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“I Had No Hope, I Had No Help at All”: Insights from a First Study of Fathers and Recurrent Care Proceedings

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Published
Article number89
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>20/11/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Societies
Issue number4
Volume10
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)1-16
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This article presents data from the first large-scale study of fathers involved in repeat (or recurrent) care proceedings in England. The project complements important research on mothers and recurrence. It consisted of three elements: an analysis of population-level administrative data from the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS), a survey of fathers in pre-proceedings and care proceedings, and a qualitative longitudinal (QL) study of recurrent fathers. Here we report findings from the survey and the QL study, offering an expanded definition and description of fathers and recurrence. Elsewhere, we reported that a significant number of fathers appear in recurrent care proceedings and that the majority return with the same partner. Alongside this, there is also a notable pattern of “missing” fathers demonstrated by the proportion of lone mothers reappearing before the court. Our survey indicates a certain profile of recurrent fathers, but also that recurrent fathers are not straightforwardly a homogenous group. We report on the significance of recurrent fathers’ early lives, on the phenomenon of enduring couple relationships and on the prevalence of issues affecting parenting, such as poor mental health, substance use and domestic abuse. Insights from the QL study in particular reveal legacies of harm, loss, and a lack of emotional and relational resources in childhood, which have debilitating and far-reaching consequences. We argue the importance of understanding the vulnerabilities of recurrent fathers and of challenging certain assumptions in child welfare and family justice practices. There is much to be learnt from existing services for recurrent mothers, but also a need for bespoke or adapted services that may be more responsive to particular circumstances of recurrent fathers and couples.