Are all fathers in child protection families uncommitted, uninvolved and unable to change?

Lee Zanoni*, Wayne Warburton, Kay Bussey, Anne McMaugh

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    Although much is known about 'parents' in child protection families, very little research has specifically examined fathers in these families. The scant extant research indicates that child welfare workers in many countries tend to have negative stereotypes of these men, assuming them to be uncommitted and uninvolved parents, and unable to cease drug use. The present study sought to add to the knowledge about fathers in child protection families, and to investigate whether or not there was support for these negative stereotypes within this sample. Study participants were 35 fathers associated with a parenting program in Sydney, Australia, who completed quantitative demographic, family and psychological measures. In addition, a subset of nine participants provided life story qualitative data. Findings from both the quantitative and qualitative data indicated that, in contrast to the negative stereotypes, these fathers were typically committed and involved parents who were no longer abusing substances. They experienced considerable psychological distress as a result of having their children removed, and fathers with custody of their children reported the best psychological well-being. Study participants were shown to have similar demographic, family and psychological profiles to those found in child protection populations elsewhere in Australia and in other countries, suggesting that these findings may have wider relevance. This study highlights the importance of child welfare workers engaging with and accurately assessing fathers without preconceived assumptions, as it is possible that some fathers are viable placement options for at-risk children.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)83-94
    Number of pages12
    JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


    • Child protection services
    • Child welfare
    • Fathers
    • Out-of-home care
    • Parental risk factors
    • Parents


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