This email was sent out by Harald Breiding-Buss shortly after the Trust was founded in August 1997:
The (New Zealand) Father and Child Trust wants to know about any running or planned fatherhood initiatives or father’s organisations in New Zealand to build up a database. We are about to produce our Father & Child magazine and would like to list these organisations/initiatives in it, including a contact name and phone number as well as a brief description.
The first issue of the magazine is scheduled for Nov 15 and will be free. We will post it to all these initiatives and anyone else who expresses an interest. After the first issue, the magazine will be produced bi-monthly and will be free for members of the Trust.
The Trust’s aims are to establish networks of fathers, provide practical help, run education programs both for fathers as well as health/social service providers and companies to make these more father-friendly, and provide comprehensive representation of fathers where decisions affecting children and parents are made. The Trust promotes positive, involved fathering.
Our constitution requires that at least four of these “portfolios” are represented on the Board of Trustees:
- Single Custodial Fathers
- Fathers as Primary Caregivers
- Fathers with Limited or No Custody
- Youth Fathers
- Maori Fathers
- Working Fathers
Please email any information you may find useful to Harald Breiding-Buss
(firstname.lastname@example.org) by Nov 5. If you would like a free copy of the first newsletter please give your name and address. Membership of the Father & Child Trust is $20 per year. We will try and bring members living in the same area together, if they wish.
- To improve access of families to existing parent and child health services where the father is the primary caregiver.
- To give all fathers access to parenting and child health information independent from the mother.
- To give men opportunities to socialise and gain confidence as fathers and to create networks of fathers and their children.
- To open up existing playgroups and activities to meet the needs of working fathers.
- To identify areas of particular need.
There is a striking imbalance between the number of fathers who have taken on a major role in the raising of their children and the number of fathers who access parent services. Fathers’ attendance of playgroups, for instance, is disproportionally small and they are grossly under-represented on the committees (or other administering bodies) of these organizations.
In addition, there are virtually no networks of fathers. At present, men have few, if any, opportunities to socialise as fathers, not as employees of a particular company or as sportsmen. As a result the role of a father had become somewhat blurred, fathers are unsure about their role and typically have low confidence in their parenting skills.
For primary caregiver fathers this situation often results in isolation, which is potentially dangerous for the stability of the family and the safety of its members. We believe that, for instance, the case of a Christchurch house-husband in June 1997 who shook his baby so violently that the baby had to be hospitalised and will probably be disabled for the rest of his life could have been avoided with more open structures of parent services and better support networks for fathers.
A father who is confident in his role is likely to be highly involved with the upbringing of his children – something that is more and more recognised as being of paramount importance to our society as a whole.
A mother who understands her partner’s or ex-partner’s importance to their children is less likely to prevent his involvement or reduce his influence.
Having two involved parents, a mother and a father, has been shown to be very stabilising for the family and reduce the likelihood of this family breaking apart, regardless of the particular economical situation of that family. Both physical and sexual child abuse are most common where the biological father is little involved with his children or he is absent altogether.
The needs of fathers need to be evaluated and addressed by the major child and family organisations. This project aims to bring fathers and these organisations together, to help fathers lose their shyness in using these services and to help these organisations to become father-aware and to open up their services to the “other” parent.
At the same time it is important that fathers support each other and develop positive male role models among themselves. The Father & Child Trust believes that a father-specific service will better enable fathers to access current family services as well as endeavouring to meet fathers’ unique social and personal needs.
The approach of many organisations to fatherhood is regarded as patronising and arrogant by a large number of fathers.
The Fathers’ Access to Parent Services project represents a new approach, as it works on the assumption that fathers do want to be involved with their children and it is the removal of obstacles and encouragement that is needed.
The Fathers’ Access to Parent Services project consists of 3 strands:
- Opening up existing services to better meet the needs of fathers and their families.
- Establishing a drop-in centre and telephone service for fathers and their children.
- Immediate and personal help for isolated families with the father as the primary caregiver.
Strand 1: Opening up existing services to meet the needs of fathers and their families.
In this strand the Father & Child Trust will be working closely together with the providers of child and family services. We will assess the need for changes and improvements of particular services and analyse successful services that have high father participation.
We will also closely work together with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and use results from their Fathers Who Care:Partners in Parenting project to identify the needs of fathers.
The Father & Child Trust will build on programmes the Trust or individual members are already involved with. A present joint parent education programme for fathers with the Royal NZ Plunket Society, the New Father’s Explorer Course, needs to be put on a more solid footing, a written concept needs to be developed and advertising of the programme outside the Plunket Society pursued.
Volunteers need to be trained to expand this programme to other parts of the city and to ensure continuity.
Within this strand the Trust will also approach hospitals to have fatherhood issues included in ante-natal classes.
The Father & Child Trust will actively approach organisations such as the Playcentre Association or the Toy Library Federation, as well as their individual member organisations, to encourage and help them to run sessions during weekends or at times that are better suited for the needs of fathers in that area.
Providers of health services will be approached with the goal of having at least training for basic emergency procedures made available to all parents, not only those with daytime availability. Services such as CPR training or information about emergency procedures like the “Heimlich manoeuver” on small children MUST be available to ALL parents.
The Father & Child Trust will develop resources that help existing organisations to become more father-friendly or father-aware. These will be written resources as well as presentations to committees or other executive bodies. Establishing workshops for employees of such organisations to educate about the needs of fathers is also envisaged.
Running joint programmes with existing providers should give some immediate relief to a suituation that puts many children in danger. If information about health issues, safety or how to cope with stressful situations is readily accessible to both parents in a format that acknowledges gender peculiarities, we believe the incidence of avoidable accidents, health problems, or child abuse will decrease.
Strand 2: Drop-In Centre And Telephone Service For Fathers And Their Children
The Father & Child Trust will seek the establishment of a drop-in centre for fathers and their children, which serves as a resource centre but also as a meeting place to share parenting ideas and to seek support for special needs. It is a place which fosters involved, positive fathering and organises activities for families.
This proposal results from the experience that groups do not reach significant numbers of fathers and that men are looking for more open and relaxed environments to socialise. This idea has sparked an enthusiastic response from fathers in all parenting situations and opening hours will be arranged to suit both at-home and working fathers.
The centre will consist of a resource centre which stocks books, magazines, videos etc. relevant to fathering (including books, videos etc. for children with a fatherhood theme) as well as a spacious play area for children. Near this play area will be a “Fathers’ Cafe” which will serve as a meeting place for fathers.
In addition to the drop-in centre the Trust seeks to establish a telephone service for all fathers, a first point of call for any problems. This telephone line will be set up so calls are directed to the number of the volunteer or staff on duty for hours outside the opening hours of the drop-in centre.
Volunteers and staff will receive some training in basic counselling but their main aim will be to direct callers to the appropriate services and to recommend such services or resources.
Strand 3: Personal Help For Isolated Father-Headed Families
The Father & Child Trust will make personal contact with father-headed families that have come to our attention or were referred to us by other agencies. The aim is to make these fathers aware of existing services and making sure they have sufficient access to the appropriate child health and welfare services.
Where appropriate and possible the staff member will try and establish small networks of fathers in similar situations through direct and personal contact with every individual father. He will also act as a mediator for problems between individual families and service providers.
The Father & Child Trust will not, at this stage, provide health services (such as child health checks or counselling for fathers) itself. If a need is identified the Trust will refer this family to other organisations.
We believe that the situation of many isolated families can be significantly improved with simple, common-sense and down-to-earth measures.