Celebrating Fathers and Families: Federal Support for Responsible Fatherhood

Written Testimony from Dr. Joel Myers, DRC Founder and Board Chair

On June 11, a Congressional hearing reviewing discussed increased Federal support for fatherhood programs. Individuals who work in or benefited from fatherhood programs testified to the importance of responsible fatherhood programs and the need to expand them to support vulnerable families and children.

Dr. Joel Myers, AccuWeather founder, chief executive officer and chairman and the founder and board chair of Dads’ Resource Center, provided written testimony that was included in the written record of the hearing, here.

As a children’s advocacy organization, the Dads’ Resource Center seeks to effect change from within systems that serve children and families. DRC believes society, the courts, and social agencies have an obligation to ensure that dads are able to provide the time, input, emotional and financial support that their children deserve and require. Below is a portion of Dr. Myers’ testimony.

“Just like mothers, fathers have many unique things to offer their children. They are role models, caretakers, providers, teachers and advocates. When children have the benefit of access to and involvement with both their mother and father, they are more likely to excel in school, achieve emotional well-being, and be less likely to engage in drugs and other risky behavior.

Nationwide, approximately 24 million or 35% of our nation’s children are being raised in single-parent households often without access to their fathers and the emotional and financial support dads can provide. In my home state of Pennsylvania, nearly 900,000 or 34% of children reside in single-parent homes. According to data collected by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, an estimated 315,270 or 46% of children in single, female-headed households are living below the 100% poverty level.

Why don’t more fathers stay involved in their children’s lives? Admittedly, some don’t even try. This is unacceptable for everyone, and we must do our best to change this.

The overwhelming majority of fathers do want to play the significant role their children need. However, when there are parental separations, sons and daughters are far too often denied access to their dads because of biases in the court systems and the state agencies that are charged with ensuring the well-being of children.

I founded the Dads’ Resource Center in Centre County three years ago to help promote the well-being and healthy development of children from separated or divorced families, supporting and encouraging fathers to be fully active and engaged in the lives of their sons and daughters. We believe society, the courts, and social agencies have an obligation to do all they can to ensure this happens, so dads can provide the input, the time, as well as the emotional, and financial support that their children deserve and require.

The research is clear: father involvement is associated with better outcomes for child well-being. Children who maintain healthy, quality relationships with both their moms and dads following parental separations experience better adjustments and more positive rates of development compared to when those relationships are absent and adversarial. Father involvement is a key protective factor for children that aids in the development of resilience and mitigates many psychological and social risks as the child heads towards adulthood.

Children with involved fathers have lower rates of drug and alcohol involvement, truancy, delinquency, and trouble with the law, gang involvement, educational underachievement or dropout, self-esteem issues, depression, anger and even physical illness.

We believe that the presumption should be that children have a right to access both of their parents and parents have a right to maintain access to their children. The lens through which we look at all issues surrounding families should be what accrues to the maximum benefits of children. The goal of my organization and my advocacy is not to diminish the role and importance of mothers, but rather to:

  • Acknowledge as a matter of public policy that father involvement in the lives of their children is ideal and good for the health and well-being of children, families and society as a whole;
  • Remove barriers that impede the emotional, social, physical, intellectual, spiritual and financial contributions that fathers can and do provide to the well-being of children and families;
  • Strengthen families to better support children; and
  • Put fathers on an equal footing with mothers.

Dads’ Resource Center is a member of a Pennsylvania-wide coalition known as the Symposium Organization Coalition (SOC), which is organized around reforming 10 areas of the state system that disenfranchise fathers, as more fully set forth in a detailed and well researched report issued by SOC in March of this year. These areas for reform are:

  1. Administration of Justice and Public Safety
  2. Behavioral Health
  3. Child Support and Custody
  4. Dependent, Delinquent Children and Youth
  5. Early Childhood Development
  6. Education
  7. Employment and Training
  8. Housing and Homelessness
  9. Parental Education and Support Services
  10. Public Health

The SOC is now working with members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Tom Wolf to establish a “Pennsylvania Commission to Promote Greater Father Family Involvement,” a legal entity that would promote father contributions to the well-being of children and families across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, regardless of race, economic or social standing. Pennsylvania is well-positioned not only to overcome the barrier to father involvement but also to actually become a national leader in the movement to increase father presence and greater father involvement with their children.

It is clear to us through our studies, research and experience that the system is clearly broken. The negative predispositions toward fathers are known, accepted and institutionalized by the legal profession, the courts and the state agencies responsible for the well-being of children. This is wrong, and it hurts the children they are supposed to be helping.

We can and must rebalance the system in a manner that better serves the interests of our children and society and promote gender equality among all parents and to benefit our children.  

Raising our kids is our duty and can be our greatest joy. Children need and crave both of their parents to be actively involved in their lives to help them grow emotionally, socially, physically, intellectually, spiritually, and financially into the productive, healthy adults we want and need them to be.