‘When they were taken it is like grieving’: Understanding and responding to the emotional impact of repeat care proceedings on fathers

Georgia Philip, Lindsay Youansamouth, Karen Broadhurst, John Clifton, Stuart Bedston, Yang Hu, Marian Brandon

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There is growing recognition, in the UK and internationally, of the huge costs of recurrent appearances of parents in local authority care proceedings. This paper contributes to pressing policy and practice concerns to reduce recurrence. It presents qualitative longitudinal data from the first study of fathers' experiences of recurrent care proceedings in England. Demonstrating the emotional impact of repeat proceedings and successive loss of children on fathers, in terms of grief, loss and shame, we highlight the trauma and abuse in their developmental histories. We consider complex connections between anger and shame for these fathers, including within the arena of family justice. With the use of literature on complex trauma, shame and parental disengagement, we explore ideas for re-framing fathers', and professionals', resistance to engagement and for better understanding fathers' intense emotions. We suggest that the link between shame and complex trauma and the value of shame reducing, dignity promoting practice in response provide a valuable way forward for working with fathers. As is recognized to be the case for mothers, without holistic, empathic interventions to address the vulnerabilities of such fathers, the risks for children, mothers and fathers are unlikely to reduce.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-194
Number of pages10
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

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