Caring Dads: Safer Children: learning from delivering a parenting programme What we've learnt from helping fathers change their behaviour after domestic abuse

Father and son walking in a parkCaring Dads: Safer Children (CDSC) is a parenting programme to help fathers change their behaviour to reduce the risk of further harm to their children from domestic abuse. It aims to improve a father's relationships with their children.

This report shares our learning from delivering CDSC in 5 NSPCC centres in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Our findings may be helpful for other organisations interested in the programme. This report is part of our Impact and evidence series.

An accompanying report, Caring Dads: Safer Children: evaluation report, describes the evaluation of outcomes from the programme.

Authors: Nicola McConnell, Richard Cotmore, Diane Hunter and Julie Taylor
Published: 2016


  • The main motivation for fathers to stick with the Caring Dads: Safer Children (CDSC) programme is the focus on parenting and their relationship with their child.
  • Around half the men who attended the first session completed the whole programme. Practitioners were able to identify strategies to help engage fathers who were ambivalent about attending the programme. These included having a non-judgemental attitude and keeping focus on the child's needs to encourage the father to persevere.


  • Establishing good contacts and responding quickly and flexibly to referrals is important to get the programme up and running.
  • Keeping the social worker who has referred a father to CDSC informed helps support safe practice and fathers' engagement. For example, the referring social worker can help provide accurate background during assessment.
  • Around a third of referrals were not assessed as fathers refused or failed to attend the assessment, or the referral was cancelled. This is consistent with programmes similar to CDSC.

Resources and skills

  • Delivering CDSC is complex. Practitioners need the right level of skills and knowledge of domestic abuse and interagency working.
  • Practitioners within the CDSC team spent around a third of their time on face-to-face group work. The rest of the time was needed for work such as referral, assessment, recording, planning and supervision.
  • CDSC is aimed at fathers who have contact with their children and may be living at the family home. This is unusual compared to most other domestic abuse programmes which require the abuser to be no longer living with the family. Practitioners’ suggestions for improvement to the delivery of CDSC included more focus on support for families and the relationship between couples.
Definitions 5
Acknowledgements 6
Key findings: young people's version 7
Key findings 8
Executive summary 10
Chapter 1: Background and method 15
Chapter 2: Resources and skills required to deliver the programme 22
Chapter 3: Referrers and referrals 32
Chapter 4: Programme attrition within CDSC 46
Chapter 5: Programme delivery 56
Chapter 6: Barriers and facilitators 72
Chapter 7: Evaluation of the CDSC programme 84
Chapter 8: Conclusion 93
References 95
Appendices 98

"[I]t's always key to keep the focus that you're working with the child invariably through the father, and if you can help him to behave more appropriately it will be a better outcome then for the child. So no matter what, all the work that we do is child-focused and child-centred."

"[T]hey're very focused on their sons or their daughters and want to see them: 'I want to be the best dad, I want to be a better parent; I know I've done stuff that has upset them or affected them so I want to focus on that'."

Please cite as: McConnell, N. et al. (2016) Caring Dads: Safer Children: learning from delivering the programme. 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.
Caring Dads: Safer Children service

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Related resources

Caring Dads: Safer Children: evaluation report

Findings building on evidence of what works in a programme to change the behaviour of fathers whose children have been exposed to domestic violence. Part of the NSPCC’s Impact and evidence series.
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Evaluation of the Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART) service

What works to reduce the impact of domestic abuse on the relationships between mothers and children. Part of the NSPCC's Impact and evidence series.
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Children and families experiencing domestic violence

Research into the notification process whereby police notify social services of domestic abuse incidents.
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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.
Caring Dads: Safer Children service

Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART™)

Helping children and mothers strengthen their relationship after domestic abuse.
DART - Domestic Abuse Recovering Together service

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