Although there has been substantial progress in understanding why some mothers return to the family court and lose successive children to public care and adoption, this has not been matched by a parallel programme of work on fathers. Fathers have legal party status in approximately 70% of s.31 proceedings each year. This is a sizeable population about whom we know very little. The proposed study will establish the scale and pattern of fathers’ repeat appearances in s.31 proceedings, together with a clear picture of the rehabilitative challenges that fathers face and present.

This project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is a collaboration between the University of East Anglia and Lancaster University, led by Professor Marian Brandon and Professor Karen Broadhurst. The research will take place between October 2017 and July 2019. It builds on two recently completed groundbreaking studies of fathers’ experiences of child protection (Brandon et al 2017) and mothers in recurrent care proceedings (Broadhurst et al 2017).

The research involves three key elements:

  1. An analysis of aggregated patterns and trends of fathers in care proceedings in England, along with an analysis of the risk of recurrence. The source of data used for this analysis is the administrative records held by Cafcass.
  2. A national survey of men involved in care proceedings.
  3. A year long, in-depth qualitative study of fathers involved in recurrent care proceedings.