The Importance of Fathering In The Family

On June 16, 1995 President Clinton requested every agency of the Federal government to review its programs and policies with the purpose of strengthening the role of fathers in families. "Fathering: The Man and The Family" is the Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) response to this directive.

Over the past several years, under the leadership of Secretary Donna Shalala and Deputy Secretary Walter Broadnax, various agencies in the Department have taken actions that recognize and support the roles of fathers in families. These current activities form the underpinnings of the Department's future efforts to ensure that all of its programs and policies support the President's goals. The guiding principles of DHHS' response are:

  • All fathers can be important contributors to the well-being of their children.
  • Parents are partners in raising their children, even when they do not live in the same household.
  • The roles fathers play in families are diverse and related to cultural and community norms.
  • Men should receive the education and support necessary to prepare them for the responsibility of parenthood.
  • Government can encourage and promote father involvement through its programs and through its own workforce policies.

These principles are demonstrated in current activities of the Department and in its continued plans to strengthen the roles of fathers in families. The Department's activities also 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. The Department continues to strongly support family preservation and reunification efforts when they do not risk the safety of the child.

The report is organized into four sections.

The Current DHHS Strategy outlines how the Department is currently promoting father involvement in the lives of their children through activities undertaken in fiscal year 1995.

The Review Process and its Results describes the process by which the Department conducted the review and the additional programs and activities that were identified as a result. Officials from all DHHS operating and staff divisions participated in this review process.

Next Steps: The Department-wide Strategy to Implement the President's Initiative identifies the Department's goals in the areas of program, research, communication and the DHHS workforce. This section also describes the strategies that the Department will employ to ensure that efforts supporting fathers become part of the Department's programs and policies. These goals are as follows:

  • Goal #1 DHHS will coordinate a comprehensive program strategy to strengthen health promotion, disease prevention and treatment, human development and welfare services for fathers and children through: (1) increased collaboration across agencies to focus resources and target specific fathering opportunities; (2) development of program improvements that enhance fathers' involvement in DHHS programs; (3) improved customer service; (4) greater visibility of father issues at national conferences and training events; (5) an extended review that goes beyond the initial review of the department's programs to examine DHHS statutory provisions, regulations, and administrative requests; and (6) the development and incorporation of agency-specific father involvement performance measures.
  • Goal #2 DHHS will implement a research strategy that ensures that its research efforts appropriately investigate the roles of fathers in families and the effects of fathering on child well-being. The Department will also help inform broader government research collaborations on the importance of including research on fathers and fathering.
  • Goal #3 DHHS will use positive, supportive messages and language regarding fathers and fatherhood in all relevant publications and announcements.
  • Goal #4 DHHS will ensure that the workplace is supportive and responsive to the needs of all employees, including fathers, raising children.

Leadership, Coordination, and Program Integration contains suggestions of government-wide leadership and coordination activities that would help broaden and make more effective efforts to support the role of fathers in families.

A permanent DHHS Work Group on Fatherhood, chaired by Deputy Secretary Walter Broadnax, has been established to implement and monitor the recommendations made in the report.

Requests for additional information should be addressed to Linda Mellgren. (202) 690-6805

 

From the American Coalition for Fathers and Children