FAQs on Domestic Violence for fathers
Child in need
My partner and I want to stay together and work out our problems. How can we remain together and satisfy children’s services that our child is not at risk from domestic abuse?
Sometimes couples do want to remain in a relationship although there have been concerns about domestic violence. It is really important that you understand and acknowledge what the concerns are and that you are willing to work hard to make sure that your child is not exposed to further domestic violence. There may be different services you and your partner will be asked to engage with or which you can ask for yourselves. This will depend on the assessment of your child’s needs and the level of risk to your child that has been identified.
In some cases, each parent will be asked to engage with a specialist domestic violence service. For you, this may mean taking part in a specialist domestic violence perpetrator’s programme run by a Respect accredited organisation where you will be helped to understand how your abusive behaviour affects your child, try to work out how to change this and develop other ways of behaving. Your partner should be offered support from a Respect women’s service if you are doing this course. If you have other support needs such as drug or alcohol misuse or mental health needs you may be offered or should request support with them.
Your partner may be encouraged to access to support and information from a specialist domestic violence service such as Women’s Aid or Refuge to help her know her options and make informed choices.
Some local authorities offer specialist family group conferences (FGCs) to families where there has been domestic violence – where this is assessed to be safe for the child and adult victims and where the adult victim is in agreement with the FGC happening. You could ask if this service might be available to your family. You can read more about FGCs here or watch a short film here.
If you remain at home even though there has been domestic violence the situation is likely to be monitored very carefully under the child’s plan whether that is a child in need or a child protection plan. The social worker will want to make sure that your child and your partner are safe in this situation. You will need to show that you have made changes to your violent behaviour and can parent your child safely.
My partner and I have had relationship difficulties which the social worker calls domestic violence. We want to have relationship counselling to help us. Our child’s social worker is against this idea. Why?
Many couples facing difficulties in their relationship benefit from counselling support. Anger management courses can help some people too. If there is tension or stress within your family which you are not managing well you may benefit from a healthy relationships programme or mediation which may help you to build relationships, resolve difficulties and prevent conflict.
However, these types of services are usually not suitable where there is domestic violence. Domestic violence practitioners do not usually support counselling or mediation between perpetrators and victims of domestic violence as they do not adequately address power and control dynamics, risks and safety issues and so can be used by perpetrators to manipulate or undermine victims.
If your child’s social worker and other professionals think your situation involves domestic violence and you and/or your partner don’t see it that way you should let them know your views but you should also listen to their concerns and consider what you are being asked to do to protect your child from being affected.
You and your partner may both be asked to agree to work with domestic violence agencies. You may be referred to a specialist Respect accredited domestic violence perpetrators’ programme to assess the level of risk you pose and your suitability for the course. If you do attend a regular group work programme for at least 6 months the aim will be to help you to change any violent behaviour, to be responsible for your actions and to teach you about respectful relationships and develop your parenting skills. Your partner should be offered support at the same time, with her safety and that of your child the priority.
Police were called to our family home by a neighbour. I wasn’t arrested and the police ended their involvement. Why are children’s services still involved?
Both the police and children’s services have a duty to safeguard children and to work together to do so. But their roles are different. The police investigate whether a crime has been committed and where there is evidence bring cases to the criminal courts. Children’s services have a responsibility to offer support and extra help to vulnerable children and a duty to investigate where they may be at risk of serious harm. Police work with the criminal burden of proof “beyond reasonable doubt” whilst children’s services work with the civil burden of proof “balance of probabilities”.
The police inform children’s services when they respond to a domestic violence incident where a child is present or a victim is pregnant so that social workers can assess how best to ensure that the child is safe and well-cared for. This could be through a referral for an early help assessment, a child in need assessment/plan for those children with more significant or complex needs or a child protection investigation or conference process for children who have or may be significantly harmed.
Social workers often remain involved after police involvement has ended to make sure that there is a suitable plan in place for the child.
It is a good idea for you to you work with children’s services to understand their concerns, get the right help for yourself to address any issues identified and support your partner and child to also avail of any support or services they may need. Then children’s services’ involvement may lessen or come to an end if they are satisfied that your child’s needs are being met and they are protected from harm.
You might find these tips on how to work with a social worker useful.
I am a good father who loves his child. How can I make sure that the social worker takes account of this now they are involved because of domestic violence?
Sometimes professionals seem to view fathers only in relation to the risk they may pose to their child instead of what they may be doing to support, help and care for their child. Fathers sometimes describe how professionals focus on them as potential perpetrators rather than as parents too.
Where a family is referred to children’s services because of a domestic violence incident the assessment must address that issue in order to ensure that the child is safe. However, the assessment should be holistic; taking into account the situation in which the child is living, family strengths and protective factors as well as any difficulties or risk the child or their parents may face. The incident should be considered within that context as well as any relevant history.
There are some tips here which explain what you can do if you are seen only as a possible risk to your baby rather than as a support to them.
Where there is domestic violence (which does not have to physical) you may be asked to agree to (or can offer to) attend a specialist course known as a perpetrators programme. You may benefit from learning more about the impact of domestic violence on children’s development and how to strengthen your parenting. It is always worth finding out what is on offer in your area. You can find information on useful services here.
You can also look at the FAQs on child protection as depending on the circumstances and risk identified children’s services may be involved with your child on a child in need or child protection basis.
I am not the child’s father but we have a very close relationship. The child’s social worker will not talk to me even though it is my behaviour that they are worried about. What are my rights?
You are in a parenting role with your partner’s child but will not have parental responsibility for them unless you obtained this through a court order. Children’s services should work in partnership with birth fathers (even if they do not have parental responsibility).They can also work with men who are in a parenting role including where their behaviour is the cause for concern. However they are not required to do so. You don’t have rights as such. How children’s services work with or include you may be influenced by your relationship and involvement with the child, what support you offer them, your ability to accept support to change your behaviour and of course, their assessment of the risk your behaviour poses to the child.
The social worker will work with your partner, who has parental responsibility, and will want to make sure that she is safe from domestic abuse and is able to keep the children safe from domestic violence and meet their needs.
As you have a close relationship with the child it is important that you do not put them at risk through your behaviour and that you don’t jeopardise their mother’s ability to care for them safely.