OnlyDads was set up in 2007 by Bob Grieg to offer support and direction to the other 200,000 dads raising children on their own and in his own words, this is how it happened:-
That's the official spiel, but here's a little back story. In 2004 my wife and I separated and I was left alone to raise two daughters. I went in search for help. Our local council's website had no useful information, and even lone-parent organisations were very female biased. I basically couldn't find any information and support for dads. So I decided to create a support organisation for single parents just like me. I knew it was going to be a tall order. Many said an act of madness!
But create it I did.
There is one thing I should make clear at the outset. OnlyDads is different from other father's groups. We have no leaning towards "father's rights", and we don't campaign or protest on behalf of those seeking custody - no superman costumes for us! Rather, we exist to provide support, accurate signposting, and professional advice.
This "reasonable" approach has seen an enormous growth in the demand for our services over the five years we have been running. Not only have we launched an additional website for mums, but we have now established a large and growing team of professionals who answer questions and provide advice on issues like, family law, debt, drug & alcohol misuse, housing, mediation, bereavement...in fact all the issues which affect the two million single parents in the UK.
As OnlyDads and OnlyMums developed, it became increasingly clear that lone parents often struggle with numerous and often inter-linked problems. Offering a platform where parents can obtain the best possible professional advice, free of charge, and begin the process of better supporting their families is valuable work.
Many of our services now focus on "full-time" single parents. But there is also real work to be done for the estimated one in four children who have little or no contact with their dads post separation from mum.
Experience tells us that once you get beyond the newspaper headlines of "feckless dads" you uncover a whole range of reasons behind the alarming statistic. It is good to know that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood is beginning to carry out research in this area. Their survey and report The Father's Journey published earlier this year highlighted mental health issues, housing, and employment challenges, which all adversely affect dads after divorce. Research into the effect all this has on a generation of children is urgently needed.
For an organisation that receives no Government or Council support, it is astonishing that we now have over 15,000 parents visiting our websites every month. We have established a committed team of 20 experienced volunteers from all over the UK giving parents professional advice every day. We have also been instrumental in setting up a pioneering group in Totnes that affords dads a listening ear and support while they deal with separation issues.
Looking to the future, to continue providing this service we face some real challenges. Charitable registration will open up the opportunity of applying for grants and we have also created sponsorship opportunities for individuals and companies who want to support or donate to our work. Time will tell if we can stay in existence.
What we do know is that If OnlyDads and OnlyMums can continue to help parents find the right support and advice, then children benefit. That's what matters to us, above all else.