Responsible Fatherhood: Supporting a Path to Building Meaningful Relationships

Not all men are biological fathers and not all fathers have biological children. In addition to fathering a child, men may become fathers through adoption-which confers the same legal status, protections, and responsibilities to the man and the child as fathering a biological child. Men also may become de facto fathers when they marry or cohabit with women who have children from previous relationships, that is, they are raising stepchildren or their cohabiting partner’s children.” 

The 2013 Census reports that children make up 23% of the national population under the age of 18. Of these 74.3 million children, one out of every three children live without their biological father present. Of the 70.1 million fathers nationally, 24.7 million identified as part of a married-couple while 2.0 million fathers identified as single dads. Twenty one percent of fathers who are part of a married-couple household are raising three or more children; 9% of single dads are raising three or more children. Sixty-one percent of single dads report an income below $50,000. However, the numbers alone do not speak to the quality of the relationship needed in these critical social relationships.  How important are fathers? The risks to children raised in the absence of their fathers are high while the trend of socially absent fathers continues to rise. These risks include: higher rates of household poverty; patterns of drug and alcohol abuse;  physical and emotional behavioral risk patterns; lower academic performance and higher remediation needs; higher risk of involvement with criminal activities, and risky sexual behavior. Children with involved and loving fathers demonstrate a higher likelihood of a satisfactory or better school performance. They have healthier self-esteem, and demonstrate empathy with pro-social behavior. Additionally, children with involved and loving fathers also tend to avoid high risk behaviors and situations that involve drug use, truancy and criminal activity.

In support of these healthy social relationship outcomes that can underpin the well being of individuals and foster positive social responsibility for children, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), has funded 55 organizations to provide Responsible Fatherhood activities.  Goals for these programs include: 1) Healthy Marriage – Activities to promote marriage or sustain marriage; 2) Responsible Parenting – Activities to promote responsible parenting; and, 3) Economic Stability – Activities to foster economic stability. See the Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit. Connect with programs in your region. Read the CDC report on fatherhood to help fathers in your care take the Fatherhood Pledge. Consider the work needed to help  military fathers re-connect with their children and address the stress of deployment and re-integration. Join the work of building stronger communities, stronger families, stronger relationships and stronger kids by helping  fathers become more involved, more engaged and present in the lives of their kids.

See the newly released ACF RFP for New Pathways for Fathers and Families.