1) Tell me about your job role and what you do?
Andrea Scale, senior social work practitioner qualified for 12 years and I have also worked unqualified for 10 years within the social care environment.
2) What percentages of your cases are from BME communities?
If we are talking about where I am working now in Reading in comparison to my previous role in Lambeth were the percentage was quite high, I would say about 5 % for black families as oppose to families of mixed parentage. However, for families of mixed parentage I would say about 30%.
3) Tell me about the importance of father / key roles a father plays in a family home?
If you look at a perfect family unit where there is mother and a father, it gives a balance for the children to see the individual roles a mother plays and the individual roles a father plays. However, in terms of a father it is about bringing balance. Also a true father I truly believe, will be able to take on a lot of roles as the mother i.e.: cooking, cleaning, looking after the baby, being a home husband or a home father ideally so that the children can see both roles. For me I think it’s about balance and strength particularly in a day and age where there are so many families out there who do not have fathers in the home.
4) What percentage of your cases from BME communities present with the issue of an absent father?
Out of the small percentage I would say half of that. Although recently what I found is that, I have had calls from fathers who are making more of an effort to want to see their children however, the mother does not always make it easy. Due of low resilience in the father, they are not always able to respond appropriately about how they feel about the situation which makes them come across as aggressive, but It is about wanting to see their children. Culturally a lot of males from BME groups have grown up with families, extended families, grandparents and cousins around them, so it’s difficult for them not to be part of their child’s life.
5) In your view why is the issues of absent fathers highly prevalent within the afro Caribbean community in comparison to other groups?
I think there is a breakdown in community, communication and relationship. Over the years where BME families have experienced a lot of prejudice, racial hatred and injustice against the system it builds up lot of hate and aggression. I think some of them do not understand how to manage it. Culturally you are told to be seen and not heard and you are not encouraged to speak about how you feel. So, when feeling a certain ways individuals do not know how to express themselves.
You have seen it in your parents but sometimes which comes across as aggressive, (i.e: “no you don’t do what I do, you do as you are told, I am the father and that’s it”) It is very difficult and breaks down a lot of resilience. On the other hand where you find families that have a close tight network, if someone is with their partner or not, it is easier for them to be able to share their communication skills with the support of mother, grandmother which is important but not all families have that.
6) How does this issue of absent fathers impact children’s development?
Personally speaking I am a single mother and raised 4 sons. What I found is that, when they got to certain age and their father wasn’t around them as I would have love him to be around them. I found that there was certain things I couldn’t teach them or help them understand because not only was I mum, I was a female. I couldn’t say I know how they felt because I didn’t know how they felt. I tried to draw on my brothers to support me and it has been difficult because not all my brother portrayed the balance that my after had. I tried to give my children the balance that my father had but it was hard because I am a female. In some situations I came across as angry and forceful and on the other hand I was loving and supportive so it was hard. Ideally, it is about being realistic and saying that this is what I can do, I understand that you may need more but I can’t give you that.
My children have a close relationship with their cousins, their uncles and prominent black role models. As a black mother I have always taught them to look at the strong black males that have gone before them (not necessarily in the family) to look up to and to recognise that some of them will give you a lot of good and some of them will disappoint you. It is about recognising who you are, where you are going and what you want in life.
7) Have you encountered a common theme within the BME community regarding the issue to absent fathers?
Definitely, there is a common theme and I do not know why that is, there are a lot of theories but it is essential for young black boys to have that black male role model. It does not have to be their father, they just need that black role model because even though a lot of them make it, they make it on their own. At times, you can see a lot of areas where they need tweaking in term of their development and you can see clearly that, it is because they didn’t have their father around.
A black guy once said to me that they reason why he didn’t go out with black females was because he didn’t know who his father was and he got it in his mind that if he met a black woman, it could be his sister or someone really close to him. I thought to myself, how many other black males are thinking the same. Let’s face it men do get women pregnant and they go regardless of race.
For me there are deep rooted issues that they need to resolve themselves. It is the theme where the men leave the women and dip in and out when they want to. Have a sexual relationship with the mother and thinking that “she loves me and has my children therefore she will stay and look after the children”. Unfortunately, children grow up and watch that behaviour, they see that there is no meaningful relationship between the parents.
It so important for young black boys, mixed race boys to see their father having meaningful relationships with their mothers because they need to be taught. It does not need to involve money, the father can wash, he can clean, he can pick the children up from school and those are the little values that is not happening enough.
8) Describe the comparisons/difference between children growing up in homes with both parents or without a father?
This is a difficult question because again going back to my personal experience, I know that my sons growing up with me as single parent have had better experience than families who lived with both mum and dad. I believe that if a relationship is not going well, you do not stay together because of the sake of the children as such problems arise, as such when problems arise between the parents, the children witness it. For me I have had my own personal issues with my ex-partner and realised that I couldn’t have him around me and my children with his behaviour so I resigned to be a single mother. The good thing about that now is that, my ex-partner has developed a relationship with his sons away from me. I don’t think that I can say that a family that has 2 parents is better than a family that has one parent whether mother or father because, there are so many different factors that contributes to it. I think that as long the children have some balance in their lives and positive role models it can work.
9) What advice will you give a father who might be considering leaving his family?
Yes leave the family home because if it is about conflict, it is not going to help matters just staying in the home. However, you have to maintain contact with your children and I think that is the problem a lot of black males are facing. This is because, to get to the children you have to get to the mother and to get to the mother you have to resolve the issues that started off the bad relationship and that is a task within itself. However it’s about remembering that it is about the children, remain calm and pleasant at all times, not giving mother or anybody the opportunity to say anything bad about you as a father, and letting the children see who you are as a person. Do not try to do anything hasty or forceful to see your children. I wouldn’t advise any man to remain turbulent or acrimonious relationship for the sake of the children because, you are not helping the children you are hindering them. If you are going to leave, leave, set yourself up, settle yourself down, get peace of mind and self, remember that you are a role model for your children and keep working towards that.
10) What service are available for families/children growing up without fathers in their homes?
Caring Dads, this programme works with perpetrators of domestic violence and physical abuse within the home environment. It is a 12 week programme which helps them understand their behaviour and how it can have an impact on their children. It also helps perpetrators address issues that, they may personally have to help them feel better about themselves and not feel too guilty about the past because that guilt can come across as anger. I think services need to be developed, I think a key area to start should be secondary schools possibly year 10 and 11 where a lot of young people within 2 to 3 years of that age can become fathers themselves. It is about helping them to value the role of a father. If there is any organisation that needs support in developing something like that, I would support it.
Andrea Scale, Senior Social Work Practitioner
Please Note: This interview was initially recorded however, due to some technicalities, the responses of the professionals had to be typed. For this reason the responses had to be tweaked for to address the questions appropriately.