WASHINGTON _ To help with the crisis of absentee fathers in America, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., is calling for $77 million from the federal government.
“Too many fathers do not face their responsibilities, and they live absent from the home, absent from their children’s lives,” Bayh said in a statement this week. He cited government statistics showing that the number of children living in households without fathers has tripled in the last 40 years, from just more than 5 million in 1960 to more than 17 million today.
Bayh joined a bipartisan group of House and Senate members this week urging Congress to take action on a bill called the Responsible Fatherhood Act of 1999. Bayh introduced the legislation last summer.
“When children grow up without their fathers they are five times more likely to live in poverty, twice as likely to commit a crime, and twice as likely to drop out of school,” said Bayh.
Bayh also cites information from “Father Facts,” by Wade Horn, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, to stress the bill's urgency for Indiana residents:
–More than 29 percent of Indiana families do not have fathers in the home—seventh highest in the country.
–More than 30 percent of all of Indiana's babies are born out of wedlock – ninth highest in the country.
–More than 74 percent of Indiana's teen births are out of wedlock.
Bayh's legislation has been bottled up in committee since last summer. With help from the bi-partisan group of other members of Congress, Bayh is aiming for action soon. So far the bill has 18 co-sponsors equally divided between republicans and democrats.
Among the bill's provisions:
–A $25 million grant program to help states and local communities get donated air time from broadcasters for messages promoting responsible fatherhood.
–A $50 million program to give grants to state and local government, nonprofit, charitable and religious organizations to promote responsible fatherhood. States must match 25 percent of this money.
–A $2 million program to produce and distribute television, radio, and print advertisements to promote and share successful efforts among communities.
The bill also would increase the amount of child support a person could receive without affecting his or her eligibility for federal aid programs. It would help unemployed fathers get jobs and create incentives for fathers who pay child support.
Some local organizations support Bayh’s bill. “We find that most boys in a home with no father have no self-discipline. They are just out to have a good time,” said Lisa Bare of the Big Brother Big Sisters organization in Rushville, Ind. “They then grow up and have a tough time functioning in society.”
Officials from Planned Parenthood agree. “We support this bill because it helps promote the emotional gifts fathers can give from just being with their children,” said Kathleen Baldwin, vice president of education and training at the Planned Parenthood of Central and Southern Indiana, “instead of only focusing on the financial resources they have.”