Future Dads Adapts and Goes Virtual

What we learned from delivering Future Dads virtually


Outside of global pandemics, Future Dads is a one day programme targeting fathers-to-be, to support them to develop the skills, knowledge and reflections to become the best fathers possible. In the context of a global pandemic, however, all areas of work have had to adapted and Future Dads was no exception. To find out more about the programme, please see https://futuremen.org/future-dads/.

In April 2020, Future Men (FM) was commissioned by the South-East London Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to delivery an abbreviated version of the Future Dads programme online. The session was to be developed for a two-hour session delivered via Zoom to groups up to 10 of fathers-to-be.  

Historically, Future Dads (previously known as the Expectant Fathers’ Programme) was delivered in hospitals, with the support of midwives, to build skills, knowledge, and confidence. With the restrictions imposed on accessing hospitals as a response to coronavirus, the programme was adapted from the one-day session. While there was mention of the practical skills of holding, winding, changing, and bathing, for example, it was not practical to replicate that element of the programme in a virtual manner. To bridge the gap, NHS approved videos were shared at the conclusion of the two-hour session.  

The core focus of the session was to give space to considerations about fatherhood. The group talked what type of father they might want to be, potential impact on their relationships across partners, colleagues and friends, discussion about concerns for the mental health and wellbeing of participants and talk about budgeting for infants and children.   

It has been a privilege to be able to adapt our delivery and continue to provide a service to fathers-to-be during a period when some were not going to be able to witness the birth of their child, let alone attend antenatal appointments with their partners.  


Future Men used multiple methods for promoting the workshops, while being very clear about the inclusion criteria, and communicating relevant testimonies to attract the attention of potential participants and referral partners. 

Full details of the workshops, including dates, content, and the inclusion criteria, were shared on the website which attracts 1.7k visitors per month. Using LinkedIn (330 followers) and Twitter (2.4K followers), Future Men shared the link to the web page on a fortnightly basis.  

Paul McDaniel and Chris Stein attended the Virtual Parent Education workshops organised by Kings College Hospital to promote the workshops to attendees. From the figures below, there is a correlation between promotion through this medium and the uptake from Kings College Hospital. 

Future Men leveraged our network of male and family focussed organisations and individuals, for example Best Beginnings, Mark Williams (Campaigner and Author), Elliott Rae (Author and Community Leader, Fatherhood Institute, to target promotion through their networks. 


We will detail the flow from registrations to pre-questionnaires completed to post questionnaires completed, where participants came from and their characteristics in this section. 


Total number of registrations 


Pre-questionnaires completed 


Post- questionnaires completed 



Which boroughs did participants come from?

What were the characteristics of the participants?


Whilst we made significant efforts to target Men from Black and other ethnic minority backgrounds our usual networks and mediums for engaging this group have been curtailed due to the impacts of lockdown (many of which rely on in-person outreach and contacts).

 We have managed to reach a good proportion of those form these groups and those form mixed ethnicity relationships from anecdotal evidence.  Given the lack of baseline data on ethnic make up in the localities targeted it is also a challenge to track effectiveness and reach proportionally.  We have however learned lessons and broadened our virtual networks for reaching these groups and are sure we can continue to attract more form these groups in the future.


Range: 17 to 51

Mode: 33

Median: 35

Mean: 34.9

Deprivation Levels

32% of participants hold postcodes in the three most deprived deciles by Index of Multiple Deprivation


In preparation for the delivery of the workshop, we created a series of PowerPoint slides that allowed us to facilitate conversation. The discussions were interactive. Participants were able to share their views and have them reflected on the screen. After the first month, we began making greater use of the breakout room facility on Zoom. The feedback immediately reflected the impact of using this capability, with participants enjoying the interactive nature of the delivery.

Broad opinion reflected through statements in the post-questionnaires was that participants would have wanted to complete the one-day course delivered in hospitals, though they understood it was not feasible and appreciated the workshop for what it was.

Some participants fed back that they would have preferred two one-and-a-half hour sessions with a 15-minute break as they felt it was rushed in places. The workshop was designed to be two hours long as it was believed that this was the extent of concentration via video conference. It would be useful to consider the impact of an additional hour on design and delivery, especially in light of the feedback above and wanting more instruction on practical skills.

Just as with the in-person delivery, feedback from the online delivery cited a desire for follow up contact with the group so that participants could share experiences and build a support network. Future Men has wanted to scope what follow up contacts could look like in practice, with a view to empowering the groups to support one another in the fatherhood journeys.


Before analysing the outcomes, it is useful to have an understanding of what participants wanted to take from the day. The following chart provides that detail:

Future men measure the distance travelled from pre to post programme using questionnaires. In the following charts, 0 means there was no change, numbers below 0 indicate a regression and above 1 indicates an improvement.

