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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fatherhood Initiatives: Connecting Fathers to Their Children

Carmen Solomon-Fears
Specialist in Social Policy

In 2010, 24% of families with children (under age 18) were maintained by mothers. According to some estimates, 60% of children born during the 1990s will spend a significant portion of their childhood in a home without their father. Research indicates that children raised in single-parent families are more likely than children raised in two-parent families (with both biological parents) to do poorly in school, have emotional and behavioral problems, become teenage parents, and have poverty-level incomes. In hopes of improving the long-term outlook for children in singleparent families, federal, state, and local governments, along with public and private organizations, are supporting programs and activities that promote the financial and personal responsibility of noncustodial fathers to their children and increase the participation of fathers in the lives of their children. These programs have come to be known as “responsible fatherhood” programs.

Sources of federal funding for fatherhood programs include the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, TANF state Maintenance-of-Effort (MOE) funding, Child Support Enforcement (CSE) funds, and Social Services Block Grant (Title XX) funds.

In the 106th, 107th, and 108th Congresses, bills containing specific funding for responsible fatherhood initiatives were debated. President George W. Bush, a supporter of responsible fatherhood programs, included funding for such programs in each of his budgets. In the 109th Congress, P.L. 109-171 (the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005) was enacted. It included a provision that provides up to $50 million per year (FY2006-FY2010) in competitive grants to states, territories, Indian tribes and tribal organizations, and public and nonprofit community groups (including religious organizations) for responsible fatherhood initiatives. No responsible fatherhood legislation was passed in the 110th Congress. There were several responsible fatherhood bills introduced during the 111th Congress. In addition, the Obama Administration’s FY2011 budget included a proposal to substantially increase funding for responsible fatherhood programs under a proposed new Fatherhood, Marriage, and Families Innovation Fund. Under the proposal, the new fund would have received $500 million for FY2011 (this proposal was not passed by either the House or the Senate). Instead, P.L. 111-291 (enacted December 8, 2010) extended funding for the Title IV-A Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grants for an additional year (i.e., through FY2011). For FY2011, it appropriated $75 million for awarding funds for healthy marriage promotion activities and $75 million for awarding funds for activities promoting responsible fatherhood. Pursuant to P.L. 112-78 (enacted December 23, 2011), the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grant programs were extended at their FY2011 funding level (on a pro rata basis) through February 29, 2012. Pursuant to P.L. 112-96 (enacted February 22, 2012), the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grant programs were extended (at their FY2011 funding level) through the end of FY2012 (on a pro rata basis).

Most fatherhood programs include media campaigns that emphasize the importance of emotional, physical, psychological, and financial connections of fathers to their children. Most fatherhood programs include parenting education; responsible decision-making; mediation services for both parents; providing an understanding of the CSE program; conflict resolution, coping with stress, and problem-solving skills; peer support; and job-training opportunities (skills development, interviewing skills, job search, job-retention skills, job-advancement skills, etc.).

The federal government’s support of fatherhood initiatives raises a wide array of issues. This report briefly examines the role of the CSE agency in fatherhood programs and discusses initiatives to promote and support father-child interaction outside the parents’ relationship.

Date of Report: February 24, 2012
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: RL31025
Price: $29.95

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