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Understanding our approach to gender-based violence


Changing practice to better include fathers in efforts to enhance the safety and well-being of their children


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 university-community partnership at the heart of this program means Caring Dads is based on a solid foundation of both theory and practice.

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




of Indian women experience violence in their own homes


Caring Dads proven program efficacy

Caring Dads has achieved independently verified results through intervention programs in Canada, the UK, the USA, Australia and Europe.



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 exerpts shown at right)


Download full NSPCC Report


Quantitative Data: Average pre- and post-program scores for fathers

(Parenting Stress Index | p<0.01)


Qualitative Data: Interviews with 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

Academic 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. [6] 

○ 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].


Our Vision for 2020

Caring Dads has set ambitious targets for growing the impact of the program on a global scale. From North America, Australia and the UK, to the Middle East, South East Asia and Southern Africa.