MINORITY REPORT AND POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE UNITED
STATES COMMISSION ON CHILD & FAMILY WELFARE
FINAL REPORT & RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES
The American Fathers Alliance
Bill Harrington - President
611 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 363 Washington, D.C. 20003
(202) 543-0615 email@example.com (INTERNET)
To: Mary Cathcart, Chair U.S. Commission On Child & Family Welfare
370 L'enfant Promenade #-616 Washington DC, 20047
Re: FINAL REPORT & FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES COMMISSION
ON CHILD & FAMILY WELFARE
Dear Esteemed Colleague:
To our country and to the Congressional leadership, including former Speaker Tom Foley for my nomination and selection to the Commission, I thank you for the challenging opportunity to meet so many interesting people and debate such enormous issues of importance and consequence to families and to America. I am honored to have served as a Commissioner with the United States Commission on Child and Family Welfare.
I respectfully dissent from the majority report. Herein, I present my
In conclusion of my tenure as Commissioner, and as a preface to the enclosed Minority Report, I would like to summarize these observations and conclusions: First, I am extremely pleased and honored in all regards to have had the opportunity to serve and to contribute to the work of this Commission. In my opinion, the goals of Congress have not been fully met due to this Commission's error in accurately fulfilling its mandate. However, whenever any group joins together to discuss issues and concerns relating to children and families, I believe it is a good day for America. This Commission succeeded in this regard. I am encouraged by the benefit 65 million American children will receive by the advancement of family policy debate stimulated by the creation of this Commission and our recommendations. Such debate is key to the understanding and the resolution of any set of related issues of such great national importance. It is clearly progress that we have joined in the same debate, the issues of emotional and psychological contributions of both parents with the financial support issue. These issues have been abstractly separated from one another. We should be proud of the advancement made by bringing them together for the first time at the national level. I am deeply troubled, nevertheless, and concerned with the question of whether we are moving fast enough in our analysis to reach a point where we can reverse the negative and destructive increasing trend of fatherlessness and the correlated reduction in child well-being. In my opinion, defining a national policy and legislative agenda to address the concern of child welfare could be quite simple:
With a renewed, enlightened and unprejudiced public policy commitment America can protect its family of all children, all mothers, and all fathers from alienation of affections, from violence and abuse, and from the myriad afflictions of poverty and social decay. It is my opinion that this goal can be met ONLY by implementing an agenda toward the above commitments. Without alienating any sector of the American constituency, we CAN offer the Great American Heritage to our children and to future generations. To the witnesses who have testified to this Commission, I wish to say that I am one commissioner who read every statement and thoroughly appreciated and benefited from the insightful comments that were offered. I thank you for your contributions and for taking the time to participate in this important process. To the Commission staff and HHS employees assisting the Commission, I thank you for all of your support and responses to my many requests. Your work was deeply appreciated. I hope you benefited as much as I have from working with these momentous issues. I wish to thank Steven Zegas, Founder of Upbeat Dads, Inc., in Oakland, California, for donating his time to help complete this Report and Recommendations, and for his expert technical assistance. Finally, to my fellow Commissioners, I wish to express my great pleasure and satisfaction in witnessing the exchange of ideas and arguments regarding American families and children. We proved that Americans of widely diverse views can meet , debate, and still remain respectful of the political process and our individual differences.
ORIGINAL SIGNED Commissioner United States Commission on Child and Family Welfare
To contact Bill, send correspondence to: PO Box 5345 Tacoma, WA 98415 206-272-2152
The American Fathers Alliance Bill Harrington - President 611 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 363 Washington, D.C. 20003 (202) 543-0615 firstname.lastname@example.org (INTERNET)
A COMMISSION CREATED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF: P.L. 102-521 10/25/92
U.S. Code Citation: 42 USC 12301
REPORT TO THE PRESIDENT AND THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES
"As a society, we must come to grips with the obvious social reality that parental integrity, begets parental responsibility, while parental disenfranchisement quite logically begets parental despair, dysfunction, and even disappearance. This tragic symptom triad constitutes the destroyed father syndrome.' a rampant and terrible psycho-social affliction that is treatable and, more importantly, preventable. As with all `diseases' a thorough understanding of its etiology is essential before fruitful efforts at treatment (and prevention) can reasonably be expected."
Dr. Robert Fay, M.D.
This Commission Failed To Fulfill Its Congressional Mandate p. 1
This Commission Rebuffed The Specific Concerns And Issues Of 90% Of All Non-Custodial Parents.. p. 3
This Commission Rejected Joint Custody, And Shared Parenting p. 4
This Commission Recommended Eliminating Prejudicial And Hate Language In Family Matters p. 5
This Commission Failed To Include In Its Majority Report Vital Research On Unmarried Fathers And Fatherhood p.5
This Commission's Lack Of Interest In National Fatherhood Events Is Noteworthy In Itself p. 7
This Commission Failed To Include In, Its Report And, Act, In Accord With Contemporaneous Federal And Statewide Action To Restore Fatherhood p.7
Other Recent Family Policy Commissions Have Also ,Overlooked The Crisis Of Fatherlessness p. 8
This Commission Refused To Hear And, Consider, Significant Social Welfare Issues p. 9
Wrongful Government Intervention In Family Life p. 9
A Fatherhood "Apartheid" Policy Continues To Create "Fathers In Exile" p. 10
53 Suggested Action Plans For A Unified National Family Policy Which
Emphasizes Father Involvement As The Optimum Way To Enhance Child And Family
well-being p. 11
I.) White House Action p. 11
II.) Congressional Action p. 12
A.) Congressional Action - Tax Code p. 17
B.) Congressional Action - Welfare Reform p. 18
C.) Congressional Action - Democratic And Republican Party p. 20
D.) Congressional Action - Child Support Collection Pilot Programs p. 20
III.) State Action p. 22
IV.) Adoption Action p. 23
V.) Courts, Judges And Lawyers Action p. 23
VI.) Education Action p. 24
VII.) Business Sector Action p. 25
VIII.) Family Violence Action p. 25
Summary p. 26
Social And Cultural Roots Of 23,000,000 Fatherless Children p. 27
A Fatherless And -Less And -Less World p. 27
Blaming Fathers For Fatherlessness p. 28
Has History Conspired To Alienate And ,Exile Fathers? p. 29
The American Family Man Today p.29
Welfare 1996: HR 3734 - The Missing Element p. 33
Today in America, 40% of the population are directly affected by issues of children with separated parents and this population requires the use of nearly 80% of all social service dollars. In 1992, Congress acted upon this priority issue: in order to have a balanced perspective in the development of national policy, Congress created the U.S. COMMISSION ON CHILD & FAMILY WELFARE. The Commission was charged with the responsibility to view the issues of divorce, paternity, custody and financial child support from the non-custodial parent perspective and report back to Congress and the President. When the Senate passed the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 (PL 102-521 ) in which this Commission was established, the Congressional sponsor, Senator Herbert Kohl, stated in a press release: But I do believe that some NON-CUSTODIAL PARENTS, most of whom faithfully pay their child support, have legitimate concerns. They want to contribute to the emotional, as well as the financial well being of their children... We should look at this issue just as we studied interstate non payment. This is what the legislation charges the Commission to do. (Emphasis added) The term "non-custodial parent" is virtually synonymous with the word "father" -- ninety percent of non-custodial parents are FATHERS. There are more than 20 million non-custodial fathers in America. Although the primary demographic profile and primary definition of "non-custodial parent" is "father," the Commission failed to adequately consider or report about the tragedy of FATHERLESSNESS in America, which affects 23,000,000 children without day to day contact with their fathers. Thus, this Commission failed to fulfill the Mandate of Congress - to create a report on the concerns and issues which are unique to the non-custodial parent's perspective. This Commission could not have fulfilled its mandate while simultaneously wearing such enormous blinders to the issue of Fatherlessness. This Commission could not have fulfilled its mandate while simultaneously failing to adequately consider and report on the issues from the perspective of 90% of ALL non-custodial parents - Fathers. There can be only one conclusion: this Commission failed to adequately report on Child and Family Welfare because it neglected to address the denigration and de- valuation of fatherhood, and the socially devastating phenomenon of Fatherlessness in America. Commissioned by the White House, prepared by senior policy staff at the Department of Health and Human Services, and addressed to President Clinton, the following excerpt from a confidential welfare report profoundly underscores the need for attention to Fatherlessness. In its loud and clear call for greater public attention to the political status of fathers who are -- again -- fully 90% of all non-custodial parents, the White House Welfare Reform Task Force policy report states:
Under the present system, the needs, concerns and responsibilities of non-custodial parents are often ignored. The system needs to focus more attention on this population and send the message that "FATHERS MATTER". We ought to encourage non-custodial parents to remain actively involved in their children's lives - not drive them further away. The well-being of children who live with only one parent would be enhanced if emotional and financial support were provided by both of their parents. Ultimately, the system's expectations of mothers and fathers should be parallel. Whatever is expected of the mother should also be expected of the father, and whatever education and training opportunities are provided to custodial parents, similar opportunities should be available to non-custodial parents who pay their child support and remain involved in the lives of their children. If they can improve their earnings capacity and maintain relationships with their children, they could be a source of both financial and emotional support. Much needs to be learned about non-custodial parents, partly because we have focused relatively little attention on this population in the past, and we know less about what types of programs would work. (Welfare Reform Issue Paper, HHS Welfare Reform Task Force, 2/26/94, p. 37.) Tragically for America's needy children and troubled parents, this Commission and the Majority Report went in a different direction from its mandate. The Commission failed to grasp and understand the Fatherlessness crisis and the critical need to re- involve fathers in children's lives for their well-being. Instead, the Commission opted for a more distanced divorce reform-oriented agenda. Probably the best way to ex lain the severe limitations of the Majority Report is as follows: only about 30 /o of contested cases move through the legal system. Around 70o/o of the cases are resolved by default, largely finalized without judicial scrutiny for the impact on the children. Overwhelmingly, these cases result in sole mother custody.
Approximately 25% of the contested cases drop out sometime in the year prior to trial. These are cases where one parent usually loses their financial support or they see what they believe to be the likely outcome, and they compromise or surrender and the case is concluded. This 30% is the only group directly impacted by the Majority Report. These are the most adversarial , most contentious cases, where calmness and cooperation, and consideration of the best interest of the child, are at a minimum. Additionally, we did not impact any of the cases where the parents, for whatever reason, settle out of court without any contested proceedings or they are the parents who never file any paperwork. Surprisingly, this percentage of both married couples and never-married relationships who file no paperwork may be as many as from 5% to 20% of all cases of separated parents with children. For the stated reasons, a wider Commission agenda and recommendations were deserving. In an effort to fulfill the Congressional mandate for the Commission, the first-part of this Minority Report intends to inform the President and Congress about the multi- faceted roots and reality of the most pressing issue challenging American families and family values today -- Fatherlessness. Likewise, the second part of this report suggests 53 Action Plans to bring to a closure the two-century long trend of the denigration and desecration of fatherhood. Lastly, the third part reflects the history of limiting the fatherhood role to an almost exclusive Bread-Winner" role.
