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Father Involvement in Child Welfare Services

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Published: Tue, 11 Apr 2017

Substance addicted fathers fail to provide a safe environment that focuses on the needs of their children. While inebriated, fathers may believe they are being attentive to their children, while in reality, they tend to act on their own feelings and disregard their children’s needs and become unpredictable. Sometimes a substance addicted father will have periods of presence and periods of absence from his child’s life. At one moment, he may provide his child with security, and another, he may inflict fear. Paternal substance abuse undermines the ability to give adequate care to children and overall, the ability to support his family. Fathers with a drug addiction are judged to be irresponsible and deemed incompetent as parents. The wives of these men are implicitly left with the responsibility to care for their children with some help from child welfare services. Although, fathers exist in the lives of women and children involved with child welfare authorities, they are rarely seen by the child welfare professionals themselves. Substance abusing men tend to avoid social services due to lack of paternal responsibility, cross gender communication, and hyper-masculinity.

In the article “Engaging Fathers in Child Welfare Services: A Narrative Review of Recent Research Evidence”, Social Workers Nina Maxwell, Jonathan Scourfield, Brid Featherstone, Sally Holland, and Richard Tolman found that only thirty-three percent of mothers identified the father when asked (163). Fathers are reluctant in participating in social cases, therefore may threaten the mothers to leave them out of it. Mothers may withhold the father’s identify out of fear about letting the father know that child welfare services are involved, fear that the father may be incarcerated, and fear of the father’s reaction, especially in cases involving domestic violence. These fears reinforce the idea that women are subordinate to men. Since she is fearful of her child’s father to be able to reveal his identity, the mother cannot receive the much needed, proper assistance from her social case worker. Even if the mother were to reveal the identity of her children’s father, it is likely for him to evade contact from child welfare.

Fathers avoid contact with child welfare staff. In a focus group study, Maxwell and her colleagues found that these fathers had a wide range of explanations for the avoidance. These included fear that they cannot be good fathers for their children, fear that the involvement with the child welfare system will worsen their problems with the criminal justice system, fear that relationships with current partners not related to the child would be affected, and a perception that the system is not there to help them (164). The concerns expressed by these fathers are a prime example that substance-abusing fathers are selfish because they are only interested in fulfilling their own desires, rather than meeting their children’s needs. Social policy makers have been trying to involve fathers more in their children’s lives by increasing child support payments, but it is done so in the best interest of the child.

Over the past few years, social policy makers have made an effort to increase the participation of fathers in their children’s lives, by providing child support to the children’s mother. The income of a father, who is not living with his children, can by affected by child support obligations in several ways. For example, if a father recently received an additional income of five hundred dollars a month, his child support payments might increase by one-hundred and twenty-five dollars (Lerman 69). Increased incomes have higher taxes and when combined with increased child support orders, it lowers a fathers’ profit each month, causing them to reduce their work effect. It is found that rigorous enforcement by the child support system could cause fathers to shift from formal to informal or underground work, which makes it more difficult for the government to track true income.

Child welfare professionals acknowledge that some fathers are committed to their children, many others are not. In her study “Child Welfare Professional’s Experiences in Engaging Fathers in Services”, Professor Mahasin F. Saleh found that sixty percent of substances abusing men associated in social services cases lack paternal responsibility (126). The lack of father responsibility includes father absence, denial of paternity, alcohol or drug abuse, blaming the mother, incarceration for various reasons, and maltreatment. One child welfare professional recalls, “They don’t believe. They took the paternity test and then it’s ‘I want a blood test’. And some of them disappear because they feel like they’re not the father. That’s hard, too, getting them engaged when they don’t want to believe” (Saleh 126). This example exemplifies a lack of father responsibility. Substance addicted men deny responsibilities that come with paternal identity, because they view the responsibilities as a burden, and often want nothing to do with it. This father figure is self-absorbed, abusive, and driven by addiction and carelessness.

