In the age when big government has displaced and replaced fathers, making traditional families obsolete by giving financial incentives in various forms of welfare to millions of out-of-wedlock mothers in head of household families, the idea of fatherhood programs and initiatives seems commendable.
According to the Pew Research Center, four in ten babies were born in 2008 to unwed women. Approximately 2.6 million households were led by single fathers in 2011, a sizeable increase when compared to fewer than 300,000 in 1960. Twenty-three percent of single-household families were father-only families and 77 percent were mother-only families.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which studied 27 industrialized countries found that 25.8 percent of children in the U.S. are raised by a single parent compared to 14.9 percent in other countries. Seventy-two percent of black children are raised in a single parent household.
The OECD reported public spending on child welfare and education in the U.S. to be $160,000, higher than the $149,000 expenditure in other countries, most spending occurring after the crucial early childhood years. The study indicated that “the United States is the only OECD country that does not have a national paid parental leave policy.” It is important to point out that all socialist countries have such a policy that is sometimes abused by parents who learn how to game the system.
According to the Census Bureau, 32% of the 35 million families with children under the age of 18 were run by one parent. www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/cps2013F.html
Because in 2013 twenty-five percent of children under 18 lived in households run by their mothers, the federal, state, and local governments partnered with public and private organizations to develop programs to help noncustodial fathers be financially and personally responsible for their children, boosting involvement in their children’s lives.
“Responsible fatherhood” programs are very important because research shows that children raised in single-parent families are “more likely to do poorly in school, have emotional and behavioral problems, become teenage parents, and have poverty level incomes.” www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL31025.pdf
Federal funding for “responsible fatherhood” programs comes from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), TANF state Maintenance-of-Effort (MOE), Child Support Enforcement (CSE), and Social Services Block Grant (Title XX).
Fifty million dollars per year in competitive grants to states, territories, Indian tribes, public and non-profit groups were included in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 for responsible fatherhood initiatives (2006-2010)
P.L. 111-291 (December 8, 2010) appropriated $75 million for healthy marriage promotion and $75 million for responsible fatherhood activities. Fatherhood programs promote the importance of “emotional, psychological, and financial connections of fathers to their children.” The fatherhood programs include “parenting education, responsible decision-making, mediation services for both parents, conflict resolution, coping with stress, problem solving skills, peer support, and job training activities such as skills development, interviewing skills, job search, job-retention skills, and job-advancement skills.”(Carmen Solomon-Fears, Specialist in Social Policy, January 28, 2014)
Child Support Enforcement (CSE) funds are used to promote access and visitation rights for fathers. Both single mothers on welfare and the biological father are more likely to have dropped out of school, have little work experience, and are likely unable to find and/or keep a job.
Representative Nancy Johnson said that these fathers are “dead broke,” not “dead beats” and the federal government “should help these noncustodial fathers meet their financial and emotional obligations to their children.” (House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, Hearing on Fatherhood Legislation, Statement of Chairman Nancy Johnson, 106th Congress, 1st session, October 5, 1999, p. 4)
President George W. Bush’s Executive Office wrote in a “Blueprint for New Beginnings – A Responsible Budget for America’s Priorities” (February 28, 2001 in Chapter 12, p. 75), “While fathers must fulfill their financial commitments, they must also fulfill their emotional commitments. Dads play indispensable roles that cannot be measured in dollars and cents: nurturer, mentor, disciplinarian, moral instructor, and skills coach, among other roles.” http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BUDGET-2002-BLUEPRINT/pdf/BUDGET-2002-BLUEPRINT.pdf
To make matters worse, some noncustodial fathers are incarcerated and, upon release, must re-enter the lives of their children but do not have the skills to cope with such a monumental undertaking, further negatively affecting the fragility of the family that needs healthy relationship skills training.
Women’s groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Women’s Law Center expressed concern that:
– Single-mother families might be under-valued by the emphasis on the importance of the father.
– Services for fathers would take away from services for mothers.
– Fathers’ rights groups would get more leverage in child custody cases, child support, and visitation arrangements.
Solomon-Fears asks the following questions in a Congressional Research Service report:
1. Is the federal government promoting and supporting the father’s involvement in their children’s lives regardless of the father’s relationship with the mother?
2. What if the father has children by more than one woman?
3. What about incarcerated parents or recently released from jail?
4. Federal government support for counseling, education, and supervised visitation for abusive fathers who may or may not want to reconnect with their children? (RL31025, p. 13)
The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) system has improved its collection of child support payments during 1978-2011 from $1 billion to $27.3 billion, located more parents, discovered paternities, and established child support orders.
Proponents of the CSE program additionally approve of the “increased personal responsibility and welfare cost-avoidance.”
Critics of the CSE program enumerate the nanny state, “big brother” compliance venues such as withholding licensure (professional, driver’s, recreational), passport revocation, seizure of bank accounts, retirement funds, lottery winnings, and automatic withholding from pay checks. The CSE program ”collects only 20 percent of child support obligations for which it has responsibility and only 57 percent of its caseload.”
CSE program is based exclusively on financial support, critics say, alienating low-income fathers from their children when they cannot meet their child support payments. Such a narrow view of fatherhood, specialists say, devalues fathers and robs them of the role as “nurturer, disciplinarian, mentor, and moral instructor.” On the other hand, it is hard to be a disciplinarian or moral instructor to your child when you lack the moral compass to begin with or are in jail.
Noncustodial fathers from welfare supported families complain that the CSE program does not help their children because child support payments are used for welfare reimbursements to the federal government and the state. Mothers use the CSE program as a threat to report fathers to the CSE authorities, to take them back to court, to have more wages garnished, and to have them arrested.
The 1996 welfare reform law stated that “marriage is the foundation of a successful society.” “Marriage is an essential institution of a successful society that promotes the interests of children. However, some child welfare advocates argue that marriage is not necessarily the best alternative for all women and their children,” especially when taking into account an abusive father. (CRS report, “Fatherhood Initiatives: Connecting Fathers to Their Children,” Carmen Solomon-Fears, p. 14)
Research found in 2011 that 72.11 percent of black births were to unmarried women and 29.1 percent of white births were to unmarried women. Based on this demographic, the researchers, Ronald B. Mincy and Chien-Chung Huang, from Bowling Green State University, thought it “racially insensitive” to devote five times as much money for marriage promotion as for responsible fatherhood promotion. Thus in 2011, P.L. 111-291 made the funding for responsible fatherhood grants equal to marriage promotion grants.
The federal government is trying to redress the disintegration of the American family, a problem it has created through generous welfare programs that have rewarded out-of-wedlock motherhood and replaced fathers. Many generations of welfare cases and a perennial poor underclass have been created, with no work ethic, no desire to succeed, no interest in education as a way out of poverty, and no personal responsibility.