Denmark: BABA (Unofficial translation)
12 cities in Denmark
Type of Information
The Foundation for Social Responsibility
Mai-Britt Haugaard Jeppesen (Login to send email)
Contact Person Function
“Baba – The Foundation for Social Responsibility” is a social project aiming at supporting fathers with a minority background to be more engaged in their children’s lives. This is achieved mainly by using the peer-to-peer method. The programme can be understood as a tool for developing the skills, knowledge and networks needed to facilitate engagement, rather than for telling participants how to be a “good” father.
Issue/Challenge and Goal/Assumption
Recent studies have found that the role of the father is very important to a child’s future life. Fathers with a minority background are often less engaged in their children’s lives than ethnic Danish fathers, especially when the children are young. In vulnerable housing areas, engaging these absent fathers is a key factor when it comes to avoiding and preventing conflicts, violence, crime and gang affiliations and to secure active participation in primary school and continued education.
Several successful programmes are targeting mothers in vulnerable housing areas, but when it comes to engaging and including the fathers, the rate of success has been limited. The reason for this is that most other projects have had a top-down approach and mainly focused on fathers with teenage children.
The goal of the Baba programme is three-fold:
- To strengthen the active participation of minority background fathers in their children’s lives;
- To develop and spread conceptions of the positive father role among fathers in the area;
- To build bridges between minority fathers and “the system”.
One of the main challenges is the lack of trust between minority fathers and local social workers, teachers, nurses, housing companies and police – understood all together as “the system”. This lack of trust goes both ways: fathers tend not to trust the system to be working in the best interests of their family and regard system employees with suspicion, fearing that they might take away their children and/or turn them in on accusations of violence or abuse. In turn, system employees tend to be prejudiced against the fathers and have no confidence in their ability to meet their children’s needs, and further do not recognise the resources possessed by the fathers.
Some of these fathers have no role models from their own upbringing, as they were often raised in a culture wherein violence was accepted and children were expected to obey. Unlike the mothers, these fathers also often do not have access to spaces for sharing their thoughts and problems with others in a similar situation.
© Baba – The Foundation for Social Responsibility, 2021.
How does it work
The concept for the Baba programme was developed following a large number of interviews with fathers from a minority background. A local municipality or social housing company can pay for a small or large “package” with which to build up a Baba programme in their own area, which consists of training local employees and volunteers through courses and meetings. The large package includes a Baba consultant to follow the programme on a regular basis.
In the start-up phase of the programme, key persons are found and introduced to the concept and implementation methods. Then follows a recruitment phase, engaging local fathers in the project (three months), a learning phase (six months), and finally an anchoring phase where the project is becoming a stable and future actor in the local community (three months).
The programme focuses on the three issues of education, crime and well-being. In these three focus areas, children are found to be doing far better if their father is engaged and active in their lives. Specifically, focus is placed on these three issues for the following reasons:
- In order to strengthen the father role. Fathers need to share their thoughts, worries and experiences by talking to other fathers.
- To build trust. Through the “dilemma meetings” method developed by the programme, mutual trust is achieved between the fathers and “the system”.
- Peer-to-peer encouragement. The voluntary father participants inspire other fathers in their local area to participate in an active, positive way in their children’s lives. One Baba-team usually reaches more than 200 fathers, and this number rises after the programme ends.
Baba has its own secretariat under The Foundation for Social Responsibility, and a coordination group for local Baba teams.
So far, the Baba programme is running in 12 places in Denmark, and the aim is that it will eventually cover the whole country. 179 Baba volunteers have been trained, and funding has been allocated to establish the concept in a more permanent way. 16 courses were carried out in eight municipalities in Denmark between 2018 and 2020.
Participating fathers benefit from improved relationships with their children and from the building of a network of other fathers, as well as from better mutual understanding with local community professionals.
The goal of the programme is to encourage more present and engaged fathers, but the definition of how a father should engage is up to each individual to decide for themselves: the programme does not present a “correct” way to act or tell fathers how to be a “good” father, for example. An important part of the programme is the facilitation of discussions between fathers and people working in “the system”, so that all actors can collaborate in a way that is in the best interest the children.
VIVE, The Danish Centre for Social Science Research, launched an evaluation of Baba in June 2021 which concluded very positively. The evaluation covers three programmes implemented from 2018 - 2020.
VIVE found that through Baba, volunteer participants are able to develop their role as a father and become more competent in participating in their children’s everyday life. The coordinators have a key role in the programme, which was found to be both a strength and a weakness.
VIVE recommends in the evaluation that:
- extra effort is made for fathers who have arrived in Denmark recently;
- a stronger bridge is built between new start-ups and the future of the programme;
- the role and the responsibility of the programme coordinator is further developed.
In December 2017, the Centre for Social Housing Development made the first evaluation of two Baba projects. The conclusion from this first evaluation was also positive, and some of the recommendations similar to those made by VIVE. The conclusions were that all the volunteers had developed their own role as a father and had become more conscious of that role, and that the project had reached a high number of local fathers (600 people in total), either in the form of a presentation to a group or one-on-one conversations.
The goal of reducing the mistrust between fathers and local professionals was also found to have been achieved, but not to have led to any systemic changes or changes within everyday practice.
The 2017 evaluation also contained recommendations on how to improve the project:
- To be more aware that the f