Caring Dads: Helping Fathers Value Their Children
About This Program
Target Population: Fathers (including biological, step, and common-law) who have who have physically abused, emotionally abused, or neglected their children; exposed their children to domestic violence; or who are deemed to be at high-risk for these behaviors
For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 17
The Caring Dads program combines elements of parenting, fathering, and child protection practice to address the needs of maltreating fathers. Program principles emphasize the need to:
- Enhance men’s motivation
- Promote child-centered fathering
- Address men’s ability to engage in respectful, non-abusive co-parenting with children’s mothers
- Recognize that children’s experience of trauma will impact the rate of possible change
- Work collaboratively with other service providers to ensure that children benefit (and are not unintentionally harmed) as a result of father’s participation in intervention
The program uses a combination of motivation enhancement, parent education (including skills training and behavioral practice), and cognitive behavioral therapy to:
- Improve men’s recognition and prioritization of children’s needs
- Improve men’s understanding of developmental stages
- Improve men’s respect and support for children’s relationships with their mothers
- Improve men’s listening and using praise
- Improve men’s empathy for children’s experiences of maltreatment
- Identify and counter the distortions underlying men’s past, and potentially ongoing, abuse of their children and/or children’s mothers
The goals of the Caring Dads: Helping Fathers Value Their Children are:
- Ensure the safety and well-being of children who have been impacted by men’s abuse or neglect, including domestic violence
- Develop sufficient trust and motivation to engage men in the process of examining their fathering
- Increase men's awareness and application of child-centered fathering
- Eliminate fathers’ use of abuse and neglect towards their children and to promote respectful and non-abusive co-parenting with children’s mothers
- Promote men’s appreciation of the impact of their past abuse on their children and family and help men take responsibility for these behaviors
- Provide supportive outreach to children’s mothers to provide information about the program, safety planning, and referral, as necessary
- Work with other professionals to plan for the future safety and well-being of children who have been impacted by abuse, neglect, and/or domestic violence
The essential components of the Caring Dads: Helping Fathers Value Their Children program include:
- Fathering group component
- 17 intervention sessions, 15 in group and 2 individual (weeks 10 and 14)
- 8 to 12 fathers recommended group size
- Motivational interviewing is used to engage men in examining their fathering (3 group sessions and an intake interview):
- Examination of their unique experiences as fathers (e.g., historic, cultural differences) and of being fathered to develop discrepancy between their current and desired relationships with their children and families
- Introduction of the idea that their experience of their father included their father’s treatment of their mother
- Setting of initial goals for intervention between fathers and group facilitators
- Beginning of homework assignments
- Parenting education, skills training, role modeling, and behavioral practice to develop child-centered fathering (6 group sessions):
- Presentation of the parent to child-centered needs continuum to help monitor and shift behaviors towards those meeting child needs
- Education and application of information on child development and on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on children
- Role modeling and practice in listening to, playing with, and reading to children
- Emphasis placed on the need for respectful co-parenting with children’s mothers and for supporting the mother-child relationship
- Cognitive behavioral therapy to set and track individual goals for change among fathers (6 sessions):
- Self-identification of abusive and unhealthy parent-centered behaviors that fathers need to change in order to improve their relationships with their children
- Recognition of the integral connection between the safety and well-being of children and their mothers
- Individual goals set with men in group, or ideally, in individual meetings. Goals target empirically-supported risk mechanisms for fathers’ maltreatment of their children and/or children’s mothers. Such mechanisms include: anger/hostility/overreactivity; family cohesion/coparenting/domestic violence; perceptions of the child as a problem, use of corporal punishment, harsh discipline and other aversive parenting behaviors, overall quality of parent-child relationships, self-centeredness and misuse of substances
- Assignment of individualized homework and fathers’ progress is tracked and modified as necessary by the group
- Consolidating learning, setting realistic expectations, and planning for the future (3 sessions):
- Support is given while fathers consider the potentially long-term traumatic impact of their past behavior on their children and/or their children’s mothers and in setting reasonable relationship expectations
- Planning for maintenance of gains made
- Support and referral provided for additional services, as necessary
- Associated program components
- Systematic outreach to mothers to ensure safety and freedom from coercion:
- Contact with children’s mothers by devoted program staff or by those working in partnership to ensure women are informed about the program
- Collaboration between professionals and with women to anticipate and work to avoid potential unintended negative consequences of men’s involvement in intervention
- Provision of referral and of safety planning to children’s mothers, as necessary
- Collaborative case management of fathers with referrers and other professionals involved with men’s families:
- Clear community-based model for accountability to ensure that child safety and well-being is enhanced as a result of fathers’ involvement in intervention
- Open communication between Caring Dads program and other professionals working to ensure the safety and well-being of members of the family
- Joint meetings and planning in response to ongoing or rising risk presented by father
- Commitment to working collaboratively to support children
Caring Dads: Helping Fathers Value Their Children directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:
- Verified or suspected concerns about fathers’ physical or emotional abuse of their children or of children being exposed to domestic violence perpetrated by their fathers.
