Helping fathers ‘play a more responsible role’ in their kids’ lives

About half of all children in America spend some of their life apart from one or both of their parents, and most often it’s the dad who isn’t around, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel) said this was an issue in every area of New Jersey too and that’s why he and others have developed a “Responsible Fatherhood Initiative” geared toward promoting two-parent participation.

“We’d like there to be a clearing house for all the programs in the state that can help fathers to become more integral in the lives of their children,” Singleton said. “We want to husband all the resources of the state in one centralized location similar to the initiative on the federal level, so gentlemen can know exactly where to go to get help to play a more important role in their children’s lives.”

Legislation (A-945) co-sponsored by Singleton would create a 21-member New Jersey Council on Responsible Fatherhood in the Department of Children and Families. The goal is to promote the participation of both parents in the lives of their children and to identify needs and priorities related to fatherhood programs in the state.

“There are a number of factors that may impact a father’s ability or willingness to participate in his child’s life,” bill co-sponsor Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D-Voorhees) said in an emailed statement. “For those who grew up without a positive male role model, things like counseling and mentoring can make all the difference and hopefully produce happier, more well-adjusted children.”

The state is responsible for the laws governing parental relationships, but the federal government provides funding for responsible fatherhood grants. These grants help support counseling, mentoring, marriage education, enhancing relationship skills, parenting and fostering economic stability.

“The statistics are shocking to the conscience and it has material effects when there are not two parents in the home. Not only is it detrimental to the growth of that child, but you also see that that child ends up on the wrong path,” Singleton said. “Unfortunately, based on the statistics, they are more times in touch with our juvenile justice system and ultimately our adult penal system and there are more high school drop outs. The numbers are a bit staggering.”

Under the bill, council would be required to apply for available grants from the federal government, private foundations or other sources and then provide grants to community-based organizations in New Jersey to establish, expand or improve fatherhood programs.

The council would also have to report to the governor and the Legislature annually on its findings and recommendations about the coordination and effectiveness of state programs related to responsible fatherhood.

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