The solution is straightforward: develop programs and policies that support and involve fathers. In the work of my foundation, we have identified three main obstacles to greater engagement by fathers. First, we must overcome deeply ingrained and untested prejudices against the father by training social workers on the father’s commitment. Second, we need to reform our child benefit system. A recent nine-month research study in the Baltimore Sun shows how a well-intentioned system designed to help children and families can actually do the opposite. Through our partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Ascend Group and Vicki Turetsky, a former federal commissioner on child benefit, we have found that child benefit reform needs to start with establishing “the right size payment orders” that reflect actual income or each father’s employment status is assessed more frequently. This, along with shared parenting, fatherhood, and employment support, will enable unconscious fathers to continue to be meaningful in their families and communities. After all, fathers don’t get the mental health support they need. Many of the fathers who participate in our programs struggle with the physical and emotional effects of trauma that are an obstacle to effective parenting. We have to give them more support.
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