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:
This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: The program involves open communication and planning with other professionals involved in the lives of men’s children and partners to ensure child safety and well-being. Such partners often include child protective and justice services and sometimes include other social service agencies.
Two-hour weekly session
This program is typically conducted in a(n):
- Outpatient Clinic
- Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
- Public Child Welfare Agency (Dept. of Social Services, etc.)
Caring Dads: Helping Fathers Value Their Children includes a homework component:
Fathers receive weekly homework assignments. Assignments prompt fathers to critically consider their fathering, practice new parenting skills, and relate respectively to children’s mothers. Individualized cognitive behavioral assignments are also given. Assigned homework is regularly reviewed during group sessions.
Caring Dads: Helping Fathers Value Their Children has materials available in languages other than English:
French, German, Swedish
For information on which materials are available in these languages, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).
Resources Needed to Run Program
The typical resources for implementing the program are:
Room suitable for group therapy and equipment for playing videos
Education and Training
Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications
No specific formal qualifications needed, though as a group, the co-facilitation team needs training and experience in working with men (particularly men who are resistant to intervention), a firm understanding of the dynamics of abuse against women, knowledge of child development, and experience in cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Education and Training Resources
There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program, and there is training available for this program.
Training is obtained:
Basic training for individual registrants is provided twice a year in London, Ontario. Advanced training is offered once a year in London, Ontario.
Training can also be organized on-site for interested groups.
Number of days/hours:
Basic training: 2 days, 7 hours/day. Advanced training: 2 days, 7 hours/day plus consultation meetings
There currently are additional qualified resources for training:
Accredited trainers are profiled on the website:
Accredited trainers are profiled on the website: www.caringdads.org
An online practitioner community is available to facilitators who have been trained to run Caring Dads though the private site link: http://www.caringdads.org/private.htm
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
Scott, K. L. & Crooks, C. V. (2007). Preliminary evaluation of an intervention program for maltreating fathers. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 7, 224-238.
Type of Study:
One-group pretest-posttest design
Number of Participants: 45
- Age — Men with children aged 1-19 years
- Race/Ethnicity — Not Specified
- Gender — Males
- Status — Participants were fathers classified as high-risk for child maltreatment referred from community health services clinics and organizations.
Location/Institution: London, Ontario, Canada
(To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study evaluated the 17-session Caring Dads intervention for abusive fathers. All fathers completed a semi-structured interview and the following measures at pre- and post-treatment: the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAP) , Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI-2), and the Parenting Stress Index and Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI/PSI-SF). Results indicated that fathers’ level of hostility, denigration, and rejection of their child and their level of angry arousal to child and family situations decreased significantly over the course of intervention. Moreover, men’s level of stress decreased in all domains, though these reductions failed to reach significant levels. Participants showed significant improvement as a result of the intervention, with larger effects in the Hostile and Controlling subgroup. Limitations included the small sample size and the use of self-report, retrospective data.
Length of postintervention follow-up: None.
Crooks, C. V., Scott, K. L., Francis, K., Kelly, T., & Reid, M. (2006). Eliciting change in maltreating fathers: Goals, processes, and desired outcomes. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 13, 71-81.
Scott, K. L. (2004). Pilot implementation of the Caring Dads program. Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children.
Scott, K. L. & Crooks, C. V. (2004). Effecting change in maltreating fathers. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 11, 95-111. *see also associated commentaries
Scott, K., Francis, K., Crooks, C., & Kelly, T. (2006). Caring Dads: Helping fathers value their children. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing. (treatment manual)
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: January 2015
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: April 2016
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: March 2011