Tac­tics shift­ing on sub­ject of ‘re­spon­si­ble fa­ther­hood’ Fo­cus on good mates, sus­tain­ing re­la­tion­ships

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY CH­ERYL WETZSTEIN

For two decades, the “re­spon­si­ble fa­ther­hood” move­ment has fo­cused on jobs, child sup­port and men play­ing a pos­i­tive, ac­tive role in the lives of their chil­dren.

Now it may be time to fo­cus on some “softer” skills — how to pick a good mate, how to keep a re­la­tion­ship go­ing, how to stand as a good dad in the com­mu­nity’s eyes, pro­fes­sion­als said dur­ing a Wed­nes­day we­bi­nar held by the Na­tional Fa­ther­hood Lead­ers Group.

De­spite myr­iad ef­forts by fa­ther­hood pro­grams, too many men are end­ing up in mul­ti­ple re­la­tion­ships, with mul­ti­ple chil­dren from mul­ti­ple moth­ers.

In th­ese “com­plex fam­i­lies,” a fa­ther will of­ten be able to fo­cus time and at­ten­tion on one of his bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren, but have lit­tle or no con­tact with the oth­ers, said Kathryn Edin, pro­fes­sor of pub­lic pol­icy at Har­vard Univer­sity and au­thor of “Do­ing the Best I Can: Fa­ther­hood in the In­ner City.”

Heartache, fam­ily dis­rup­tion and fi­nan­cial dis­tress of­ten abound. What can be done about this — is there “a fail­ure of imag­i­na­tion” in pub­lic pol­icy? she asked.

Ron­ald Mincy, pro­fes­sor of so­cial pol­icy and so­cial work prac­tice at Columbia Univer­sity, noted that this pop­u­la­tion of low-in­come, non­res­i­dent fa­thers is “re­ally large” — about 10 mil­lion men.

How­ever, hav­ing chil­dren with mul­ti­ple part­ners is oc­cur­ring through­out the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, so so­lu­tions should ad­dress bar­ri­ers to chil­dren for men, re­gard­less of race, in­come or mar­i­tal sta­tus, he said.

In her re­search, Ms. Edin found that in­ner-city fa­thers were of­ten in­tensely lov­ing with their chil­dren and de­sired to be com­mit­ted, at­ten­tive fa­thers.

But they also re­vealed that their pas­sion was for the child, not nec­es­sar­ily the mother. Preg­nan­cies oc­curred in whirl­wind re­la­tion­ships, re­bound re­la­tion­ships or with women who were “passed along” by a friend. “I got stuck with her for awhile,” one fa­ther said of his child’s mother.

In light of th­ese dy­nam­ics, maybe there’s a need for an or­ga­ni­za­tion for men like the suc­cess­ful Na­tional Cam­paign to Pre­vent Teen and Un­planned Preg­nancy, said Ms. Edin. Men would surely ben­e­fit from cam­paigns that ad­vised them to “slow down,” “pre­pare for fa­ther­hood,” re­al­ize that a mother and child are “a pack­age” and “take time” to se­lect a lov­ing part­ner and fu­ture mother.

Ron Hask­ins, se­nior fel­low at Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, said that at least one site in the Build­ing Strong Fam­i­lies pro­gram worked won­ders with frag­ile fam­i­lies and those lessons should be used in new pro­grams. Re­search shows “there’s at least a spark” in most un­wed cou­ples when they have a baby, “and I think that is what we should re­ally fo­cus on.”

Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia child­de­vel­op­ment pro­fes­sor Vi­vian Gads­den urged com­mu­nity groups, churches and other in­sti­tu­tions to do more to help men strengthen their re­la­tion­ship skills and be­come “vis­i­ble” role mod­els in neigh­bor­hoods. Ms. Edin’s book shows that “th­ese fa­thers have an im­age of what they want to be­come,” she said.

The we­bi­nar was led by Joe Jones, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Center for Ur­ban Fam­i­lies in Bal­ti­more, and Kirk Har­ris, co-de­signer of the Fa­thers, Fam­i­lies and Health Com­mu­ni­ties Demon­stra­tion in Chicago.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment cur­rently spends about $75 mil­lion a year on re­spon­si­ble-fa­ther­hood pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to the Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice.

De­spite myr­iad ef­forts by fa­ther­hood pro­grams,

too many men are end­ing up in mul­ti­ple

re­la­tion­ships, with mul­ti­ple chil­dren from

mul­ti­ple moth­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.