Why Caring Dads?

Caring Dads exists to change current practice to better include fathers in efforts to enhance the safety and well-being of their children. Continue reading below to understand our approach to gender-based violence and child maltreatment.


Since our start in 2001, the Caring Dads intervention program has been firmly situated within the realm of gender-based violence, and, indeed, within the framework of gender equality in general. There are unquestionably very clear connections between violence against women on one hand, and children’s experience of violence, whether as victims or witnesses, on the other.

Global estimates published by the WHO indicate that one in three (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime [1]. We know that young children are frequently present when this violence happens or live in households where it takes place. An alarming statistic published by the US Department of Justice indicates that 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence every single year, and that in 90% of those cases children are eyewitnesses to this violence [2].

In Canada there are over 100,000 substantiated child maltreatment investigations every year, with over half involving fathers as perpetrators [3]. Police reports further confirm that fathers are perpetrators in the vast majority of cases of domestic violence. Of even greater concern, men clearly predominate as perpetrators of severe, injury-causing physical abuse of children and women and commit the majority of family-related homicides [4].

Yet, when one speaks about gendered violence, we're not only speaking in terms of the physical actions of women and children being hurt by men. Underlying these undeniably deplorable acts are the social factors that shape our conceptualizations of masculinity and femininity, the power relations that exist between these identities and the societal structures that create and reinforce these power relations. In India, for example, 52% of women experience violence in their own homes. While this is a horrifying statistic in it's own right, consider that over 53% of men, women, boys and girls in India believe that this is normal [5].

At the same time, Research done over the past two decades has clearly established that, when fathers are positively involved with their families, children benefit cognitively, socially, emotionally and developmentally.

Despite the importance of fathers in families, our child protection and child and family mental health service systems tend to work primarily with mothers; a trend that is exacerbated when fathers are deemed to be high risk. Ironically, this means that those fathers who most need to be monitored and helped by our intervention systems are not involved. Men’s children pay the price with higher rates of aggression, substance use, criminal involvement, suicide attempts, mental health problems and chronic health conditions.

When we put this information together, we see numerous advantages to changing practice to better include fathers in efforts to enhance the safety and well-being of their children including the potential to improve father-child relationships, offer an additional route to ending violence against women, model accountability, address fathers’ potential use of abuse in other relationships and with other children and opportunity to monitor and contain risk from fathers during follow-up from the child protection and justice systems.

The Caring Dads program was specifically designed from the premise that violence against women and violence against children are intricately intertwined, and that these two issues both can and should be addressed together. The program was developed by Katreena Scott (Ph.D. Clinical Psychology), Claire Crooks (Ph.D. Clinical Psychology), Tim Kelly (Executive Director of Changing Ways), and Karen Francis (Ph.D. Clinical Psychology), in collaboration with child protective services, batterer intervention programs, children's mental health agencies, women's advocates, centres for children and families involved in the justice system, family resource agencies and probation and parole services. 

The Facts:



of women worldwide experience intimate partner violence




of U.S. children exposed to intimate partner violence annually




of those children are eyewitnesses to the violence




child maltreatment cases investigated in Canada every year




of maltreatment cases involved fathers as the perpetrators


Group Intervention Program

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Program Eligibility

Many fathers are likely to benefit from participation in this program, but especially men whose relationship with their children or children’s mothers is problematic. This may include over-controlling, over-involved, distant and/or irresponsible, emotionally abusive fathers or fathers who have hostile, highly conflictual, or abusive relationships with the children's mothers.

Men are not eligible for the Caring Dads group if a primary concern is men's perpetration of child sexual abuse. Further screening and final decisions around group suitability are done through a clinical intake interview.

To be eligible for the program, men must have some regular supervised or unsupervised contact with at least one of their (0-16 year-old) children.

Program Format

The group component of Caring Dads combines elements of parenting, fathering, battering and child protection practice to enhance the safety and well-being of children.

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, and 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.

A typical group usually runs for 2 hours, one night a week, for 17 weeks. There are usually between 10 and 15 men registered in each group. Groups may only be led by accredited Caring Dads facilitators.

Intake & Sesions 1-3 (Father Group)

To develop sufficient trust and motivation to engage men in the process of examining their fathering.

Therapeutic strategies:
Motivational interviewing to engaging men in examining their fathering, for example: Fathers consider their unique experiences as sons and fathers (e.g., historic, cultural differences) to develop discrepancy between their current and desired relationships with their children and families. Men are introduced to the idea that their experience of their father included their father’s treatment of their mother Initial goals for intervention are set between fathers and group facilitators and homework assignments begin.

Sessions 4-8 (Father Group)

To increase men’s awareness and application of child-centred fathering.

Therapeutic strategies:
Parenting education, skills training, role modeling and behavioural practice to develop child centered fathering. Introduction of the parent to child-centred needs continuum and 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 Education and application of information on child development and on the impact of abuse, neglect and trauma on children Emphasis placed on the need for respectful co-parenting with children’s mothers and for supporting the mother-child relationship.

Sessions 9-14 (Father Group)

To increase men’s awareness of, and responsibility for, abusive and neglectful fathering behaviours and their impact on children.

Therapeutic strategies:
Cognitive behavioural therapy to set and track individual goals for change among fathers, for example: Identification of specific abusive, 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 in individual meetings. Goals target empirically-supported risk mechanisms for fathers’ maltreatment of their children and/or children’s mothers Men are assigned individualized homework and their progress is tracked and modified as necessary by the group.

