‘Father figures’ seminar: a report

On Friday 3rd June The Open University, in partnership with the Family Matters Institute and DAD.info, hosted a seminar on ‘Father figures: research and practice with men who care for children’ (see the previous post for some photographs of the event). The seminar, designed to launch a joint OU / FMI research project on social fatherhood, was co-organised by Martin Robb, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at The Open University, and Clare Deane, until recently Senior Researcher at FMI, and now Impact Officer in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University.

Jason Pandya Wood of Nottingham Trent University, our chair for the day, opened the seminar by welcoming delegates, and then handed over to Clare and Martin, who provided an introduction and overview of the seminar, explaining the background and aims of the event and suggesting some key questions to consider. Clare also introduced an initial survey of fathers who use the DAD.info website, which we’ll report on in a future post.

The remainder of the morning was given over to two presentations highlighting key areas of research with social or non-biological fathers. Independent researcher Sandy Ruxton’s paper ‘Who’s the real daddy?’ explored the challenges of stepfathering, combining personal experience with demographic and legal information, and offering some thoughtful reflections on stepfathers’ perspectives and relationships. Anna Tarrant from Leeds University then introduced some preliminary findings from her innovative research on men’s responsibilities as kinship carers in low-income families, drawing on case studies of men that she has interviewed, in order to highlight this often invisible area of care and to explore the financial and personal challenges for those involved.

In the afternoon the focus switched to ways of supporting men who take on a fathering role. Owen Thomas provided an insight into the services that his organisation, Working With Men, provides to young and marginalised fathers and male carers in inner London, at the same emphasising the importance of valuing and supporting men who may face challenges in taking on this role. The final presentation of the day was from parenting advisor Peter Barras, who spoke about the need to challenge professional expectations of fathers and male carers, and about ways of building practitioners’ confidence to engage dads by focusing on the needs of the child.

Both the morning and afternoon sessions gave rise to lively group discussions, which were recorded on flipchart paper and which we’ll report on in a separate post. At the end of the afternoon, Clare and Martin explained the ‘next steps’ that would follow the seminar, including posting reports on this blog, and establishing a network of individuals and organisations who would like to continue to be involved with the research project.

You can see the Powerpoint slides from all of the seminar presentations, as well as brief biographies of the speakers, by clicking on the links below.

Father figures introduction and next steps FINAL VERSION

FF Sandy Ruxton slides

FF Anna Tarrant slides

FF Owen Thomas slides

FF Peter Barras slides




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