On Tuesday 28th March 2017 a training event for professionals who work with young fathers was held in the Civic Hall in Leeds. This was a pilot based on the outcomes of ‘Responding to Young Fathers in a Different Way‘, an impact project that built directly out of the findings of Following Young Fathers, a research study set up under Bren Neale’s direction and co-directed with Carmen Lau-Clayton. Building from a collaborative model of research with practitioners and with young fathers themselves, the Following Young Fathers research strongly highlighted the importance of thoughtful and engaged practice in the lives of young fathers and also some of the challenges they face, highlighting areas for refining practice.
Based on key findings, the impact initiative involved three interrelated strands of work;
- The development and establishment of the Young Dads Collective (YDC) in Leeds, based on the successful model employed in London. The YDC model recognises that one of the most effective ways to empower young fathers is to engage them as experts by experience, which involves supporting them and training them in advocacy work on behalf of other young fathers. Members of the team (from the YDC and the Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Team In Leeds) have explored the expansion of the work of the Young Dads Collective by rolling out good practice to the north of England. This strand of work has begun to give more effective voices to a wider constituency of young fathers.
- Kate Bulman, a nurse practitioner at Oakhill Secure Training Centre, has been exploring ways in which we might improve continuity of support for vulnerable young offender fathers when they are released back into the community. This is based on the insight from Following Young Fathers that many young men receive support as fathers while in prison but much less support when they return to their communities. Kate has tracked and supported a small group of young fathers who have engaged well with professional support in custody, as they make the transition to resettlement. Some of these young men have also been involved in the work of the YDC.
- This strand of work was a collaborative effort across the group, and the culmination of the professional development work over the course of the year. The aim has been to test out new ways to deliver practitioner training, based on the direct involvement of young fathers themselves, and to consider the feasibility of rolling this training out across the regions of the UK.
One of the great things about the training event is that young dads themselves were at the forefront, giving them both a voice and an audience. The panel of young fathers was especially powerful, allowing the audience to ask questions for providing the opportunity for young fathers to share their views:
Two outputs based on this work were developed and distributed at the event. These are now available as open access resources for practitioners on the Following Young Fathers website and below. The first is an evidence review of the existing literature about support for young fathers. This is currently a fragmented and inaccessible literature for practitioners. The evidence review sought to bring this evidence together in a coherent and accessible format. The second is a report about the outcomes of the Responding to Young Fathers study that each of the project partners has contributed to. The report describes the work we have been doing and draws out key points for consideration in practice.
Tarrant, A. and Neale, B. (2017a) Supporting Young Fathers in Welfare Settings: An evidence review of what matters and what helps, Evidence Report
Tarrant, A. and Neale, B. (2017b) Learning to Support Young Dads, Responding to Young Fathers in a Different Way: Project Report, SYD report final
Responding to Young Fathers in a Different Way was funded by the Leeds Social Sciences Institute at the University Leeds between May 2016 and May 2017.