Rate the facilitator 1 = poor, 5 = Excellent

Focussing on the issue of paternal mental health in the perinatal phase, while suicide is an extreme and severe outcome with low prevalence, according to Quevedo et al (2011), “Studies have shown that fathers with mental health problems during the perinatal period are up to 47 times more likely to be classed as a suicide risk than at any other time in their lives”[1]. This indicates that the paternal mental health requires specific attention. From the responses gathered about what participants appreciated about the workshops, the discussion of mental health was highly cited.

Mark Williams, campaigner, author, speaker and consultant, wrote, “Fathers Reaching Out – Why Dads Matter: 10 years of findings on the importance of fathers’ (2020). In the paper, 10 recommendations are put forward, one of which states there should be, “More support for paternal mental health during the perinatal period, in order to assist the father in becoming the best version of himself, ensuring that he is able to provide support for the mother’s mental health, as well as protecting against any negative impact that this could have on the child, overall giving rise to better outcomes for the child in the longer term.” The Future Dads workshop delivers to this. Future Men would like to develop this section to provide the best support possible within the parameters of the workshop.


The following testimonies provide further insight into the thoughts and feelings of participants at the conclusion of the session:

This is great work that you are doing; please keep it up and keep inspiring Future Men!


Chris was an excellent facilitator and helped us engage with the content by delivering an interactive workshop. His willingness to share examples from personal experience helped create a relaxed atmosphere. Thank you very much for a really interesting workshop!


Really useful. Thank you very much! Would definitely recommend to others. Was good that group was so small, and having a new father’s experience was lucky and further enlightening.


Thanks so much, please keep up this support.  It would be great if there were follow-up sessions.  Please let me know.  Thank you.


Really appreciated having time to think about these points and brought up some things I will consider more e.g. the aspects of being a father


I appreciated the overall topic and time to allow me to focus on my thoughts. I also appreciated being given the videos to take away to help me with other areas we can’t do due to covid/virtual.

I thought the course was very useful, even as a new rather than expectant dad. It is definitely suited better to expectant dads, but it still gave me lots to take away and think about, particularly Diamond dads and the mental health resources


Thank you for running the course. It’s made me thing differently and want to do more to prepare.

I would recommend this to any expecting father as it helps and if you’ve got questions they would get answered


Many thanks for the course, it’s been very useful and a great platform. Please Continue the great work.


Was useful and raised a few things that I had not previously considered. Am feeling a bit better prepared than I was two hours ago

This session was really great. I have a lot to think about from it and took notes that I’ll refer back to later. I spoke briefly to my wife about it and she wishes she had more of this sort of thing for the women. Also, a massive ‘Thanks’ to Chris! He was excellent.

This dad centred session is really helpful not just by giving us information but meeting other expectant dads as well and knowing that others are experiencing what you experience as well.


Chris should do a Ted Talk -he was excellent. I had some trepidations about the course before joining. I wasn’t really looking forward to interacting with strangers. But Chris made it easy, the exercises were informative and enjoyable. Really good group too.

It was just a really useful session, huge thanks to the facilitator and those that pulled together the course materials, etc. Very grateful for it as a free resource, thanks!


I thought I was prepared but this gave me a little reality check. Thanks Paul!


Much better than I had anticipated


Thank you, Paul! Really appreciated the class.


This was a great session and the host was fantastic. I would be interested in more, as ongoing sessions to catch up with fathers about the experience. There are not many spaces related to parenting that are geared towards dads.


The report has encapsulated the full development of the programme from commissioning to outcome reporting.

Future Men has greatly appreciated the ability to maintain delivery of Future Dads during the period of the pandemic and restrictions imposed. As many participants noted, while delivery of the programme in-person, sharing the knowledge of practical skills, is the ideal, the online delivery is the best alternative. Equally, as was stated at the beginning of the workshop, it is often the discussion-based aspects of fatherhood, covered in the workshop, that can be overlooked in favour of the practical care, leaving a gap in the mental and emotional preparation.

At the beginning of the delivery of the online workshop, Future Men designed materials to inform and promote conversation. Over the period of delivery, we iterated the design of the tools to be more effective. The iterations in design and the increased skills in using Zoom, particularly breakout rooms, supported the delivery of positive outcomes.  

What are our plans for the future?

It is clear, from both a statistical and testimonial point of view, that the adaptation of the course to an online environment has been successful. Future Men received fantastic feedback from participants, confirming some elements and critically evaluating other elements of the design and delivery. We are seeking interested stakeholders to commission the delivery of this essential work for fathers and to implement and learn from this critical feedback.

Contact us on info@futuremen.org if you are interested in commissioning or funding Future Dads.

Before signing off, for all readers, just remember that there are no statutory services for fathers. Not meeting the needs of fathers, also fails to meet the needs of mothers as partners are not equipped to meet the needs of their children.

[1] Quevedo et al (2011) “Risk of suicide and mixed episode in men in the postpartum period”, Journal of Affective Disorders. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032711000218?via%3Dihub, accessed 26/08/2021