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School Seminar | Lee | May 26, 2023


Date & Time: May 26th 9-1pm

Venue: Village Auditorium, UCD Village, Belfield Campus

Topic: ‘When the invisible become visible.’ An exploration of when non-resident fathers have been considered as a resource by social workers in Child Protection Practice.

Speaker: Dr Lee Sobo-Allen, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Leeds Beckett University; Email address: (opens in a new window)l.s.sobo-allen@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Organised by: Dr Joseph Mooney (Social Work), UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice

Abstract: Research studies in the UK and beyond for the past twenty-five years have consistently found that fathers have not been engaged with, and assessed by social workers as either a risk, or a resource, for their children.  This presentation will explore existing studies that have considered the barriers to this engagement, before presenting findings from my Doctoral study which explored factors where social workers had successfully considered non-resident fathers as a resource, to the point that the father had become their child’s primary carer.

Despite many of the fathers living in close proximity and having regular contact with their children, they were ‘invisible’, through having not been contacted by, nor aware of the involvement of Social Workers.  The majority of fathers only became ‘visible’ when the Social Workers were at the point of, or had already, removed their child into the care of the Local Authority.     

Given the opportunity, the fathers exercised agency and demonstrated a commitment to the assessment and to their child. The Social Workers demonstrated discretion in considering the negative aspects of the fathers’ lives, understanding fathers are neither good nor bad, but a combination of both, offering encouragement and challenge in equal measures.  Most importantly, despite a few challenges, the fathers and Social Workers were able to develop, and sustain a relationship, that led to the fathers being successfully utilised as a resource in child protection practice.

Speaker Bio: Dr Lee Sobo-Allen, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Leeds Beckett University is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work with previous experience as a qualified social worker in child protection, children with disabilities and adults with learning disabilities. Research interests in social work engagement with fathers.

Contact the UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 8198 | E: sp-sw-sj@ucd.ie |