The majority of men today -- married or otherwise -- have rediscovered the importance of fatherhood and their children, and they want more day-to-day involvement in raising their children. However, these responsible fathers are challenged by deep cultural prejudice, mistrust, along with a negative public policy bias for fulfilling their paternal instincts. This Commission could have taken action to begin to replace the lost honor and respect for fatherhood for these millions of responsible, caring fathers. However, this Commission ignored the institution of fatherhood and fathers, who are obviously half of the parents of the children who the commission is concerned about, and for whom, the constitutionally protected right of parental involvement is very problematic. In support of fathers, fatherhood, families and children, the Commission could have loudly echoed the credo in the White House Welfare Reform Task Force Report, that "FATHERS MATTER." Instead, this Commission completely failed to listen to the message of one of its distinguished witnesses, Dr. Henry Biller, author of Fathers and Families and The Father Factor. This Commission completely failed to respond to the serious message of David Blankenhorn's seminal 1995 book, Fatherless America. This Commission could have stated conclusively, because there was ample testimony to the fact, that the majority of absent fathers are invited away as well as pushed and shoved out of the lives of their children through powerful and persuasive unintended consequences of public policy. The Commission could have shown an intent to increase father involvement, by making recommendations such as the ones in this Minority Report, which could empower more fathers to navigate the legal and social services systems in order to NOT be driven out of their children's lives. This Commission could have addressed the Fatherlessness issue in a positive way with the goal of enabling more fathers and mothers to work together cooperatively. When 2-parent families stay together, there are fewer problems. However, when parents separate and mothers overwhelmingly get custody of the children, fathers have no social encouragement or support for continued parental involvement. They are exiled from their families and from their communities. After at least thirty years of believing that fathers are expendable, evidence now shows that public policy which creates absent- fathers is devastating to children and to society. This Commission could have reported the connection between the breakdown of the community and the overwhelming trend of Fatherlessness. In the 1950's, marital therapists, real estate agents, advertisers, sociologists, and scriptwriters urged Americans to cut ties with kin and neighbors who might compete with lovers for our attention, loyalty and obligation. The net effect of this migration was to sever the extended family as a support base for the children. Fathers were further isolated when the going got tough and they left the family, ironically to "support it." Instead of explaining the social and cultural factors and public policies which are the primary causes of Fatherlessness, this Commission perpetuated the absence of fathers by not directly addressing the fatherless issue. This Commission could have reported the connection between the 1950's federally imposed "MAN OUT OF THE HOME RULE" in welfare, and the resultant trends of mother-only custody, Absent Father Syndrome, and overall reduced protection of child welfare. This misguided and failed federal policy created enormous negative effects, far worse than the poverty-stricken households for which it was originally intended to help. This policy propagated the myth that fathers were expendable as parents (except as breadwinners), a myth that invaded the formal welfare system in the 1960's and was a feature of no-fault divorce of the 1970's. The result was that by 1990, 70o/o of custody awards were of sole custody to mothers. Interestingly, most researchers fail to make the connection between welfare policy and Fatherlessness.
This Commission could have reported all of these findings, and more, and could have rightfully brought to the proper recognition the reality that father involvement, and restoring dignity and honor to fatherhood, are the keys to child welfare. Instead, the Commission allowed prejudicial myths -- such as that fathers voluntarily walk away from their children -- to stand unchallenged.
Page after page of the Commission's Majority Report calls for parental involvement by both parents, ostensibly stating that this goal needs to be achieved, yet this Commission failed to recommend any specific policy that would directly achieve this much needed result. This Commission rejected every option and motion for support of Joint Legal and Physical Custody as recommended by several witnesses who backed up their testimony with extensive research. This rejection occurred without foundation or verified academic research in opposition. The state of Texas adopted Presumptive Joint Custody in June of 1995 (during the time of this Commission's hearings) and the District of Columbia has followed suit in 1996. The trends are clear. Shared parenting (joint custody) is the best option for improving child well-being. Joint custody should be the presumption and such a parenting plan should be easily approved when a father seeks to give significant parental involvement. The issue is not whether Joint Custody is good or bad. The Congressional findings in the Dec. 21 st, 1995 issue of the Congressional Record, in support of Federal Welfare Reform (HR-4), discuss the disastrous consequences to children of sole mother custody, which occurs more than 70% of the time. Shared parenting is simply the best alternative. The motto that best describes this approach is: The Best Parent Is Both Parents. The challenge is how best to make increased parental involvement of BOTH FATHERS AND MOTHERS happen with the least conflict. Dr. A. Frank Williams (Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles) authored a paper addressing the critical assessment between shared parenting and parental conflict. He concluded that shared parenting was only inadvisable in cases of severe conflict. Otherwise, he said that "warring" between parents usually subsided over time, and the best result for children was still in place (shared parenting). He strongly cautioned against "parentectomy," a rush to sole custody where one parent is removed from the life of the child. The Commission ignored this well considered advice and focused on short term conflict, without resolving the factor of who was initiating the conflict or understanding the tactical legal advantages to the custodial parent that escalating conflict provides in maintaining hegemony. Dr. David Poponoe's new book, Life Without Father, argues for structured involvement for men and fathers. Poponoe describes how marriage and commitment to family serves to structure the energy of men into a positive social life. The same argument can be made for the virtue of continuing to involve fathers in family life following parental separation: if society wants and desires father involvement, then it needs a process to allow that to happen. (Chapter 5 of Life Without Father should be required reading for judges and all professionals in the business of deciding on residential schedules between children and their fathers. The compelling case for structured significant father involvement and benefits is made in this chapter. Fathers need quantity time to make their specific parenting contributions to their children.) Statutory shared or joint custody provisions, a detailed and specific residential schedule adopted as part of a parenting plan, a national registry of custody orders, and strict anti-interference, pro-access law enforcement can provide the best assurance against giving the millions of mothers who choose so, the freedom to gradually and effectively keep fathers permanently out of the lives of their children.
This Commission recommended a change in the use of terminology which is discriminatory to non-custodial parents and highly destructive to families and children's development. The Commission recommended ending the legal and colloquial use of the terms, "visitation' and "custody." These terms originated in criminal law and have no place in family law. A scofflaw in "custody" is a citizen with restricted rights and freedoms. Is this the meaning we are giving to children vis-à-vis the "other parent"? Tragically, fathers are under the impression that they must "gain a right" to "visit" their children (even though the Constitution and the Supreme Court already protects the right to a parent-child relationship.) Do children also think that "visiting" their father or mother is a "special privilege?" These terms diminish and undermine parent/child relationships. What are boys and girls believing about men and fathers when fathers' "rights" to 'parent" are routinely diminished to "visits" and limited by judicial decree , then further interfered with by mothers, all without social consequence (except in worse- case scenarios)? "Visitation" is a tragic word which undermines the very fragile parental relationship, trust, bonding and authority that a non-custodial parent/child already has. Allowing the use of this term to apply to children engaged in parenting time with their "non-custodial" parent is harmful. The child lives ALSO at the other home, and is not just a visitor. The child's name is on the door and the child should not feel the need to knock to enter. The child needs identification with both parents. The term "visitation" implies a special privilege that can be revoked and easily restricted. It implies that the parent/child relationship is on parole, and the parent/child relationship is "granted" by an authority far greater than the spiritual force from which it originated. Today, the mention of "fathers" and "fatherhood" is often greeted with scorn. Denigrating statements are frequently used with fervor in political debate and conversational language. The term "Absent Father" is used pejoratively to describe fathers distanced from children because of separation/divorce or out-of-wedlock birth, although there is no reason why these millions of fathers should be absent. Fathers are unfairly held responsible for their absence when in fact, social policy has set the stage for the abhorred "Disposable Dad" for many decades. Men given only every other weekend to parent become "Disneyland Dads" -- glorified baby-sitters -- not a fully empowered or respected parents. The denigrating term "Deadbeat Dad" is hate language, used with equivalent contempt as the hate words "nigger" and "bitch." "Deadbeat Dad" implies with absolute certainty that a separated father who has "allegedly" not paid child support is de facto a bad father and not worthy of understanding or support for what is often his own economic hardship, whereas, a father who is with his family and who provides the same level of financial support is still valued and respected! (There is only one research report [Sorenson, 1995) which attempts to explain the child support situation from the father perspective.) Divorced and unmarried fathers have become a hated and discriminated class. Given the critical necessity of positive father parenting, the popular denigration of fatherhood is devastating for the 23,000,000 AT-RISK children of America who need the attention, emotional guidance and love of their fathers. Congress must protect fatherhood, rather than jump on the father-hating bandwagon by enacting more father- punitive legislation.
l. Commissioner John Guidubaldi from Ohio, a national divorce expert, was the director and principal author of the largest American divorce study - Growing Up in a Divorced Family: Initial and Long Term Perspectives in Children's Adjustment (1987). This Commission had a national expert as one of the Commissioners, however, it did not call upon this expert witness. This Commissioner's expertise was ignored by the Commission majority and excluded from the majority report.
2. Social and illegal discrimination against unmarried fathers is well documented. One witness, Professor Carol Lynn Tebben, (University of Wisconsin) authored a law review article titled: A Father's Right: Some Inconsistencies in the Application of Due Process and Equal Protection to the Male Parent. Copies of this thoughtful and fully researched article were distributed to all Commissioners, but was ignored by the Commission majority and excluded from the majority report. For an example of discrimination, this Commission witnessed a healthy tension between the proponents seeking to protect the legal rights of unmarried fathers, and those favoring increased support for adoption. Adopted children are usually born to unmarried parents where the fathers most often do not know they are fathers until very late. There is a serious injustice to children created by denying unmarried fathers the same legal rights as married fathers. Hopefully, the tragic lessons of the "Baby Jessica" and "Baby Richard" cases will not have to be repeated. The Supreme Court's constitutional equal protection ruling in Stanley v. Illinois should govern, but it is circumvented routinely in the adoption world as a matter of policy, where fathers' rights are often shunted aside in favor of mothers' choices. I believe an expanded campaign for adoption can proceed without denying rights to fathers.
3. This Commission received a report by the National Research Council: America's Fathers and Public Policy. The report was the product of a national conference sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences which involved several policy experts in September, 1993 in Washington DC. This report called for attention to several program areas of special need for fathers and their children but was ignored by the Commission majority and excluded from the majority report.
4. Research showed that over the last 14 years, divorces were initiated by mothers in 65% of the time, and 25% by fathers (the balance being jointly initiated.) Despite mothers' overwhelming initiation of the breakup of the family, this Commission failed to illustrate how both politically and legally, fathers and husbands are falsely blamed for the breakup of families and for "forcing" children into impoverishment. In reality, many men are forced into impoverishment by mandated support awards which exceed what would actually be spent on the child in a marriage, and which do not place the burden of support equally upon both parents. The Commission could have pointed out that the "fastest way anyone ever devised to get a pension is marriage." After several years, she gets the home, he gets the mortgage; she gets the kids, he gets the support payments; she gets the insurance, he gets the premiums. The popular knowledge that "she wins, why fight?" keeps many men from trying to stay involved as fathers. Overwhelmingly, children are routinely awarded to mothers, while fathers must fight an uphill battle just to attain equal parenting. Putting the blame on fathers is unjustified, but this information was ignored by the Commission majority and excluded from the majority report.
