“Fathers tell us that they often feel neglected and sometimes mistreated by the system,” cabinet researcher Dr. Ruth Huebner said.
Cabinet leadership wants to change that.
“It’s well worth the investment to survey fathers,” said Dr. Eugene Foster, undersecretary for Children and Family Services. “Results will be used to enhance service delivery to fathers, which in turn will improve the safety and well-being of Kentucky’s children,” he said.
The first phase of the survey began last month. Approximately 3,700 fathers will be asked to complete and return the mailed surveys, which include questions about their experiences and satisfaction with the agency.
“We want to find out if fathers are regularly invited to case conferences and family team meetings, if they feel their opinions are valued and if the services provided strengthen their skills and family safety,” she said. “We need to know if there are barriers to fathers accessing and interacting with the agency.”
Huebner said disruptions of the father-child relationship are detrimental for all children but especially for boys. Positive interactions between children and their fathers benefit them both by creating bonds that protect against adult criminality and child abuse.
“The father-child relationship is critically important in building skills and psychological competence for children,” Huebner said. Despite these important relationships, the father-child bond has too often taken a backseat to focus on mothers, she said.
Stacy White, a supervisor in the cabinet’s Campbell County protection and permanency office and a social work student at the University of Kentucky, is coordinating the survey as part of her master’s degree practicum.
White said fathers who haven’t returned the survey will get reminder letters in the coming weeks.
The department has already made changes to better include fathers. Staff involved with child protection cases statewide are finding fathers and inviting them to family team meetings, identifying paternal relatives for placement and providing referrals and services to improve parenting skills. Procedural changes emphasize expectations to include fathers as active partners in the care of children and with the agency.
Fathers are getting more recent attention both across the state and nationwide.
In late April, the University of Kentucky’s College of Social Work will host a fatherhood initiative conference in Lexington. The theme of the event is “helping fathers keep their children safe, educated and healthy.”
And in a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors were encouraged to urge fathers to increase their role in their children’s health care, typically thought of as a mother’s responsibility.
For more information on the survey, contact Huebner at (502) 564-3703, ext. 4060.