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FaHCSIA: Introduction To Working With Men And Family Relationships

This guide is a useful resource to better understand how services can work with men in a family context, for the benefit of both men and their partners and children. It describes some of the approaches, values and cultural aspects of men that will impact on family engagement.

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These approaches can improve the way that men as partners and fathers work within the family setting...
 
Many service providers ask about the most effective ways to engage men, especially in family contexts where there is significant potential for positive outcomes if both parents can be actively engaged.

This guide outlines a positive approach to working with men with respect to the variety of cultural and personal backgrounds that men may bring to the family environment. It outlines some useful approaches that can improve the way that men as partners and fathers work within the family setting.

Groupwork Solutions identified eight major principles for effectively working with men in the family context:
 
  • The importance of perceived equality - services must be ready and willing to engage with men from the first interactions, so the processes and planning that gets put into readying for working with men must be checked and tested.
  • The existence of ‘window periods’ where men access support - men will work hard to use the appropriate services as they are available but if they encounter ongoing resistance or other barriers, they may become disengaged and that can present a lost opportunity.
  • The need for men’s services to be distinguished from general services - it is important to develop and implement approaches to working with men that recognise and value their differences. The needs of men in family contexts may not be the same as for women and children and the most effective services recognise this by implementing male-specific programs.
  • The value of personal recommendation about services - consistent with the knowledge being revealed about how men evaluate service options, there is increasing understanding of the power of personal networks and referrals.  Some services operate peer education programs, while others have been successful with refer-a-friend schemes or similar options.
  • The importance of flexible service delivery - it is important to tailor services to the needs of the target group. This means working with men as planners as well as participants to understand what they need and how it should be delivered. This also means considering how men will access the service so an understanding of barriers such as working hours or transport must be considered.
  • Client involvement in program development - as above, men should be involved in planning and implementation.
  • The solution focused approach - many have reported that counseling-style sessions work less effectively than group or problem-solution style approaches. The 'relative safety' of being in a group can mean the difference between active engagement or otherwise.
  • Local area coordination - services need to be relatively proximate to male participants.

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