5. Research showed that nearly 80% of unmarried fathers are either at the hospital when their child is born or at the hospital before the mother and child leave after childbirth. Since mothers are the only legal parents at birth, the unmarried father is not allowed to sign either the birth certificate or establish paternity without the prior written approval of the mother. Despite this policy, it is the fathers who get the blame for not establishing paternity -- although they are present 80% of the time! This research is in the Commission files but is not being reported to Congress simply because these facts go against the deeply-rooted myth that unmarried fathers do not care about their children, even though fathers actually care about their children as much as mothers do. This information was ignored by the Commission majority and excluded from the majority report.
1. The National Fatherhood Initiative conference in Dallas, October, 1994, resulted in the production of a booklet of hundreds of research findings called Father Facts, which was distributed to all Commissioners, but was not used in the final report. This booklet contains compelling facts about the absolute importance of father/child relationships and their vital importance to society's health.
2. Football stadiums all over America were filled in 1994, in 1995, and again in 1996 by Promise Keepers: millions of Christian fathers and husbands talking about commitments to spouses, families and children. This compelling sensitive message of millions of men committed to fatherhood was ignored by the Commission.
3. In the summer of 1995, a march and rally of 1,000,000 Black Men was announced for October, 1995 in Washington D.C. The rally's agenda and message was to renew a commitment to personal responsibility, children and families. Black fathers account for 70o/o of the children born out-of-wedlock. These fathers fully deserved the attention of this Commission, which did not happen.
All of the following events happened during this Commission's tenure in 1995, but despite such national attention being contemporaneously given to Fatherlessness, this Commission ignored fatherhood issues and adopted no recommendations directed specifically at helping fathers regain their lost place of honor in the community, and literally in the American family. The failure of this Commission to include these national actions in its report, and to act accordingly, is a serious loss for the fatherless children that the Commission should have addressed. l. President Clinton took action on fathers issues in 1995. The President's June l6th executive order to all federal departments and agencies required an internal investigation and report of national father policy for the first time in American history. HHS Secretary Shalala issued an October l6th report in response to the President's directive. (An additional symposium of national policy researchers was convened in March, 1996, to further prepare policy makers with the current status of father involvement and needed research.)
2. Vice President Gore has held several White House meetings on fatherhood issues and has created a Father-to-Father program. The White House meeting on June 13, 1995, showcased individuals and organizations working on fatherhood issues at the state and community levels. (Commissioners Guidubaldi and Harrington were honored to be a part of this conference and discussion.)
3. The National Governors Association took official policy action on fatherhood issues, at its July, 1995 meeting. The State of Maryland held two days of meetings on fatherhood involvement issues and strategies in June, 1995, sponsored by the Dept. of Social Services. The Virginia welfare reform effort focused on fatherhood issues. The Virginia Health Dept. printed a booklet titled: Fatherhood and Family Health, in Sept. of 1995. California Governor Pete Wilson sponsored a one day intensive seminar on fatherhood issues that he personally attended in June, 1995. Additionally, in 1995, Gov. Wilson sponsored a 3-day conference on fatherhood policy options with open participation from the audience. (A 2-day, Fathers, Families and Communities conference was held in June, 1996, and a 1997 conference has been announced.) All of these are very important events that will help advance knowledge about the importance of fatherhood to the social services system, however, they too were overlooked by the Majority Report.
Provocatively titled, Barbara Defoe Whitehead's thoughtful analysis, Noble Failures: A History of Family Commissions, states how family policy commissions generally fail to address factors such as values, and therefore fail to be effective in creating change for the better. In comparison, former Commissions were given far greater resources than this Commission:
1. Congress created the National Commission on Children, headed by Senator Rockefeller. The Commission was appropriated several million dollars and had a two and a half year plus schedule to do their work. They held a combination of 11 hearings, town hall meetings and focus group sessions all over America.
2. In 1988, as part of the Family Support Act, Congress created the U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support headed by Margaret Campbell Haynes. The Commission was appropriated $2,000,000 and two years to do their work and generate a Final Report. The Child Support Commission held seven (7) hearings throughout America plus a National Leadership Conference in Atlanta for three days. No policy stone was left unturned and no possible method of collecting unpaid child support was left un- reviewed. Fathers were clearly the target of most of the Commission recommendations. Several Commission recommendations have been approved by Congress.
3. President Bush allocated $1,000,000 to the Presidential Commission , Families First - The Commission on America's Urban Families. It held 15 public hearings and focus group sessions along with site visits. Their report focused on marriage, family, and societal pressures. This widely unrecognized report was very useful to this Commission.
4. Congressional treatment for the U.S. COMMISSION ON CHILD & FAMILY WELFARE stands in stark contrast. This Commission was authorized $4,000,000 but appropriated only $250,000 to undertake four main subject areas, with a priority on the non-custodial parent perspective. Instead of 2.5 years to do its work, the Commission was restricted to only 8 months. The Commission first met on January 10th, 1995 and its final meeting was on September l5th, 1995. There were only three hearings and Commissioners were not allowed to attend all hearings because of fiscal restraints. This Commission could have recognized and easily supported the basic value of increased father parenting. Because of its failure to do so, the Commission's work ranks with the reports of other Commissions that have failed to recognize and understand the value of fathers and fatherhood and the devastating impact of fatherlessness, along with the decline of the traditional family. This Commission failed to recognize the need for informed father-involvement policy and did not appropriately address the father-involvement void. This Commissioner personally witnessed the historic September, 1995, Senate debate on national welfare reform. U.S. Senators debated, argued and wondered about divorced fathers "allegedly" running away from their family responsibilities and their children, forcing taxpayers to support the remaining family. No Senator offered explanations or understanding from the father perspective. There was no informed opinion offered based on fatherhood research or other reliable sources of information about fathers and family breakups. Therefore, Senators could not understand that there are social and political reasons behind each unmarried or divorced father who could not meet their fatherhood responsibilities, establish paternity, or pay child support. Due to the fact that this Commission strayed from the course of its mandate, Congress will not learn from this Commission about the research it gathered on 90% of non-custodial parents -- fathers. Congress will not be able to enact effective family policy or child support legislation until it hears and considers the fatherhood perspective. Tragically, the crisis of Fatherlessness and fatherhood issues remains officially unrecognized and in this Commission's Report, not one of the recommendations specifically focus on reducing Fatherlessness or aiding fatherhood. Fatherhood issues deserve the same time, money and public discourse as previous Commissions directed to child and motherhood issues. Another Commission is needed, one which is mandated to focus on Fatherhood and the Crisis of Fatherlessness.
At its first meeting in January, 1995, the Commission voted against exploring policies in the welfare system which are directly or indirectly responsible for the breakup of families and for the vast numbers of "absent fathers. " These are priority concerns in the country but these topics were rejected by the Commission majority. Commissioner Ray Bardill, a noted American sociologist, raised these issues again at the June, 1995 meeting but his motion was rejected. Sonny Burmeister of Georgia presented the Commission with a report, Child Support Is Not The Issue, and Poverty Is Not The Problem. This report challenged the Commission with an interesting analysis that States with higher child support and welfare payments actually ranked lower among States in assessment of child well-being. The Commission voted against considering these issues, partly because of insufficient funding and time. Funding for another Commission is indicated. The Commission failed to recognize the importance of helping intact 2-parent families stay together as the best way of preventing problems for children. Commissioner James Dobson is one of America's leaders for support for the traditional nuclear family, however, his contribution was largely overlooked by the Commission majority. Commission research showed that 65% of mothers initiated divorces during the last 14 year period. The question of why marriage is failing so many mothers needed to be reviewed, especially as it impacts children. This question and this issue remains unanswered by our Commission. By moving ahead as we did, the Commission majority, in effect, accepted the high levels of divorce and marital breakups. We resisted attempts to discourage easy marriages and easy divorces. We failed our opportunity to address the values that relate to the disintegration. of family life as we have known it. We further accepted the high rates of children born to unmarried parents. The Commission approach of focusing on the governmental \ legal process and/or reforming the divorce system failed to take into account the reality of the compromised position facing every father today in the legal \ social services system. The question was how to achieve balance and fairness in child custody and child well-being outcomes: when the national outcomes today are 70% sole custody with mothers and only 10% sole custody with fathers. It was naive and simplistic to believe a systematic approach based on individual consideration of cases could in any way improve the lot of fathers all over America, promote father involvement, and improve child well-being.
There are instances when caregivers of children are imperfect. The difference between imperfect caregiving and criminally negligent acts are vast. However, the dividing line is often arbitrary, and the Commission was flooded with accounts of abuse by authorities who perpetrated wrongful intervention and wrongful arrest. America is torn on the issue of the degree of legitimate intervention by the state into family life. The Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala's clear and concise report helped put this issue into perspective: "The Department's activities take into account that there are some circumstances where increased involvement by a father or a mother may not be in the best interest of the child. However, this would be true only for a small number of children." (emphasis added) (10/16/95, Report to President Clinton per Executive Order re: Public Policy on Fatherhood, 6/ 16/ 95)
Government intervention into families and the sensitive relationships between parents and children must be carefully regulated. Child Protective Services, through the actions of caseworkers and court orders that wrongfully limit a parent's time with a child absent just cause, must not be given immunity for their wrongful acts. The fundamental constitutional protection of family relationships, not extreme paranoia, should be the test before a child or his or her parent is removed from the home. Unfortunately, there are many instances when intervenors have done more harm than good. Families raise children, not the government. Often, government intervention creates more absent fathers based on false allegations of abuse. Without careful agency monitoring and personal accountability of case-workers , the risk is that once again social policy will create more Fatherlessness, which itself places children at greater risk than does poverty alone. FATHER LOVE is a powerful elixir that has yet to enter the legal \ social services system. Instead of poor and troubled children living on the streets as indicated by several politicians, the children could be safely home with their fathers. When the policy doors are opened to FATHER LOVE, we could easily see a new work of spiritual and social improvement for 50% of America's troubled children.
The misguided consequence of the "Man Out Of The Home" policy along with its ramifications in divorce outcomes has created a condition of fatherhood "Apartheid." Fathers In Exile live without their children and family contact, just as if they were living on an isolated island. Fatherlessness and the Decline of the Family were recognized as an American crisis getting cover-story attention in U.S. News and World Report 1995) and many other prominent publications. However, government does not have a welfare policy, even under our new welfare system just approved by Congress, or other strategies to reach out and connect these fathers with their children.
Instead of recognizing the legitimacy of the crisis of Fatherlessness, this Commission substituted a new agenda, failed its charge to accurately report and advise Congress and the President about non-custodial parents, and let institutionial discrimination against fathers and fatherhood continue. Contemporary fatherhood, debased and devalued, has not been aided by the work of this Commission. This Commission's final report fails to make any significant recommendations or approve any policy proposals directed at aiding fathers or the crippled institution of fatherhood which, as mentioned earlier, now affects 23,000,000 children.
I offer the following 53 Policy Recommendations in Part Two to stimulate national debate that should result in reduced Fatherlessness through positive changes in public policy at both the national and state level.
