WASHINGTON – The cry to the government asking for additional funding to help low-income mothers is being joined forcefully by those who say better social programs should also help fathers.
Fatherhood program funds are used to maintain and support marriage through relationship skills classes and to improve parenting through parenting skills classes. They are also used to reduce employment barriers and for media campaigns.
As the time for the reauthorization of many social programs draws near,funds for fatherhood programs will be weighed beside Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Child Support,two programs that provide a large portion of financial support for low-income single mothers.
In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30,fatherhood programs received $50 million,and programs to support marriage received $100 million.
Supporters of fatherhood programs say too much emphasis has been placed on marriage,and they would like a larger percentage of the money to go toward employment and parenting programs.
“We don't have a problem with marriage,” Joy Moses,senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress,said about encouraging unwed parents to marry. “But we think that it is a very simplistic view of what is causing poverty and trouble for people.”
A discussion about fatherhood programs,held Oct. 14,circled around a paper written in collaboration by CAP and the Center for Family Policy and Practice. Representatives of the National Women's Law Center,National Resource Center on Domestic Violence,the Department of Health and Human Services and others were invited to give their opinions.
“It sounds like money,I know. It just keeps adding up as I talk,” Jacquelyn Boggess,CFFPP's co-director,said. “But if it works,it means having two people to care for a child.”
This paper,”‘Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves,' But Could Use Some Help,” calls for a second look at fatherhood responsibility policies.
The 31-page paper breaks the argument into three main parts: the history of fathers in social services policy,the best ways to create responsible fatherhood programs and the ways these social services would benefit low-income women.
The paper states that promoting responsible fatherhood is not a failure to recognize the hardships faced by mothers.
The paper suggests expanding the list of issues addressed in fatherhood programs to include family planning and reproductive health,which would benefit men and women. CAP would also like classes to help ex-convicts find jobs and function in society. The paper emphasizes the necessity for programs that deal with multiple needs,such as parenting,housing and employment,instead of only focusing on single issues.
Like any policy calling for improvement,creating a better fatherhood program to educate and train men to be better fathers will require more money.
Congress extended fatherhood programs,TANF,Child Support and other programs at current funding levels until Dec. 3. At that point,Moses said,Congress is likely to approve another extension into next year,when it will more thoroughly examine the programs and possibly make changes.
Wendell Primus,senior policy adviser to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,said he hopes to get $75 million for fatherhood programs.
But post-election changes in Congress and committee membership might mean some issues will receive more attention than others.
“It shouldn't be ‘us versus them,'” Joan Entmacher,vice president of the NWLC,said. “Unfortunately it has been difficult to get the funding people need to get through in this emergency.”
The government does not have unlimited funds to distribute among the programs,but the paper asks that the situation not be turned into a struggle to see who gets more money.
“As a nation,we cannot allow the father to forfeit the responsibility of a child,” Primus said. “We shouldn't argue about who gets services,we have to be flexible.”