Women are amazing. They are graduating from law and medical school in record numbers exceeding the numbers of their male counterparts. Women are an unrelenting market force as they are the majority consumers of cars, homes and big-ticket items. Women hold 60 percent of the personal wealth in this country and 40 percent of married working women now out-earn their husbands. More women are serving as legislators than ever before in history. Women can do anything. The one thing they cannot do is be a father.
Recently Colorado’s own Lynn Johnson, the newly appointed and confirmed Assistant Secretary of the United States, Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently sent out an Information Memorandum (IM) regarding the importance of encouraging all human service agencies, including child welfare agencies, courts, and offices of child support enforcement to work together across government agencies to jointly create and maintain an environment that prioritizes father engagement as a critical factor in strengthening families and adopt approaches to enhance paternal involvement in all family support and child welfare related programs.
She sent out this IM because robust and plentiful data highlight that positive father engagement contributes to early childhood development, academic achievement, increased social skills, cognitive competence, emotional security and behavioral restraint. Children and adolescents who have close and positive relationships with their father are less likely to engage in risky behaviors or substance and alcohol use.
The twin epidemic of the breakdown of the family and the lack of family formation before having a child has put children and adults at risk for instability, violence, financial insecurity, social and health issues. This was made real for me recently when my daughter had her baby a couple of weeks ago. While talking to her experienced labor and delivery nurse, I asked her to outline the percentage of babies born to married parents. Without hesitation, she told me it was less than 40 percent. She also lamented that it makes her sad because it is becoming the norm. She is familiar with the research and knows that placing a newborn child into a family that is not formed puts the baby at risk. The irony is that most of the time the baby’s daddy is present at the birth, but between birth and 18 months, dad is not involved. The literature calls these types of arrangements, “Fragile Families.”
As a nation and with government funding and programming, we must research and discover what we can do for fragile families to keep dad in the picture. We must teach women that they can be feminists and still include fathers in the lives of their children.
Kuddos to Johnson for encouraging social service agencies to create an environment that is conducive to honoring dad and the wonderful gifts he gives his children when he is engaged and present in their lives.
On this Veterans Day, as a former Air Force nurse who feels like I have every opportunity and can do just about anything, I am reminded that I cannot be a dad. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, myrelationshipcenter.org.
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