Sessions 15-17 (Father Group)

Consolidating learning, rebuilding trust and planning for the future.

Therapeutic strategies:
Therapeutic strategies: Increasing help-seeking awareness and trust and working with shame, for example: Men are supported in considering the potentially long-term traumatic impact of their past behaviour on their children and/or their children’s mothers and in setting reasonable relationship expectations Support and referral provided for additional services, as necessary Planning for maintenance of gains made.

Mother Contact

This component involving 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

This component establishes a 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 has achieved independently verified results through intervention program studies in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.


NSPCC Study Summary

Authors: Nicola McConnell, Matt Barnard, Tracey Holdsworth and Julie Taylor
Published: 2016
Data: 204 fathers, 72 partners and 22 children

Key findings:

○ Fathers and partners reported fewer incidents of domestic abuse after completing the program.

○ Risks to children reduced because fathers generally found being a parent less stressful and interacted better with their children after they had attended the program.

○ Caring Dads is associated with pre to post group reductions in parenting stress and in level of hostility, indifference, and rejection as reported by fathers, and reductions in domestic violence victimization (emotional abuse, isolation, violence, injury, use of children), depression, and anxiety as reported by mothers. (Graph shown at right)

○ Changes in identified domains persist over six months and are well in excess of changes made by comparison group fathers over a similar time period. 

○ Sustained improvements in the fathers' behaviour helped to increase feelings of safety and wellbeing within their families.

○ Caring Dads practitioners influenced decisions made about children, either by providing evidence of changes in the father's behaviour or highlighting additional safeguarding concerns

○ Qualitative information provided evidence of how the program can bring about positive improvements in the fathers' behaviour. For example, some children talked about seeing their father more often and feeling happier and more comfortable around him. (Interview excerpts shown at right).

Quantitative Data Snapshot:
Average pre- and post-program scores

(Parenting Stress Index | p<0.01)


Qualitative Data Snapshot:
From children, partners & practitioners

  • We're quite a bit more happy and stuff and we don't argue as much … I think it's because he's changing the way he behaves with me because, I don't know, he speaks to me a bit differently like I'm older, and he just seems more controlled with his views and stuff.
    — Child interviewed after the programme
  • The point is my dad has changed. Like I saw a change in him. Like he doesn’t shout when he tells us off, he doesn’t raise his voice. he just, like, tells you. He’s kinder, nicer. He’s more interested.
    — Children interviewed after their fathers had completed Caring Dads
  • Yes, he’s more attentive to our daughter and more understanding of her feelings. If he has any issue with me, he’ll discuss it with me rather than cause an argument with her around.
    — Current partner surveyed post-programme
  • Especially over the last sort of six, eight months he’s got really close to his dad and he’ll actually come out now and say, ‘I love you Dad’, and things like that, whereas before he wouldn’t show his feelings to him.
    — Current partner interviewed post-programme
  • We’ve had a couple of instances where the men have actually been given residence of their children. Now that is obviously in conjunction with the fact that there was significant issues with the children’s mothers, but also the fact that they had completed Caring Dads successfully.
    — CDSC worker
  • I feel more reassured about my former partner. It is the first time I have seen an improvement and that he has been prepared to listen.
    — Ex-partner interviewed post-programme
  • He thinks about his behaviour and actions more. We no longer argue over silly things. He is aware of what triggers his anger. Caring Dads made him realise the relationship he could have with his child.
    — Ex-partner surveyed at post-programme follow-up
  • This guy who initially came here just for the sake of proving a point to court so he could have contact, he actually changed his whole understanding and motivation in relation to coming to the programme and made some good changes.
    — Group facilitator
  • And his kids, whereas before they were very kind of distant from him, every time they see him now they run up to him and jump on him and it’s, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!’ all this kind of stuff, so they’re pleased to see him, they feel that they can talk to him.
    — Group facilitator
  • I think that’s a good example of how he changed his behaviour, seeing the value in his own children, but they’d also got a father that they felt they could approach, that they could play with.
    — Group facilitator

Useful Downloads

Caring Dads Information Sheet (PDF)

Caring Dads Logic Model (PDF)

Caring Dads Manifesto (PDF)

Download NSPCC Report

Research Highlights

○ Studies by the Canadian Child Welfare Institute and Dr. K. Scott (Chair, School and Clinical Child Psychology Program, OISE/University of Toronto) have found that, consistent with Caring Dads’ model of collaboration between group co- facilitators and child protection workers, enrolments in Caring Dads is associated with substantially higher levels of contact between men and their families’ child protection workers. Funding for this work was provided by the Government of Canada National Crime Prevention Strategy Community Mobilization Program. [LINK] 

○ Caring Dads is currently considered a “promising practice” for addressing child maltreatment by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare, where it's Child Welfare System Relevance Level is indicated as "High". The CEBC is a critical tool for identifying, selecting, and implementing evidence-based child welfare practices that will improve child safety, increase permanency, increase family and community stability, and promote child and family well-being [7].

○ Research in Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention using a comprehensive evaluation framework, established that Caring Dads addresses a need in communities, can be implemented in a way that is acceptable to clients and stakeholders, and matched, in its underlying theory, the characteristics and needs of most referred clients [8].

○ Examination of Caring Dads published in Child Abuse & Neglect using a pre to post research design showed that intervention is associated with changes in fathers’ over-reactivity to children’s misbehaviour and respect for their partner’s commitment and judgment, with results being statistically significant, medium in size, moving mean scores into the normative [9].