Child Welfare Professionals have shared that fathers who neglect their children are found to be more verbally abusive and threatening during counseling (Saleh 127). Fathers view social counseling as a vehicle for women to process their emotions and that “strong” men do not attend counseling. Hyper-masculinity causes a man to maintain a rigid gender role script (Guerrero 137). The hyper-masculine man is prepared to challenge any real or imagined taunts from other men with violence. Men have a high sense of pride when it comes to his manhood. In 2013, the National Association of Social Workers conducted a membership workforce study and reported that eighty-two percent of social workers working full time were female (Whitaker & Arrington 9). Since a majority of social workers are female, a father is reluctant to comply and subject to the words of a woman. Masculine fathers do not like to hear something from women, and they may get angry when working with female social workers, because they feel like women are trying to tell them what to do. A hyper-masculine man’s attitudes towards women are usually those of sexual or physical subjugation. A female social worker from Saleh’s case study recalls multiple times that she had to deal with male clients who had expressed romantic interests in her (130). Experiences similar to these make it difficult for female case workers to deal with a situation professionally. There are many instances when the social worker is confronted with a father that has not only has neglected his kids through his ignorance. Most of the time, they never admit they are at fault.

Fathers exist in the lives of women and children involved with child welfare authorities, and yet, they are rarely seen by child welfare. These fathers are seen as deviant, dangerous, irresponsible and irrelevant, and even further, how absence in child welfare is inevitably linked to blaming mothers. In failing to work with fathers, child welfare ignores potential risks and assets for both mothers and children. Social workers are encouraged to focus on mothers as being the protective parent, whereas fathers are considered as risks and damage potential, due to neglect, abuse, and substance addiction. In the article “Manufacturing Ghost Fathers: the Paradox of Father Presence and Absence in Child Welfare”, Leslie Brown, Marilyn Callahan, Susan Strega, Christopher Walmsley, and Lena Dominelli reveals that over sixty percent of fathers associated with child welfare are identified as a risk to children and are not contacted. Similarly, fifty percent of these men were not contacted when they were considered ricks to the mothers (26). Mothers are responsible for the care and protection of children even when they are victims of domestic violence. Child welfare holds mothers responsible for monitoring the behavior of the men in the children’s lives, essentially contracting out the surveillance of men to mothers (Chuang 457). They are expected to fill the role of both parents and further expected to mediate the relationships between children and fathers, as well as between fathers, and professionals.

While inebriated, a father may believe he is performing his fatherly duties to the best of his abilities, but in reality he is oblivious to what is happening in the environment around him, including his children. The appearance of a social worker at his home is detrimental to his mental state as a father. In a way, he may view it as insulting. The father may not realize the dangers that he put his children in as a result of his negligence. The father is too proud to realize his mistakes and may want to blame outside sources. Unfortunately, this results in an agitated and distraught way of thinking, which could result in more negligence and abuse to their families (Burrus et al. 212). Substance abusing fathers often lose custody of their children. With help from social services, mothers are able to collect child support from their children’s fathers. Since a majority of social workers are female, males feel like their manhood is undermined when they speak to these women. These fathers try to avoid any instances of conference with social workers, because they feel it may affect their life that is unassociated through relations with the child. This shows how selfish and incompetent substance-abusing fathers are. Mothers are subordinate to fathers due to fears of reactions of the fathers finding out the involvement of social services (Brodie et al. 36). Many substance abusing fathers are invisible when it comes to their children. The lack of insight to his own problems causes a father to become invisible to himself and his child’s needs. If a man cannot handle his own feelings and problems, there is no chance he will be able to handle and resolve a child’s or be able to see his development. In the state of intoxication, fathers become self-absorbed and forgetful about what happens in the world around them. Substance abusing fathers are associated as being neglecting, abusive, destruction, and often insignificant. Fathers struggle to fulfill the role of the ideal role model to his children.


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