LEAP celebrates Fathers’ Day!
The Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) had a great time celebrating Fathers’ Day at Larkhall 1 o’ Clock Club and the Liz Atkinson Children’s Centre with special events for dads, male carers, and their families. The sun peeked out briefly to shine on the many activities on offer, from face painting to cake decorating and even some kite-making.
Jennifer Robson, Programme Manager for LEAP, spoke to Mark James, outreach worker at Larkhall, about why events like this are so important.
“Dads and male carers are part of families – whether parents are together or not – but they often need encouragement to take part in children’s services”, Mark explains. “This might be for various reasons such as dads working in the week, or not feeling comfortable coming along to services mainly attended by women.”
Mark also noted that there tends to be fewer men working in children’s centres, but seeing other male faces really helps dads feel comfortable. One of the dads we spoke to said he often felt activities weren’t for him, until he attended and felt welcomed by staff and other parents.
So how do we help make dads feel more comfortable? Mark said his approach has always been to think about dads from the start: “When mum comes into the centre for the first time, we always ask about Dad, and we register the whole family. We want everyone to know from the start how important their role is.”
The Partnership spoke to several dads who reiterated how important it was to think about more ways to involve fathers. One dad said: “When my partner was pregnant, I went to all the appointments and really wanted to be involved, but nobody asked me how I was feeling. After our baby was born, we both suffered separately with post-natal depression. My partner had support but I felt overwhelmed and alone and had to get through it myself.”
Another dad told us that when his first child was born, he felt very isolated and unprepared. “Hearing about Family Foundations, which LEAP is offering to first-time parents, I thought if I’d had this I would have felt more ready to be a dad.”
The Partnership will be working with some of these dads, and other male carers across the four wards, to design services for the whole family. This will help us understand the particular experience of dads and ensure they are involved, and if they need it, offered support.
Mark says it’s crucial that when organising services and activities, we think specifically about dads – everything from what time they can come along to how to keep the networks dads have built going. It’s also important to ensure there’s ongoing contact after the service has finished.
Another worker at the Larkhall event told us: “There’s a tendency when we see dads at events like this to say “aren’t they engaging well with their children’. These dads aren’t engaging, they’re just being dads, and we need to see it the same way.”
Mark sees LEAP as a fantastic opportunity to promote and celebrate the important role of dads and other male carers in children’s lives, and encourage them to take part in the services on offer.
Thanks to Larkhall and Liz Atkinson for such fantastic Fathers’ Day events, and to all the marvellous dads and male carers who spoke to us. We can’t wait to work more closely with you in future!
LEAP is supported from the Big Lottery Funds A Better Start Programme with the aim to improve outcomes for children in three key areas of development: social and emotional development, communication and language development, and diet and nutrition.