Bill Harrington - President 611 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 363 Washington, D.C. 20003 543-0615
COMMISSIONER BILL HARRINGTON'S POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
l. ACTION: Establish a White House "Council on Father Involvement. " The White House should create a standing Council on Father Involvement (White House "COFI"), to work on pilot programs which promote, enhance, encourage and support father involvement in family life. The Council on Father Involvement should be comprised of men and women who have demonstrated sensitivity and understanding of Fatherlessness, and who exemplify positive efforts to find inter-disciplinary solutions to this pressing social dilemma. The Council should include at least three "ordinary-everyday" dads -- such as teen fathers, and divorced and unmarried dads who are seasoned veterans of the system -- to offer practical insights to the manner in which the system drives fathers from their families. The White House COFI should work with the National Governors Association and the National conference of State Legislatures to further explore and develop the action recommendations and proposed demonstration projects set forth in this report.
2. ACTION: Issue an annual report on the state of marriage, children and the family. The Annual White House Report should include policy recommendations ,to increase the number of children raised in homes with married parents. It should also include discussion about the root causes of Fatherlessness, and should report on the progress of corrective actions taken.
3. ACTION: The Commander in Chief should direct the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff to review the demographics of military personnel to report how national security, military strength and foreign policy is threatened by the breakdown of the family and by Fatherlessness. A referenced study to review is: Changing Family Demographics and the Impact On Accession, Trainability, Motivation, Character, and Performance. The author is Patricia Shields and the paper was presented at the "Army 2010 Conference: Future Soldiers and the Quality Imperative," Cantigny, I11., May 31-June 2, 1995. This is one such report which discusses the trend of military officers predominately coming from two parent families and enlisted men predominately coming from single-mother households and the problems this raises for national security, military strength and American foreign policy.
4. ACTION: Expand the mandate of the White House Council on Teen Pregnancy The council should include a special effort directed at teen males to avoid sexual contact, or if sexually active, to use necessary protection to avoid pregnancy. Males are as much a part of the problem as the females and our education efforts should not be directed just at females. The ultimate social progress will occur when more young men are saying "NO" and meaning it, and we need to give men the encouragement to take this position.
Introduction: There are approximately 23,000,000 children who do not have day-to-day contact with their father. Nearly 40% of these children have not had any contact with their father in over a year. Fatherlessness and the destruction of the two-parent family is a national crisis which fully deserves affirmative Congressional action. A broad-sweeping, inter-dependent set of innovative policy initiatives and programs must be undertaken in order to reduce the adverse effects on children caused by Fatherlessness, and to reverse the rapidly growing trend of Fatherlessness. These recommendations, including demonstration and pilot programs, are designed to be inter-dependent: although they may be acted upon and may stand alone , they are meant to be a multi-faceted solution to Fatherlessness in America.
5. ACTION: Each member of Congress should read the 29-page, ground-breaking report prepared for this Commission by the HHS Federal Policy staff, Public Policy and Procedures That Work Against the Two-Parent Family (June, 1995). This succinct and seminal work details how well-meaning federal public policies have had unforeseen negative results and a devastating effect on families and children -- at a very high cost to society. The HHS report elucidates how federal policies break up the family and discourage father involvement and how these have been found to be directly correlated to the sharp increase in youth violence, pregnancy, welfare, crime and drug use. This report sheds light on potential new policies which better protect children and youth from the devastating effects of Fatherlessness. Copies of the report are available from Commissioner Bill Harrington.
6. ACTION: Establish a national registry of child custody orders by amending the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA). The US Department of Justice reported in 1990 that of 359,000 child abductions in 1988, only 4,600 (just over 1 percent) of kidnappings were by strangers. Ninety-nine percent were by family members. This high number of "self-help" incidents indicates that the judicial family law system, social service agencies and wide-spread social policies are not adequately protecting children from family upset and interference with parental relations. Senate Bill 632 (which establishes the national registry of child custody orders) deserves immediate Congressional attention (sponsored by Senator Pete Domenici and co-sponsored by Senator Joe Biden.) SB 632 can benefit roughly 360,000 children per year by: A.) Deterring and reducing parental kidnapping as remedy or retaliation B.) Reducing the risk of "forced child abandonment" of a child by a parent who is alienated from the child's life by an abducting/concealing parent; C.) Reducing the costs of private litigation and public law enforcement to remedy abductions and concealment; D.) Deterring physical and emotional harm to children who are taken captive; and E.) Reducing the risks youth face when the love and guidance from a parent is interfered with by the other parent.
7. ACTION: Congress should amend the PKPA to expressly include a Federal cause of action when conflicting child custody decrees exist as a result of the actions of courts of two or more states with respect to the same child(ren). Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Thompson v. Thompson, 484 U.S. 174 (1988), some Federal courts acted as tie-breakers between State courts in child custody cases involving conflicting judicial claims. In Thompson the Supreme Court held that there is no implied cause of action to go into Federal court under the PKPA but that Congress might wish to revisit the issue.
8. ACTION: Establish a national law enforcement program to deter access interference and to enforce access when necessary - to compliment the national child support enforcement program and state-wide equivalents. Congress should enact legislation which would provide more powerful law enforcement to rectify the millions of instances when a primary custodial parent (often habitually) interferes with or frustrates the child's relationship with the other parent. Enforcement of child support collection is appropriate, but money can never "buy" the love, guidance and nurturance of a parent. Congress should create and fund this nationwide access enforcement program to protect children's' rights and needs for their relationship with both parents. An anti-interference, access enforcement program significantly protects the well- being of children because two fully involved parents significantly reduces the statistically correlated, at-risk factors that the child of a single-parent family faces. For a variety of reasons access interference is not or can not be remedied by the court -- parents may not have access to the court due to finances, jurisdiction issues may abound, and often courts are lax in treating access interference as a criminal act -- or even recognizing it as such. Law enforcement programs and policies are necessary because often a non-custodial parent has no other legal remedy to access interference perpetrated by the custodial parent. There are several other benefits this action would have: A.) THIS ACTION would increase child support payments: As national policy, we seek to protect the financial interest of families. Anti-interference access enforcement would directly enhance family financial well-being because there is direct and significant correlation between parental involvement and increased voluntary payment of child support. B.) THIS ACTION would reduce poverty and would "return" billions of dollars to families: Legal fees spent by parents, primarily fathers, to secure their parental emotional and physical bond with their child(ren) exceeds $ 100 billion annually. Anti- interference enforcement would reduce the need for litigation, thereby "returning" many billions of dollars to parents to spend for the well-being of their children. C.) THIS ACTION would give equal protection to the poor and middle-class: Vast numbers of low and middle-income non-custodial parents are forced to choose between paying child support OR the legal fees to gain access to parent their children. Approximately 3/4 of the parents going through the difficult maze of family court must attempt to represent themselves. Just as the "poor" can get assistance from law· enforcement for the collection of child support, so too should everyone have access to assistance from law enforcement for the enforcement of parental access. D.) THIS ACTION would reduce parental abduction: Because of stepped-up and strict support enforcement and severe penalties, many parents are precluded financially from seeking legal anti-interference remedies for their parent/child relationship. Law enforcement for access is necessary because when no other remedy to interference is available, the result is several hundred thousand abductions annually.
9. ACTION: Establish a pilot "Parental Education and Cooperation Counseling Program" and state-wide equivalents. Congress should fund a pilot counseling project to enhance parents' cooperation in shared parenting. (Only 5% of all children would fare better if both parents were NOT involved.) These counseling programs should guide and evoke parents' voluntary cooperation in shared parenting, with an emphasis on the importance to children of two fully participating parents. Where the counseling program fails, anti-interference law enforcement would be necessary. This pilot counseling project should operate independently of the family courts, and should differ greatly from the existing programs of "supervised visitation" which do not function to encourage cooperation, but actually allow a recalcitrant parent to resist shared parenting. Supervised visitation programs should be administratively set apart and used only for cases in which abuse or a significant threat is prouen.
10. ACTION: Establish a pilot "Child/Father Re-unification Program" and state- wide equivalents. In conjunction with the parental education and cooperation counseling program, Congress should fund a precedent-setting national re-unification program for children and their fathers who have not had contact in the past year or more. (There are 8 to 10 million children of divorce who have not had contact with their fathers in more than a year. There are 3 million children born out-of-wedlock whose fathers have not been identified, and who should be brought into the family.) Appropriations should be set aside to fund non-profit and state agencies to carry on the social work of the re-unification program.
11. ACTION: Establish a National Men's Crisis Hotline to assist men in divorce , custody, parental access, paternity, child-support and all other domestic relations problems. Congress should appropriate funding for a National Men's Crisis Hotline which provides information and referrals to services, programs and resources to assist men dealing with family crisis. The Hotline should also gather data on child-access interference, in the support of anti-interference and pro-access law enforcement described above. The establishment of this Hotline would fulfill a comprehensive and balanced Congressional effort to mitigate harm to children and families: i.e., The National Men's Crisis Hotline is as necessary and important step toward the protection of family interests (of children) as is the National Hotline for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (in Texas.)
12. ACTION: Allow non-custodial parents direct access to the Federal Parent Locator System, so they can locate their children. ' Currently, the disclosure of the location of children is to authorities only. However, the FPLS is being used primarily to locate "deadbeat" and kidnapping parents. In addition to its current use for authorities for the enforcement of child support and solving kidnapping cases, Congress should make the Federal Parent Locator System "user friendly" and easily accessible through trained administrative personnel, to assist parents in finding their children who have been moved to an undisclosed location. This action would lessen the burden on law enforcement; would help deter parental abduction or concealment thereby protecting children from all the potential harms and risks to a child of being taken away from a parent.
13. ACTION: Establish a new Family Policy Commission to develop policy recommendations which address the "intricately intertwined" connection between custody, the protection of non-custodial parenting time, and the increased voluntary payment of child support. In 1984, the Family Support Act recommended the formation of this commission, however, it still has not been acted upon, despite numerous subsequent reports and demographic data which highlight the "intricately intertwined" connection between custody, non-custodial parenting time and increased voluntary payment of financial child support.
14. ACTION: Hold Congressional hearings on the Campaign of Misinformation regarding economic and financial criteria used to establish erroneous and punitive child support schedules and standards for alimony/maintenance payments. 1. Splashed across national headlines recently has been the exposure of Lenore Weitzman's serious miscalculations used to justify economic compensation for mothers who "allegedly" lose 70% of their lifestyle support within the first year following a divorce. The best credible statistics are a loss of between 20% to 30% of lifestyle support. For fathers, the loss of lifestyle support within the first year after divorce has been estimated at 10% to 20%. The exaggerated media play given to Weitzman's 1985 research has resulted in severe economic rulings in Courtrooms all over America against fathers. In many cases, these punitive rewards have resulted in economic hardship on the fathers, resulting in the loss of relationship with their children. The devastating impact of this mistaken research is best represented by the vast number of references made to the research in other documents, by other authorities, and by family law attorneys and judges. A reader might then understand the thousands and thousands of unfair court rulings based upon this mistaken research and why the issue of intellectual honesty and research integrity is such a big issue in anti-father financial bias. As Weitzman's 1985 research published in her book, The divorce Revolution, was cited as follows: "in 175 newspaper and magazine stories, 348 social science articles, 250 law review articles, and 24 appeal cases in Court of Appeals and Supreme Court cases. The statistic even appeared in President Clinton's 1996 budget." It takes an enormous sense of courage and political capital to right the wrongs of this mistaken research, therefore holding hearings to gauge the extent of current public policy based on the Weitzman research is critical. 2. Also splashed across the floor of the House of Representatives and the national media has been the fabricated, and 700% in error child support statistic of alleged annual unpaid child support payments in the amount of $34,000,000,000. In reality, according to the l8th annual Child Support Report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, the accurate amount for Fiscal Year 1993 was barely over $5 Billion. This spurious statistic propagated by Secretary Shalala and several women's movement leaders, has placed unbearable pressure on policy makers to enact even more punitive child support legislation, even though they know the statistics are severely being manipulated against non-custodial parents who are unable to fight back. Intellectual honesty and statistical integrity should be a fundamental basis of any new enforcement provisions of new welfare legislation aimed at non-custodial parents and second-families. One axiom of political theory is that bad statistics make bad law. It is time to apply this long standing tradition to child support legislation.
