Ms Kim Anh Tran

Research project: Challenges and complexities of child protection practice in working with fathers with a mental health illness


A rich body of literature has explored the issues of working with fathers in children safeguarding and family support. A range of change movements have been made advocating for fathers' inclusion in the process of child protection interventions. There has been some success, but outcomes remain limited - expectations still remain low and gendered, and there is still resistance to chance and professionals still fail to work effectively with fathers (Phillip et al., 2018). We know that when child protection professionals struggle to engage fathers and father figures, assessments may not accurately reflect the combination of resource and risk factors men present for children they care for, potentially endangering children and excluding men (Brandon et al., 2019).

In particular, professionals struggle to engage with fathers who have a mental illness. Limited research has emerged that challenges lack of policies, regulation and practice guidance in social work with fathers with mental health illnesses. Paternal mental health illnesses on its own right have received very little attention.

Therefore, the aims of this research is to investigate:

1)    The experience of child protection intervention of fathers who have a mental illness; and

2)    The complexities and challenges of child protection practice in working with fathers who have a mental illness

This study will use qualitative method. The main analytic approach will be interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) which is an approach to qualitative inquiry that was originally developed in the field of health psychology by Jonathan Smith (1996). This provide an interpretative phenomenological analysis of interview transcripts. This will be used to explore how participants experienced paternal mental illnesses, and made sense of that experience, in the context of child protection intervention. IPA researchers are interested in the unique meanings that people assign to a certain experience, but also in how those meanings relate to the person's individual and cultural context, and to the similar experiences of others.

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: Challenges and complexities of child protection practice in working with fathers with a mental health illness
  • Research supervisor: Dr David Nilsson
  • Other research supervisor: Professor Rick Hood


I am a registered social worker with over 10 years' experience of statutory child and family social work. I am also a senior lecturer in social work. I teach across a range of subjects in pre- and post- qualifying social work courses. I believe teaching and research can make a difference to people's lives. The difference I would like to make is to promote positive experience of service user of social care, regardless who they are and the circumstance they are experiencing.

Areas of research interest

  • Child Protection
  • Parental Mental Health
  • Paternal Mental Health
  • Gender in Parenting


  • MA In Social Work, The Tavistock and Portman, London
  • PgCert in Practice Education, Middlesex University, London
  • BA in Economics and English Language, Hanoi Foreign Trade University, Vietnam

Funding or awards received

  • Full PhD Scholarship by Kingston University