Dads’ Resource Center founder Dr. Joel N. Myers told a gathering of government leaders and child and family advocates on Thursday that better education and resources and a more equitable court system are needed to help position single fathers to take and maintain a more substantial role in the lives of their children.

“Children who maintain healthy, quality relationships with both their mom and their dad following the separation of their parents usually experience better adjustments and more positive rates of development compared to when those relationships are absent,” Myers said in his keynote address to the third annual Strong Families Commission conference. “They have lower rates of drug and alcohol involvement, truancy, delinquency, and trouble with the law, gang involvement, educational underachievement or dropout, self-esteem, depression, anger and even physical illness.”

The two-day conference, “From the Beginning…Early Childhood Development and the Role of Fathers,” brought together 200 individuals who are advocates for improved father engagement nationally and in Pennsylvania, to explore and bolster the critical role fathers play in the lives of their children and families.

Myers outlined several recent surveys produced by Dads’ Resource Center (DRC) that underscore the need for more accountability and transparency to better level the playing field for fathers in custody disputes in the courts and child services system.

DRC surveys examining custody rulings, Protection from Abuse orders and Guardians ad Litem, have uncovered some of the factors that prevent fathers from achieving equality in custody arrangements, including biases in the court system and lack of sufficient resources.

“What we have found is that the family courts perform dismally with outmoded approaches to complex problems,” Myers said. “With such a large percentage of our children at their disposal, their dysfunction has become a national problem.”

Agencies that influence the outcome of custody situations may have a profound effect on the life of a child.

“Once patterns of living and care are established in the initial weeks and months following separation, precedents are established that may last for years until the child reaches a certain age,” Myers said.  “The irreparable harm may in some cases last a lifetime,” he said.