15. ACTION: Restrict Child Relocation - Allowing parents to move children great distances from the other parent is harmful to children. One of the most sensitive, yet most critical issues affecting separated parents and their children is the custodial parent's right to physically re-locate the child over the opposition of the other parent. In Life Without Father, Poponoe discusses at length the negative outcome that policies which allow the disruption of the family and the community have on children and society. The State Supreme Courts of California, Colorado and New York, after a decade of appellate decisions which have substantially protected the relationship of the child and the non-custodial parent by restricting move-aways, have decided cases this year which give greater allowance to custodial parents to move the child away from the other parent. (Whereas the Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled against move-aways.) Move-aways are rarely in the best interest of the child. Emotionally and psychologically, parental relocation is disastrous for children. Upsetting or effectively severing the bonds of parents and children should not be justified. These move-away decisions are tragic for many reasons and rarely are they in the best interest of the child. Emotionally and psychologically, parental relocation is disastrous for children. A new federal report: TRENDS in the Well-being of America's Children and Youth: 1996, published by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, stated as follows: "Recent research has demonstrated a strong relationship between residential stability and child well-being, with frequent moves being associated with a number of negative outcomes including dropping out of high school, delinquency, depression, and non-marital teen births. Some researchers theorize that these negative associations may result from a lack of rootedness in the local community and its institutions on the part of frequent movers."
Child Support is collected least in interstate cases, and yet these three state Supreme Courts have said that we need more of these cases, and we still get to blame the non-moving parent, mostly fathers, for non-payment of financial support for children they are prevented from seeing and parenting. The U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support Report stated as follows: "Children from interstate families - families where the parents live in different states - suffer the most. About three out of every ten child support cases are interstate. Yet, only $ 1 of every $ 10 collected is from an interstate case. The current interstate system is plagued by lack of uniform laws and procedures; inadequate resources, insufficient training of caseworkers, attorneys and judges; multiple, conflicting support orders involving the same parties; and a lack of cooperation and communication among states. It is clear that the interstate child support system is in need of reform."
Wrongful relocation of children causes severe physical problems for children. JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, in its September 15, 1993 publication included the following article: Impact of Family relocation on Children's Growth Development School Function and Behavior. One paragraph on page 1334 highlights the devastating impact on children: "A family move, regardless of its reason, disrupts the living environment of the child and can require important adjustments for the child and family. Children in families with fewer resources are probably more at risk for experiencing psychological or behavioral problems due to the stress of a move, especially when a move is compounded by other negative family events such as divorce eviction from the family home or parental job loss. As such family moves can potentially contribute to psychological morbidity or behavioral roblems. These and other `morbidities' are being recognized with increasing frequency by providers of health care for children. (Emphasis Added' Samuel Roll, a psychologist and professor at the University .of New Mexico has written on the subject of emotional impact on children resulting from parental relocation. The following quote was from a story on relocation which appeared in the Washington State Family Law Reporter dated November 1994 - January 1995: "A third generalization is that the loss of any attachment figure is costly. You can not be separated from anyone you love, especially as a child, without having some cost. The cost can be lessor or greater, but it always costs. And repeated loses, and untimely losses, very powerfully predispose a child to psychological suffering and disorder. Any separation exacts a cost and the cost is greater as a child especially if it is done the wrong way . Where the engraving on the palm on our hand is lost that can be especially costly . A relocation if done the wron wa can become a serious loss for the child." (Emphasis Added) Finally, lawyers argue over a l4th Amendment right to travel. This is true for an individual, but there is a compelling state interest in protecting a child against the damage of arbitrary parental relocation. A child is not a suitcase, nor personal property, and therefore not covered by the l4th Amendment. However, this is a lonely argument in an emotionally heated family law case. Congress must act to protect its innocent citizens, our children, who need protection from arbitrary parental relocation for the harmful reasons stated above.
16. ACTION: Establish a preference for the allocation of job-training/re- education for fathers/mothers who are fiduciary heads of two-parent, single-earner households. As currently stated by many researchers, the loss of employment or "money problems" are core to the breakup of many families. Support families and reduce the divorce rate by giving two-parent households job-training and re-education to decrease divorce and family break-up due to financial troubles.
17. ACTION: Remove marriage penalties and create better child credits in the tax code. Revise the federal tax structure to leave families with children with more of its income. Significantly increase personal exemptions for children, up to $S00 per child, or replace the exemption with a substantial tax credit for all children up to age 18. All marriage penalties in the Tax code should be repealed.
18. ACTION: Provide federal tax credits for non-custodial and/or support paying parents. Economic survivability should be a positive policy for BOTH parents and positive use of the tax structure should assist the working and/or higher income (support paying) parent to keep working and supporting their children. Separated fathers, who support children whose mothers are on welfare or in low wage jobs, should automatically receive the federal tax credits for the children.
19. ACTION: Give tax credits to support-paying parents who are in the best compliance. Among non-welfare receiving homes, a tax credit incentive should be given to the minority residential parent (i.e., the "non-custodial" parent) who meets at least 80% his or her "ordered" child support payments.
Welfare Reform is doomed to limited success or outright failure unless it is father-friendly and father-inclusive. FATHERS CAN REPLACE WELFARE, BUT WELFARE CANNOT REPLACE A FATHER.
20. ACTION: Abolish father-excluding welfare policies and create welfare policies to encourage family togetherness. Abolish the "man-out-of the-home" welfare policy, and allocate assistance previously ear-marked for the single mother to the neediest of two-parents-in-the-home families. Create an economic incentive for family togetherness and allow entitlements for homes with two parents. Abolish policies which economically reward single-parenting . A "put-a-father-in-the-home" policy would reduce the welfare role by millions of dollars. Radically increasing father and step-father family involvement for the 23,000,000 children now without fathers in their home would: Decrease the need for child-care; Allow mothers greater ability to work and to get education and training; Bring more money into the household, and Decrease the social cost of child/teen violence, drug use, pregnancy and crime because of the inherent benefit of a balanced father-child-mother relationship.
21. ACTION: Structure general assistance for low income families that encourages, rather than discourages, the commitment of both parents to raisin the children. Rather than requiring the most indigent fathers to repay the state for the most indigent mothers' AFDC disbursements, when he can least afford it, allow both low income fathers and mothers to receive non-reimbursable general assistance -- tied to job programs. Thus un-wed/divorced fathers may be financially enabled, and more encouraged to become meaningfully and voluntarily interested and involved in family life -- hopefully to stay -- without first being scared off by an immediate obligation to repay the state for AFDC Encouraging the father's meaningful family involvement through time-limited general assistance and jobs programs will in the long run create greater voluntary and independent financial support for the family. This would replace long-term support collection efforts now necessary for absent fathers, thereby reducing the burden on government. More involved fathers are better for children's welfare.
22. ACTION: Establish the child as the official welfare client, thereby equalizing each parent's position to the welfare of the child. Truly father-inclusive welfare reform which makes the child the welfare client would enable a caseworker to contact each parent separately for information regarding the child, whereas now the caseworker can only work with the entitlement pare nt. This would greatly improve the information flow on needy children, and would engender "official father involvement" that would lead to more "unofficial" father involvement, and is very likely to result in decreased welfare fraud.
23. ACTION: Give Father's the first-right-of refusal for the option of providing child-care in his home. Fathers should have first-right-of-refusal in providing child-care. This policy is truly father-inclusive. Restore trust in fathers. Policy should not exclude fathers from the responsibility and right to be the child's parent. A Father should not be required to reimburse child-care costs if he or a paternal family member is willing and able to parent his child.
24. ACTION: Establish the following welfare policy to bring vast numbers of children out of dependency and poverty within three years. A.) Parents are required by law to equally support their children. Welfare recipients should not be given an exception to the responsibility of financially supporting their children. Also, entitlement parents should not be simply given a limited time to receive benefits before being denied benefits, because without the following safeguard, this policy may just result in worse poverty for those children and families. B.) THE THREE-YEAR PLAN: This plan is rooted in policy of the fullest possible involvement of BOTH parents in raising the children -- not just providing financial support -- and the policy of both parents' involvement in raising children is known to almost always be best for children. Entitlement parents should be given clear, powerful incentives and guidelines to earn a living, with programs that simultaneously takes the child out of welfare dependency: When an entitlement parent shows consistently that they do not support their child equally to the other parent, establish a provision (presumption) for primary custodial placement of the child with the (other) working parent for three years. This three year period would enable the entitlement parent to be significantly freed from child-care AND welfare -- thus they would be able to complete school or enroll in a job training program. Within three years, this parent would be required to earn income over the poverty level for one year. Subsequently, this parent would be automatically eligible for presumptive joint/shared custody with the working parent who has had primary custody. If the entitlement parent does not earn wages above poverty level for one year within three years, full custody would be awarded to the working, financially responsible parent.
25. ACTION: Require welfare applicants to provide proof of custody of their child in order to establish eligibility for benefits, thereby reducing fraudulent claims and helping to establish father involvement. Recommended language is as follows: Section . No funds shall be available under this title for payment to a parent on behalf of a child unless the parent seeking eligibility has sole custody of the child or, in cases of joint custody, the parents apply jointly for benefits. This policy will save millions of dollars because it will eliminate welfare fraud by ineligible individuals who apply for and receive welfare in violation of the law.
26. ACTION: Establish a new policy that all female applicants, when possible, must name the father of the child to be eligible for federal assistance, or face sanctions. President Clinton has issued such a directive to HHS. Congress should enact this policy as law. This is the most significant goal within welfare reform and is deserving of a priority status. Congress may reasonably expect to reach its goal of 90% paternity establishment with this law. The previous policy resulted in only a 30% paternity establishment rate. Safeguards should be developed which penalize mothers who falsely identify fathers, and also to protect fathers against undue costs to rebut his paternity if -he is wrongly alleged to be the father. Every child deserves to know and to be parented by their father.
27. ACTION: Establish a new policy of a rebuttable presumption of Shared Parenting/Joint Custody for all AFDC cases where the father is identified early in the pre-natal process and fully accepts his parental responsibilities. Policy should work to avoid increasing sole custody. Given the disastrous consequences of children born to teen mothers, at a social cost of $29,000,000,000 as determined by the Robin Hood Foundation, every effort is needed to achieve increased father parenting. The Findings of Fact entered at the beginning of the Congressional report on HR-4 in the Congressional Record, 12-21-95, documents how sole custody is correlated to decreased child well-being. This constitutional right to the opportunity of a quality life deserves official support.
