeing their father more often and feeling happier and more comfortable around him. However, some fathers did not change sufficiently despite completing the programme.
  • Sustained improvements in the fathers' behaviour helped to increase feelings of safety and wellbeing within their families.

The evaluation provides evidence that CDSC helps practitioners' interventions and decision making about children in need or at risk.

  • CDSC practitioners influenced decisions made about children, either by providing evidence of changes in the father's behaviour or highlighting additional safeguarding concerns.
  • CDSC provided opportunities to explain to a father exactly how he needed to change and also to gain more understanding of the current risk he posed to his family.
  • In nearly half the cases where fathers completed CDSC there was an improvement in their children's circumstances. This included being removed from the child protection register or plan; maintaining positive contact with their father and having more frequent contact; and benefitting from changes in their father's behaviour.
  • Contact with the father’s partner and children and working alongside other agencies involved is essential for the safe delivery of the programme.

An additional report, Caring Dads: Safer Children: learning from delivering the programme, providing practice learning is available.

Definitions 5
Acknowledgements 5
Key findings: young people's version 6
Key findings 7
Executive summary 8
Chapter 1: Background 13
Chapter 2: Evaluation design and methodology 20
Chapter 3: Changes in fathers’ attitudes and behaviour 28
Chapter 4: Changes to family circumstances and wellbeing 52
Chapter 5: Children and partners’ perspectives 59
Chapter 6: Conclusion 73
References 76
Appendices 81

"We're quite a bit more happy and stuff and we don't argue as much … I think it's because he's changing the way he behaves with me because, I don't know, he speaks to me a bit differently like I'm older and he just seems more controlled with his views and stuff."

Please cite as: McConnell, N., Barnard, M., Holdsworth, T. and Taylor, J. (2016) Caring Dads: Safer Children: evaluation report. [London]: NSPCC.

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Caring Dads: Safer Children

Helping fathers see the impact their violent behaviour has on their children and how they can make positive changes for the future.
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