Working with fathers who use violence: Highlights from the Invisible Practices project

Michele Hervatin, Australia, February, 2019

Resource Summary

This article highlights the key findings and resources of the project titled Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence. The project aimed to increase the capacity of practitioners to work with fathers who use violence, and to develop evidence-based principles and practice guidelines for practitioners and organisations.1

What is Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) and how can it impact on children’s mental health?

DFV encompasses ‘the range of violent, coercive and controlling behaviours…that are predominantly perpetrated by men against women and their children in current or past…relationships’, including physical, psychological, sexual and neglectful behaviours.2 DFV includes both direct and indirect violence that children may be exposed to.3

DFV can have a negative effect on children’s mental health, including lowered self-esteem, depression, and internalising and externalising behaviours.4

Evidence-based principles and practices are essential to support service responses to DFV and in turn promote children’s mental health.5 It is paramount that this support addresses working effectively with fathers who use violence.6

What was the Invisible Practices project?

Invisible Practices was an action research project that utilised the ‘Safe and Together’™ model of responding to FDV and its three core principles:7

  1. ‘Keeping the child safe and with the non-offending parent.’
  2. ‘Partnering with the non-offending parent.’
  3. ‘Intervening with the perpetrator to reduce risk and harm to the child.’

The project aimed to increase the capacity of practitioners to work with fathers who use violence through integrating the existing research, practitioner expertise, and the knowledge of Safe and Together’™ consultants.8 Invisible Practices targeted practitioners in child protection, specialist DFV services, justice services and family services.9

What was the rationale for the Invisible Practices project?

Traditionally, services have generally adopted FDV responses that have:10

  • engaged with mothers rather than with fathers who use violence; and
  • encouraged and expected women to separate from partners, even though this may lead to possible danger and/or impoverishment. Also despite parental separation, some fathers may still have ongoing contact with their children.11

Interventions with fathers who use violence have largely been delivered by specialist programs or the justice system. This is despite a minority of this target group attending or completing such programs. These interventions have generally not focused on parenting.12

Invisible Practices recognised the limitations of these traditional approaches and promoted a ‘whole family’ model of working whereby the father is also considered.13 The project highlighted that child protection and family services practitioners are well-placed to work with fathers who use violence, but that this practice area has been under-explored and ‘largely invisible’.14

What were some of the key findings from the literature review conducted by the Invisible Practices project?

  • ”Whole of family’ approaches that engage each member of the family where there is DFV and focus on parenting represent emerging practice.’15
  • ‘Workforce development is critical in an area where skilled work is essential to support the safety and wellbeing of all involved.’16

What key themes emerged from consultations with practitioners in the Invisible Practices project? How did these inform the practice guide?

Consultations with practitioners identified five themes:17

  • Working with fathers who use violence and control
  • Partnering with women
  • Focusing on children and young people
  • Working collaboratively
  • Worker safety.

The practice guide utilises these themes to organise reflective questions, strategies and practice tools.

The theme, ‘working with fathers who use violence and control’ highlights strategies for shifting the focus to fathers, including assessing parenting and viewing violence as a ‘parenting choice’.18

The theme of ‘focusing on children and young people’ provides guidance on ensuring a focus on children, including via engaging perpetrators as fathers and educating fathers about the harms of DFV on children.

Invisible Practices highlights that ‘organisational support from senior management is critical if practitioners are to implement changed practice to facilitate the work with fathers who use violence.’19

References

Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
2 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence (Research Report, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS, p. 9.
3 Campo, M. (2015). Children’s exposure to domestic and family violence: Key issues and responses (CFCA Paper No. 36 2015). Melbourne, Australia: Child Family Community Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
4 Campo, M. (2015). Children’s exposure to domestic and family violence: Key issues and responses (CFCA Paper No. 36 2015). Melbourne, Australia: Child Family Community Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
5 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
6 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
7 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Practice Guide. Sydney, NSW: ANROWS, p. 2.
8 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence (Research Report, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
9 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Practice Guide. Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
10 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
11 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
12 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Practice guide. Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
13 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
14 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS, p. 1.
15 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS, p. 4.
16 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS, p. 4.
17 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Practice Guide. Sydney, NSW: ANROWS, p. 3.
18 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Practice Guide. Sydney, NSW: ANROWS, p. 4-7.
19 Healey, L., Humphreys, C., Tsantefski, M., Heward-Belle, S., Chung, D., & Mandel, D. (2018). Invisible Practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2018). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS, p. 10.