28. ACTION: The Democratic "Families First" and the Republican "Contract With America" programs must include father-inclusive family policies. The omission of father friendly policies showcases the degree to which fathers are alienated from the mainstream of positive political thought and action in America. The devastating effect on children and families from policies which have created Fatherlessness is now well understood, however, both political parties have reneged on their stated goal to strengthen the American family by failing to include platform agendas which promote, enhance and encourage fatherhood.
"To a nation that views children as its most precious resource, the specter of a parent callously and selfishly abandoning all parental responsibilities, including financial child support obligations, understandably evokes moral condemnation. Everyone agrees that children should be supported. The question is whether the Courts are structuring fair financial child support arrangements. Unless custody, parental access (visitation) and support amounts are fairly established, there is no moral authority for enforcement. Surprisingly, a parent who fails to provide the much more important child support, EMOTIONAL CHILD SUPPORT, or who blocks such child support by limiting parental access, evokes no such moral outrage." U.S. Commission on Interstate Child Support Minority Report, 1991 Don Chavez, M. S. W., L.I. S. W. 29. ACTION: Establish a new definition of child support to be "emotional arid psychological" child support as well as "financial" child support. Able-bodied parents who fail to provide or who interfere with ALL support of children should be penalized socially and legally in the same manner as parents who do not provide financial support.
30. ACTION: Convene a conference to develop innovative and new "soft" approaches to child support collection and test two pilot projects. Replace punitive child support "enforcement" actions with rewarding "encouragement" actions so that delinquent parents are less "punished" into compliance and are more "rewarded" into compliance. It is well understood that positive reward often encourages more responsible behavior than does punishment. Congress should create and test two novel "support encouragement" pilot projects where traditional punitive approaches to financial child support collection are suspended:
31. ACTION: Require reports of employee hires AND layoffs to enforce collection and to protect against unjust collection efforts. If Congress creates a National Directory of New Hires as part of welfare reform, employers should be required to report BOTH hirings and firings and layoffs, to maximize efficient and accurate record keeping and to avoid unjust and harsh collection actions against parents whose earnings have involuntarily dropped.
32. ACTION: Enforce the procedures now in place which make it easier for parents to administratively effect downward modification of support payments. When the paying parent has offered written proof of employment layoff, suspension or termination of overtime which results in reduced income, caseworkers should be able to authorize reduced support, without the need for litigation. Without this provision, a parent is forced to go to court to litigate a modification , which because of financial hardship in the first place, parents are penalized if they need to pay a lawyer. A goal should be to increase the number of accurate child support orders, with proper recognition of the current instability of the work-place and reduction in job security.
33. ACTION: Examine the efficacy of the goal of mandating child support orders for every family law case, because it is an counter productive policy with inherent hazards. There are two major pitfalls of Congressional policy to seek child support orders for virtually every case: FIRST, in cases where parents, for whatever reason, do not want or need a support order, an order is not justified, and interference in the case may disrupt the balance and cooperation that has been achieved by the parents. - SECOND - in cases where both parents are low income parents -- fragile families - we need a more sensitive policy aimed at maintaining parental involvement by the father, where his involvement has far greater value than can ever be realized by mandating his marginal capacity for financial support.
34. ACTION: Direct HHS to include the non-custodial parent perspective in every training session. To insure ongoing sensitivity by OCSE staff to the non-custodial population of concerned parents, comprehensive sensitivity training should occur at every level.
35. ACTION: Congress and State Legislatures need to hold hearings and develop policy language for consideration of child support guidelines on blended or second- families, and to adopt structured downward modification standards. Financial impacts on these households need greater consideration in making life livable for all the children involved. As long as valid marriage licenses are issued to previously married parents, financial impacts on children of these new relationships are deserving of consideration.
36. ACTION: Establish Statewide Commissions on the Status of Fatherhood and Child Welfare to direct participants on father-inclusive policy at an annual conference. Each Governor should create a Statewide Commission on Fatherhood and Child Welfare, charged with the responsibility to hold hearings on ways to promote, encourage and enhance fatherhood. The Commissions should examine and select specific procedures to increase father involvement in welfare families; to encourage marriage; and to achieve the active participation of both parents in un-wed and divorced, non-welfare families. Under direction of the Governor, each state's Commission should convene a yearly statewide conference on Fatherhood and Child Welfare in order to enact changes in state policy according to the findings and recommendations of: * The State-wide Commission on the Status of Fatherhood and Child Welfare; * Other States' Commissions * , Federal policy and law which directs the states' family policy and law: * This report from the U.S. Commission on Child & Family Welfare; * * The National Governors Association policy statement; Families First; * Poponoe's book, Life Without Father; * The National Fatherhood Initiative.
37. ACTION: Increase the guideline for minimum co-parenting time. Standardized every-other-weekend parenting plans should be revised to provide more time between children and their non-custodial fathers or mothers. Promote, enhance, encourage and maintain healthy parent/child bonds by establishing a resumption for a minimum of eight monthly overnights with the non-custodial parent'.
38. ACTION: Review marriage laws to ensure stability in marriage. Mandate a 60 to 90 day waiting period, and require detailed counseling on post- marriage relationship, parenthood issues, and conflict resolution before issuing a marriage license.
39. ACTION: Review no-fault divorce laws to ensure that parents are not penalized. States must convey that a marriage license is a civil contract which comes with responsibilities and an obligation of compliance by both parties. Instead of a return to at-fault divorce, policy should protect the non-divorcing parent from being punished financially when they have met the legal obligations of the contract.
With the exception of a marriage contract, there is no contract in civil law in which a party who breaks that contract can expect to be rewarded or improve their legal position, without risk of sanctions.
40. ACTION: Prohibit custody evaluators from providing "judgment" recommend- actions to the family court; allow only their investigation and fact-finding input. This policy is recommended by the Matrimonial Lawyers Association. The effect of the current practice is to undermine the authority of the Judicial Officer. The evaluation must be neutral, and the report must be neutral in fact finding and in it's presentation to the court in order to engender the parents' trust, participation and acceptance of the court ruling.
41. ACTION: Establish easy and inexpensive procedures for "lesser litigation" of minor modifications in parenting plans. Lower the legal threshold and simplify the procedures to officially record all minor modifications of parenting plans. Within a year of entering a parenting plan two-thirds of all parents are operating a plan which differs from the original.
42. ACTION: An expanded campaign is needed to increase advantages for two- parent married family adoptions. Millions of children are available for adoptions. A campaign for a goal of 100 000 adoptions per year can go forward WITHOUT a compromise in full legal , and constitutional rights held by never-married fathers. We need to prevent private adoptions to Canada and other countries where American citizens, NEW BABIES are sold to new families, without notification to the biological father. ,
Among the full range of middle class fathers and family members , from lower class all the way through the upper middle class, the hardest aspect of a divorce is the blatant, unjustified discrimination of the Courts. Thousands and thousands of these fathers defended the American Constitution, its laws and traditions in military conflicts including Viet- Nam, the Gulf War, and now Bosnia. These men are shocked and horrified when they experience arbitrary discrimination and rejection of all rules of fairness and equity in making custody rulings. These men lose respect for our Court system for the country they have defended.
Most of these fathers ask for NO VICTIM STATUS", " NO SPECIAL FAVORS SOCIAL PROGRAMS OR NO FEDERAL FUNDING." All they ask for is the old sense of Roman, common sense "JUSTICE", a fair decision based on the facts of the case.
It is especially for these mainstream American fathers that I offer the following recommendations:
43. ACTION: Establish education and sensitivity training for judicial officers and support staff regarding anti-father gender bias is critically needed. For years, fathers all over America have complained about anti-father judicial bias. When national custody outcomes are 70% sole custody with mothers and 10% with fathers, something is wrong. Perhaps the best explanation of institutional legal bias is to read the exact words of the Family Law Committee guidebook published some years ago in Minnesota:
Except in rare cases the father should not have the custody of the minor children of the parties. He is usually unqualified psychologically and emotionally nor does he have time and care to supervise the children. A lawyer not only does an injustice to himself but he is unfair to his client , the state and to society if he gives any encouragement to the father that he should have custody of the children." A New York judge, Hon. Richard Hunter, former chief judge of the King's County (Brooklyn) Family Court, and a prominent member of the New York State Commission on Child Support, made the following comments in "The Fathers Also Rise," New York Magazine, November, 18, 1985: "You have never seen a bigger pain in the ass than the father who wants to get involved: he can be repulsive. He wants to meet the kid after school at three o'clock, take the kid out to dinner during the week, have the kid on his own birthday, talk to the kid on the phone every evening, go to every open school night, take the kid away for a whole weekend so they can be alone together. This type of father is pathological."
44. ACTION: Modify Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers to reduce the tendency to over-litigate for a family law client which increases hostilities and contentiousness. American lawyers are collecting over $100,000,000,000 ($100 BILLION) per year for fees from custody cases. There is significant room for positive and effective legal representation without making every issue of dispute into a conflict and charge of additional fees. Lawyers as counselors offer great hope to reduce the overzealous nature of domestic relations and return a level of civility and concern for the eventual outcome for all members of the family.
45. ACTION: Establish an education task-force to oversee that curricula includes comprehensive programs focused upon the importance of fathers to children. Given the critical at-risk status of so many adolescents, the task force must inform junior high and high schools about the importance of offering classes on family life which emphasizes the importance of marriage/commitment. Schools should teach youth about how a fathers' full-fledged emotional involvement with raising his child(ren) is essential and core to the psychological and emotional well-being of his child. All colleges and schools must include the same focused curriculum in programs which prepare mental health and social work professionals to work with families.
46. ACTION: Promote, enhance, and encourage fathers/men to be elementary teachers. Younger children especially need to see more positive male role models in everyday situations. This is especially true for the 40% of all children (7 million) who have not seen their father in more than a year. More male teachers will not replace the father in the home any more than the teacher replaces the parent, but more male teachers will provide children a better balance of the demonstration of care from both male and female adults.
47. ACTION: Offer parenting classes for all prospective parents where the importance of fathers is emphasized. Fathers parent differently from mothers, but not better or worse. Children suffer without a healthy mix of frequent contact and interaction with both parents. Parenting classes are needed instead of the traditional pre-birth classes where fathers are identified only as mothers -helpers and supporters. The focus typically is on the single event of the child s birth rather than the long term impact of continued, involved day-to- day parenting. The alienation of the father starts with breast feeding, a process that pushes the father into the background. It should be understood that both parents are equally important to the child. All pre-natal programs should have handouts to mothers on the importance of positive father parenting.
48. ACTION: Establish University and College men's studies programs and libraries to parallel women's studies programs and libraries. The focus of these programs will assist all men to be familiar with social issues affecting their roles as men in family settings; will promote fatherhood; and will encourage family life.
49. ACTION: Give grants/tax credits to business that provide services to fathers. Hospitals, peri-natal centers, clinics, public health nurses social workers, family planning clinics and others in the "child-birth world" should be given tax-credits and/or grants for having father-friendly parenting classes and programs which seek to promote , enhance and encourage fatherhood and father involvement in family life.
