Do They Care?
The Role of Fathers in Cases of Child Neglect
Brigid Daniel and Julie Taylor
There has recently been an explosion of interest in the role of the father in children's lives. This interest has been paralleled by an increased recognition that child care and protection processes tend to focus on mothers whether they are the perpetrators of alleged abuse and neglect or not. In this chapter we will consider the situation of fathers of neglected children within the context of changing social discourses about men and fathers. We will explore the literature indicating that child protection processes are not in step with these broader changes and that they consistently retain a focus on mothers. The focus on mothers can be criticized from different perspectives. Such a focus reinforces a view of the mother as solely responsible for the care, protection and nurture of the child. It also effectively cuts fathers out of the picture. Fathers who are abusive or neglectful are not required to take responsibility for their actions in the way that mothers are and caring fathers are neither recognized nor supported. This lack of attention to fathers of neglected children ignores the potential risks that men can pose to children and also misses the opportunity to build on what fathers and paternal extended families may offer to children.
The circumstances of children who are neglected must be considered within the context of family life for all children. The wider policy context affects how practitioners respond to family circumstances, and affects how families see themselves and are seen in comparison with the rest of society.