50. ACTION: Promote, enhance and encourage fatherhood by Providing fathers equal family leave from employment for the birth or care of an infant. For guidance, see Poponoe's Bill of Rights for parents who take employment leave to care for their minor children. Equally reward fathers and mothers for engaging in the most critical function of parenting -- early childhood care.
51. ACTION: Encourage `work at home' for parents to support family life. p Business should review and set policy so that fathers (and mothers) could do all or art of their employment at home, so that they may be nearer to their children.
52. ACTION: Review employee relocation policy to support family and stability . In order to help prevent child-parental alienation by creating "left-behind" parents, businesses should examine their policies regarding offering relocation to employees who are single-parents. For married parents, relocation should not be encouraged, in order to help build stronger communities.
53. ACTION: Domestic violence (whether perpetrated by women or men) can be reduced by policy and programs which INCREASE, not reduce the involvement of fathers with their children. This is a policy recommendation for everyone -- in short, everywhere that family policy is generated or effected: the government business, social service agencies, health care etc. To reduce family violence, commit to policies and actions dedicated to increasing fathers' involvement with their children, especially in cases of parental separation. WHY? Male and female perpetrated family violence is a reality in contemporary American life which has scared America into knee-jerk solutions. policies which continue to be anti-male in nature. (As a result of the media's exaggerated negative projection of men.) These policies are likely to INCREASE domestic violence at least in the NEXT generation, unless fathers are involved parents NOW. The importance of father-involvement (starting with the birth of the child) on REDUCING crime, including domestic violence, was stated in the (most recent) 1995 report by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Child Abuse and Neglect. A very important recommendation made was: "Father involvement at the time of birth of a child." Male caring of children, especially infants, produces a civilizing and calming change in the male parent, says famous psychologist Erik Erikson. "Generatively" is the term Erikson gave this phenomena. The more that men are involved with their children , the LESS likely they are to act violently or anti-socially. This is the character trait of male empathy - the caring of others. For the children, the loss of positive father parenting forms the anger which can lead to violence. Children vitally need positive parental roles for when they become parents, and they need their emotional connection to be healthier. This is especially true for children when the father is the non-custodial parent. It is indisputable that increased parenting time between fathers and their children is beneficial to both fathers and children. Increased time reduces the factors contributing to violence, and provides positive role models and the emotional connection needed by the boys and girls growing up to be the next generation of nurturing, healthy parents. The most likely long term solution to reversing domestic violence is increased father involvement with children, especially infants.
One initial point I would make on the debate of the divorce system focus of the Commission Majority Report versus the fathers/non-custodial parents focus of my Minority Report is the following language in the June, 1995 U.S. Senate version of the Welfare Reform Bill - HR-4. This quote is taken from the language on duties assigned to the proposed National Child Support Guidelines Commission - Section 451, page 628, which states as follows: (8) (The Commission shall consider) procedures to help noncustodial parents address grievances regarding custody and visitation orders to prevent such parents from withholding child support payments until such grievances are resolved, and (9) whether, or to what extent, support levels should be adjusted in cases in which custody is shared or in which the noncustodial parent has extended visitation rights." It is my argument that since June of 1995 the U.S. Senate again has been looking for positive Recommendations, that Senators are not comfortable with the existing system, that they are sufficiently uninformed on positive options, and that the U.S. Senate is still in need of new proposals. THE ABOVE DUTIES PARALLEL THE CONGRESSIONAL MANDATE TO THE U.S. COMMISSION ON CHILD AND FAMILY WELFARE. Because the commission ignored this argument and duty, I was motivated to write my Minority Report and offer the above recommendations. Most social commentators believe public policy is only a minor part of the problem creating fatherless children. I respectfully disagree. I do agree that most of our progress on positive father parenting will be realized at the state and local level, however, the nature of national public policy to date has been to unnecessarily intervene in and regulate family affairs. Today laws and policies are negative toward fathers and this is an area of our culture that can no longer be ignored if we are to have a national goal to improve child well-beingness. These laws and policies must change. The President and Congress are in the position to reverse these deleterious trends, and I offer the above recommendations as a part of that process.
The historical focus in this commentary is on how Fatherlessness got to be such a vastly wide-spread and accepted norm and why the recommendations of this report are so critical.
In 1996, 23,000,000 children (30% of 65,000,000 children) will live without their fathers' parenting influence and guidance for significant periods of time (Kids Count Data Book, 1995.) Nearly a third of these fatherless children will not have ANY physical contact with their father for over one year (Horn, 1995.) Fatherlessness gained recognition as a national crisis when social workers , working with teenage delinquents, noticed the correlation between fathers' failure as economic providers and teenage problems. Today, nearly 80% of teenage delinquent males are from father-absent homes. Positive male parenting brings social values, acceptable community standards and self restraint to children in the family home. We cannot put a dollar value on positive father parenting. In September, 1995, The Economist featured the American Fatherlessness crisis , calling it the worst in the world. Another recent publication, Fatherhood and Family Health (Virginia Dept. of Health, 1995) provides a chilling index of child maladies caused by or associated to the phenomena of Fatherlessness. The effect of Fatherlessness on the well-being of children and their subsequent adulthood calls for a national social services legislative agenda to understand and reverse this phenomena. Fathers who are hands-on parents, being role models, nurturers, mentors and protectors are not valued as they once were. The contributions that fathers can give to their families in other ways than financial resources receives little value in our divorce society and social services system. The more limited definition of work for fathers of the last century -- one which does not include child rearing responsibilities -- in combination with more recent welfare system and other government policy, lies at the core of the increasing trend of Fatherlessness in America.
A FATHERLESS AND -LESS AND -LESS WORLD The Fatherlessness that children experience can be observed in three different family demographics: the divorced, the un-wed, and married families. The third category should not be much of a surprise: everyone knows there are married men who spend endless hours at work, including overtime and weekends, and other fathers who spend most of their leisure time "divorced" from family. Thus, the emotionally absent father can and should be included in the description and discussion of Fatherlessness, because the devastating effect on children is similar. Children are born to unmarried parents nearly a third of the time. Thus, this one third of children are the most likely to experience Fatherlessness. Among unwed families often the father does not know he is a father until he is contacted by the state to pay child support. At that time, more fathers than not seek to have parental involvement with his child. While the divorce rate has dropped from 60o/o to 50% for first-time marriages, the increase in single-parent households has risen dramatically.
In both divorce and un-wed families, fathers who demonstrate significant interest and involvement with their children usually begin to "disappear" from their children's lives a year to two following the birth or divorce. However, fathers are not to be automatically blamed for abandoning their children -- in fact, the opposite may be true. Fathers are more typically driven into exile by other factors ranging from social prejudice and pressure, to direct court injunction.
The rush to blame is typical of our current political and social times. The Father - - who has traditionally held the role of the party responsible for the family -- has become the unjust and easy target for blame for the decline of the status of the American family. Witness the sensationalist media campaigns which unfairly rail against "Deadbeat Dads" as in the Newsweek's article of May 4, 1992 and the USA Today article of August 1993, which only blamed fathers for their absence from family life -- without any appreciation for other social causes that have contributed to their absence. Educator Barbara Johnson spoke directly to the "blame the father" bias in her article Honoring Fathers in Exile: FATHERS ARE among the most misunderstood people in our society. We send them messages in so many ways that they are simply monetary providers and then wonder why they don't get more involved in their children's lives. All too often we send them the message that they are expendable and then turn around and place the role of the single mother" on a pedestal. Once divorced, the man who was once highly praised and valued as "the good family man," becomes voided. Hours spent as coach, mentor, teacher, friend and role model are no longer valued. Even the word "father" or "dad" -- once spoken with respect, honor and dignity -- suddenly becomes "your father" or "your dad." It is as if overnight, with that one additional word, the same man becomes someone who is no longer to be treated with admiration, honor and respect. There is no other instance in our society when a person is robbed of so much of his identity and basic role than in a divorce, when the man is no longer encouraged to be anything other than a means of support. How can a society tell men that their role as fathers is needed so desperately and then toss them aside when there is a divorce? We need to send a message to women who discourage their former husbands from continuing involvement in their children's lives that this will no longer be tolerated. We need to STOP BLAMING MEN, who are in many cases guilty of nothing more than divorcing their children's mothers. Like racial slurs, we must no longer tolerate blatant anger, hostility and prejudice toward fathers. I'm not referring to the abusive father or husband or situations in which the father needs counseling. Many men have always been there for their children, encouraging and guiding them. Many still believe the responsibility of fatherhood is more rewarding than their next promotion. These are the men who are never late with their monetary obligations and yet are stripped of the basic role we once praised them for -- being good fathers. Ironically, we send these men the message that because of divorce, they have relinquished their role as "the good family man," and must give up their role as "the good fathers." Time after time we have seen these men, once cherished by the neighborhood, exiled from participating in their children's lives. Tell us, how is it that a man once highly respected as a father is suddenly no longer in possession of his fathering skills, simply because of a divorce? We then thrust labels on many of them such as "deadbeat dads " 'absentee fathers," etc., without waiting to sort through the facts. Well there is another label, one these good men much deserve: "fathers in exile." This most accurately describes the place society has designated for these men, who suffer in silence, not wanting to cause more turmoil in their children's lives. If you know a father going through a divorce and is involved with his children -- you must encourage the relationship. We as a society can no longer toss wonderful, valuable men aside in the name of divorce. (emphasis added) (San Francisco Chronicle, Op-ed page, June 16, 1995) HAS HISTORY CONSPIRED TO ALIENATE AND EXILE FATHERS? Blankenhorn (Fatherless America, 1995): has identified three confluent trends as the root cause of the Fatherlessness phenomena a.) the cultural breakdown of extended families and the decline of the institution of marriage; b.) poorly thought out government policy on families such as AFDC; and c.) excess economic pressure on fathers to be breadwinners without direct family connections. In the 175 years since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, America's economic, social, spiritual, institutional and cultural forces inadvertently worked to fuel the phenomena of Fatherlessness. The cause for extreme Fatherlessness and the breakdown of traditional family life can first be traced to the changes in social and economic realities which, by virtue of the changing work-world, began to separate and alienate the father from family life. Griswold's Fatherhood in America explains these historical developments. Previously, fathers were at the center of family life (with mothers). Mothers and fathers both worked in the broadest sense, on the homestead and in the villages and towns. Older children, along with mothers, worked side by side with fathers either in the fields or artisan shops to produce the family support. Fathers and children worked beside mothers in the home -- bringing in water, food, wood, and other staples. Children learned about the world from their fathers; developed the work ethic under tutelage of their fathers and cultivated survival instincts. The children knew how hard their fathers worked, and sacrificed, and what activity they engaged in to support the family. This observation of father activity included the means for solving problems facing the family. The children also learned from their fathers at night. Fathers read the bible and taught its lessons of honesty, virtue and trust. Fathers also discussed the outside world its interactions and values. Fathers' work included both the physical and spiritual needs of family members as they were fully intertwined under the nobility and umbrella of work. Fatherhood meant a man for all seasons, a man for all family responsibilities. In every sense of the word, work meant family. There was no separation between bread- winning and family responsibility. Once regularly working under the throes of the Industrial Revolution in factories or businesses away from the children, fathers were unable to pass on traditions and craft skills to their children, especially their sons. Both the number of skilled trades and the number of craftsmen declined markedly (Barron, 1984). Have fathers really stopped supporting families in the old sense? Fathers are collective inheritors of social and economic changes that had substantially redefined fatherhood. Fathers were increasingly compelled to identify themselves and their parental role as "father" solely with the capacity to earn an income to support his family.
THE AMERICAN FAMILY MAN TODAY In this century, a father's identity has became primarily focused on the ri ors of locating and maintaining employment and providing financially. The definition of father's work has shifted from meeting the needs of a father-inclusive family - to meeting the needs of family that have become less and less inclusive of direct paternal parenting. Ironically, the more that fathers worked for their children's financial needs the less that fathers had direct parent/child contact. In earlier years, children stayed home into their 20's and even 30's waiting for marriage and a new home. In today's new world fathers are faced with increasing numbers of children first leaving home and then returning, and needing continued financial support. The renested family is now recognized family form (Bigner 1994). Children's growing dependence upon fathers' financial support for college trade schools or buying a home, meant successful fathers had to work harder with the result that they became even less of a "dad". Today, fathers and families are expected to consume at greater rates. Families are expected to have multiple vehicles; cars, boats and trailers, and one or two vacations per year. Children ask for $5O to $100 for tennis shoes. Children pressure parents for dozens of trendy goods. Parents find it difficult to meet these expectations and maintain viable parent/child relationships because increased economic pressure separates them from their children more and more. Subsequently, with a lack of guidance children get in trouble, and the effect of the absent-parent lifestyle is painfully obvious. Society now is holding parents totally accountable for the misdeeds of their children. Sadly and inevitably, many fathers find that satisfying their families' needs is beyond them. In the industrial world, being the economic provider for the family presents its own prejudices, problems, and pressures. Plagued by layoffs caused by mechanization, seasonal downturns advancing age, business vicissitudes, or personal sickness or injury, many unemployed men become depressed, anxious, and embittered their sense of manhood destroyed by their inability to support their wives and children (Griswold, pg. 46). Their emotional and psychological pain goes unnoticed. Financial failure for men is seen as unsuccessful fatherhood, no matter how hard fathers explain their economic situations and the predicaments the face. Increased financial pressure pushes fathers to the breaking point, which contributes to the increasing numbers of fathers with emotional and psychological problems as demonstrated by frustrated action against his family. For the separated fathers in default on child support payments (Newsweek & USA Weekend), we see the inability to survive as well. Many of these men gain employment in two or three jobs but cannot seem to get ahead and support a new famil as well as the old family. For many of these men. a sense of family connection with work has been totally broken. They have work and plenty of it, as they understand their parental responsibility, but they have minimum time and little involvement with either family, especially with the children. Government officials have no policy on father involvement as the only pursuit of fathers is on strict enforcement of financial support . This narrow policy fails to improve child outcomes. A new study published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family 2/96, on the effects of child support enforcement offer insightful comments on full effect of punitive enforcement. One of the myths of current child support enforcement is that non-paying fathers are high income dads hiding their loot: "on the other hand, the generally low to modest income evidenced here do not lend support to the stereotypical portrayal of non-payers as wealthy men who simply refuse to support their children.
Modern culture has redefined or shifted the role of the father, while it has broadened or expanded the role of the mother. Mother's work, which, in the 20th century has included the children's education, discipline and social guidance, has expanded to nearly all the decision making for the family while the father is away with his employment. The work of mothers today, especially with the current degree of father-absence, is to care for the family and children as well to generate financial support. Mother has been empowered to take the traditional " provider" role of father, and still to keep the identity of "mother". She "mommy-tracks." Father lost his role in the family starting with the industrial revolution, and his fatherhood was largely defined by his ability to provide financially for his family. Now that role is diminished because of the changing economy, the change in consumer values, and the new role women play in providing for the family. Men are seeking a return to the hearth of the home, but after centuries of exile, they are now institutionally and culturally bound to the outside of family life. In millions of families, the state steps in to assist the mothers' "generating financial support" and as such, the state acts as the father. Entitlement policy indirectly dictates that fathers cannot have the same definition as mothers in regard to the direct care of children. Government social welfare policy first enacted in 1935 and then expanded in the 1960's has all but declared fathers to be non-involved parents. Mothers applying for aid must state that there is no male breadwinner sleeping at the family home. There is an insidious financial incentive for father absence. The government has stepped into the role of breadwinner and family supporter. The 1988 Family Support Act put into policy the definition of family as only mother and child. Out of these policies rises the circular assumption that fathers do not care because they are absent physically, and so all that can be expected from them is financial support (and thus there is no emphasis on keeping the father in the home/family We finally may be seeing the end of unbridled freedom of the Industrial Revolution, a development that took total economic control of families for 175 years. While the work ethic and increased personal responsibility are necessary virtues for survival, the concept of family and family togetherness with a greater emphasis on the connection between employment and importance of father parenting in on the rise. Two major social movements are trying to redefine fatherhood for the post-industrial era. Football stadiums are being filled with groups of Christian fathers known as Promise Keepers. These Christian husbands and fathers pledge to actively maintain and promote family values and respect for mothers of their children. Fathers are challenged to place a greater investment in family life and personal relationships. The point is made that employment alone is not fulfilling the full sense of manhood. Many of these Christian fathers are married, however, they are not spending enough time with their wives and children. They pledge to change their ways and resist anti-family, pro-work pressures. The unstated challenge to these fathers is to redefine fatherhood for themselves and see that family time and involvement is in their self interest and children's best interest. This means enabling themselves to avoid the excess pressures from Wall Street to purchase the newest of everything. The Million Man March in October of 1995 in Washington DC brought black fathers together to "atone" for their sins of male violence and father absence. They reflected the same concerns as the Promise Keepers regarding the dignity and importance of fatherhood, expanded male responsibility, and increased commitment to the mothers of their children. These black fathers have many of the mothers of their children on welfare. Strikingly, these men of the Million Man March did not call for any government aid or programs. Rather, March leaders called for social recognition of their importance as men and fathers, and that most black men want to be seen as socially responsible men with family values. These black men are 15 years below white women on the life expectancy scale. They die from loneliness and no vision for a future having lost their families to un- and under-employment. For many, fathering a child may be the only sense of real achievement they will ever experience in adolescence. These fathers are clinging to what may be their only chance for respectability, some kind of life with a woman and child, for however long it may last. Most of these fathers see fatherlessness as an expected outcome - sooner or later.
American fathers are in a quandary. Many biological and cultural forces are at work on the fatherhood role in our society today. As men continue to be driven to father these powerful biological and cultural forces work even harder to undermine the long term commitments to the family unit. Fathers and mothers each have a harder time to be effective parents than did parents just two generations ago. Instead of continuing the criticism heaped on today's parents, I feel we need to better understand their predicament's and work with them in more positive ways. The President of the United States and all members of Congress need to take a fresh look at existing policies and practices through the eyes and experiences of non- custodial parents. We must recognize that maybe, we have reach d the maximum effectiveness of financial child support collections through punitive enforcement measures. The only conclusion available today, to increased child support collections, is to start anew with positive appeals to parenting. The Census Bureau statistics on child support collections show that when fathers have shared custody and participate in parenting their children, support payments are in the 90% range. This is the key factor. These numbers compare to less than 40% payments when fathers have no written legal rights to their children and do not have established parenting schedules. We have positive choices to effect voluntary increased financial child support collections. What we are lacking is the political will to shift from punitive measures to positive father parenting options. The President, working with the White House Domestic Policy Council should activate the proposed White Hose Council on Father Involvement, and offer Congress new legislation which assures more effective parental cooperation, through father- friendly welfare and family policy options. Congress needs to hold hearings to make itself aware of the volumes of new research on non-custodial parents, and specifically fathers. In the U.S. Senate, the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Labor Subcommittee on Children and Families can take a fresh look at custody and child access issues submitted in the Final Report of the U.S. Commission on Child and Family Welfare. In the House of Representatives, the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources along with the House Judiciary Committee can take a fresh look at our legal/social services system. We can attempt to separate the myths of "Absent Fathers" from the reality of public policies that more often than not work to create "Absent Fathers." , Before any new legislation is enacted, Congress must define for itself the value to be placed upon emotional and psychological child support offered and available from each parent. Previously, the only federal recognition was of financial child support and the federal budget support is around $5 BILLION per year. The social cost to fatherless children of unmarried teen moms is estimated at $29 BILLION. If Congress wants BOTH PARENTS involved, we need new policies and new budget priorities. To be effective in any way, new family policy MUST challenge the high rates of divorce and children born to unmarried parents, MUST be Father-inclusive MUST be sensitive and realistic about the economic "survivability" of both parents following separation, and finally, new family policy MUST be more positive to the large majority of fathers and mothers struggling against enormous odds to be positive and responsible parents. I am optimistic that America can and will successfully reverse our social decline but only with a legitimate emphasis on positive father parenting and support for the Recommendations I have offered. This is our first policy step into the 2lst Century. Let us work together to make them steps of lasting consequence.
This historic legislation will open the door to many new options to
be tried and tested at the State and Local levels. In effect, this legislation
re eals the 1950's "Man Out Of The Home" rule which I have made
reference to in this minority report. Additionally, this legislation contains
father friendly provisions in paternity establishment, expansion of the
parent locator service, and start-up funding for the first ever Access
Enforcement Pro rams to benefit non-custodial parents. The Access Enforcement
Provision is itself historic in that the Federal Government will, for the
irst time, fund enforcement of parent-child relationships. Previous Federal
Funding has been exclusively available only for enforcement of court ordered
financial responsibilities. One sided national public policy has not worked
to the benefit of the majority of the affected children. This long overdue
yet timely legislation is but the first step on the long road to balancing
national public policy. Fathers, however, continue to be the major missing
element of welfare legislation, at both the national and state levels.
Congress and the President are correct in saying that the best way to help
children is for children to be with a working parent. In the past, fathers
as working parents have been ignored. Two-thirds of all fathers of children
on welfare are employed full time with annual incomes over $15,000.00.
This is the missing welfare statistic. Discrimination against these working
fathers has resulted in their children being restricted to dependency lifestyles.
Time limits imposed in this new legislation offer fathers and paternal
family members new opportunities to directly support their children in
their homes when mothers can not or will not do so. In these cases, fathers
offer the best solution to reduce welfare caseloads and prevent the starvation
of some 2 million children living on our streets. I congratulate our Congress
and President Clinton for enacting this essential legislation that will
lead our nation down the path to reclamation of 50 percent of the missing
parents to our less fortunate children. Future welfare legislation must
continue this trend and address the father friendly provisions I have recommended
above. To do so will promote the general success and happiness of our children,
which in turn, will build stronger families and guarantee our nation's
If CULTURE CAN CHANGE, THEN SO TOO CAN OUR INSTITUTIONS AND OUR LAWS
ALONG WITH PUBLIC POLICIES.
"Dad is Destiny. More than virtually any other factor, a biological
father's presence in the family will determine a child's success and happiness."
(U.S. News & World Report February 27, 1995 pg. 39)
ORIGINAL SIGNED Bill Harrington, July 1996 Commissioner United States
Commission on Child and Family Welfare
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