Overview: Strong families are essential to the future of our nation, and both mothers and fathers have essential roles in ensuring the well-being of their children.
Compared with children growing up in two-parent homes, children in single-parent families are:
- twice as likely to drop out of high school;
- twice as likely to have a child before age 20; and
- more than twice as likely to live in poverty.
The Department of Health and Human Services is firmly committed to helping fathers as well as mothers provide all the different kinds of support their children need.
We conduct cutting-edge research on a wide-range of issues concerning fathers and families. We provide information and encouragement to our partners at the state and local levels about the critical roles fathers have in their childrens' lives. We help empower fathers as they work to ensure the health and well-being of their children. And we support our employees -- both mothers and fathers -- in their efforts to fulfill their parental responsibilities seriously.
In June 1995, President Clinton launched a government-wide initiative to strengthen the role of fathers in families. As a part of this initiative, HHS has expanded our on-going efforts to improve the life-chances for all children by making sure that our programs and policies assist men in their roles as fathers. HHS has set the following four goals for its Fatherhood Initiative:
- To assist men in their many different roles as fathers -- whether that means promoting their child's health and well-being or increasing their own economic opportunity;
- To make sure our research efforts appropriately investigate the roles of fathers in families and the effects of fathering on child well-being;
- To support fathers and fatherhood in all relevant Department publications and public campaigns; and
- To ensure that the workplace is supportive and responsive to the needs of all employees raising children.
In May 1996, after President Clinton launched his Fatherhood Initiative, Vice President Al Gore, Jr. and the National Performance Review, along with the Domestic Policy Council and HHS, co-hosted a "Federal Conference on Strengthening the Role of Fathers in Families." The conference highlighted recent accomplishments of the Fatherhood Initiative and introduced new program ideas from a number of federal agencies.
HHS Agencies' Fatherhood Initiatives
HHS Department Working Group
The Department Working Group was established in August 1995 to provide ongoing leadership on fatherhood issues. The group's strategy is to keep informed of HHS efforts on behalf of fathers, to expand and enhance current HHS activities, and to develop new efforts and initiatives. The working group is comprised of representatives from all HHS agencies.
ACF (Administration for Children and Families)
- An important part of being a responsible parent is financial support. The Clinton Administration and HHS have made a concerted effort to increase child support payments from non-custodial parents, which include mothers as well as fathers. Preliminary data for FY 1995 show nearly $11 billion was collected, up from $8 billion in FY 1992.
- Paternity establishment is being encouraged for all children born outside of marriage through provisions in the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1993. HHS has moved aggressively to institute voluntary paternity establishment programs in US hospitals, to establish father-child bonds right from the start. As a result, in FY 1995, preliminary data show there were 735,000 paternity establishments, up from 554,205 in FY 1992. These programs are providing parents with the opportunity of legally establishing p
aternity without the need for court hearings.
- Currently, HHS has approved welfare reform waiver demonstrations for over 25 states to test the effectiveness of allowing more low-income, unemployed two-parent families to receive assistance until they are able to sustain themselves. By lifting some of these restrictions, we will reduce perverse incentives for fathers to leave their families and will enable families to move towards self-sufficiency.
- ACF has provided grants to five communities for projects designed to strengthen the roles and parenting abilities of fathers. The demonstration projects will help fathers define their roles within their families, educate them about their children's development and needs, and help them to positively affect their children's behavior.
- Through the Parents Fair Share Demonstration Program and through waivers expanding JOBS services, fathers of children receiving AFDC benefits are being given opportunities to learn new job skills.
- Head Start has published the "Head Start Handbook of the Parent Involvement Vision and Strategies," which outlines how mothers and fathers can play critical roles in their children's education. Early Head Start has also incorporated a special emphasis on fathers into its mission and program practices.
- Through its Demonstration Partnership Program, the Office of Community Services has funded a variety of demonstration projects that enhance the ability of low-income men to provide for their families, promote responsible fatherhood, and help fathers in prison maintain viable relationships with their families.
ASPE (Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation)
ASPE, in collaboration with ACF, has funded the following three projects to examine various aspects of responsible fatherhood:
- A study of how best to evaluate community-based fatherhood project.
- The development of a framework for increasing father involvement in programs serving children and families; and
- A study using the Survey of Income and Program Participation, a national data base, to examine the relationship between child support, custody, visitation and well-being.
HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration)
- HRSA funds 22 Healthy Start projects that support fathers through such initiatives as men's clinics, support and service programs, and activities that promote the inclusion of fathers in pre-natal care and in parenting.
- The Maternal and Child Health Bureau, in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Health, has developed a new video for health care staff to help them understand the importance of involving fathers in the care of special needs children.
NIH (National Institutes of Health)
- Institutes within NIH, such as The National Child Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), have been collecting demographic and behavioral data from fathers which enable us to better understand how to support fathers and strengthen families. Recent grants have looked at fathering issues within a range of ethnic groups.
- NICHD has supported the development of The National Survey on Males, which will provide groundbreaking information on the sexual and contraceptive behaviors of young men.
- NIDA supports research efforts to examine the effects of paternal drug use on children's drug use. In addition, research efforts focus on the development and evaluation of comprehensive drug abuse treatment programs that are family focused.
OMH (Office of Minority Health)
OMH is the lead agency coordinating a multi-year cooperative agreement with a consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to develop models to prevent minority male violence. The consortium has published an initial set of papers from the 1995 National Conference on Family and Community Violence Prevention.
OPA (Office of Population Affairs)
- The Office of Population Affairs administers the Adolescent Family Life Program which provides abstinence focused educational services to prevent early unintended pregnancies and also develops and implements new approaches in the delivery of medical, social and educational services to pregnant and parenting adolescents, their infants, and their families. All programs offer services to adolescent males and many of the programs providing services to pregnant and parenting adolescents target services spec
ifically to young fathers, such as job skill training, parenting skills and personal counseling.
- The Title X Family Planning program provides reproductive health and family planning services, counseling and education to nearly 5 million persons annually. Title X also works in partnership with other organizations offering non-health related services to young men. For example, a joint venture with the Texas Education Foundation, a Job Corps Center, is developing a coordinated approach for providing work and training services, as well as education and information on responsible fatherhood, including
the importance of postponing sexual activity and male responsibility in preventing early unintended pregnancy.
- Through the Title X Family Planning Program, the OPA will be funding demonstration projects in each of HHS' 10 regions to provide training and part-time employment, within the family planning clinic setting, to high school aged male interns. Education about male responsibility in preventing early unintended pregnancy and the importance of reproductive health and family planning services for males will also be a focus of each project.
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC is working to reduce violence, particularly among young boys and adolescent males. By promoting non-violent behavior among adolescent males and by developing effective interventions, the CDC is helping to reduce levels of violence in families and communities.
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention has funded a grant to the Detroit Urban League to conduct the Male Responsibility: Lifepower Program (MRP). MRP uses the rites of passage model to promote social responsibility among African American males aged 9 to 18. In addition to counseling, training, and educational components, the program offers the male responsibility curriculum that examines negative behaviors in the context of African American values, history, and traditions.
Improving Research and Data Collection on Fathers
HHS is collaborating with other federal agencies through the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family statistics, researchers and private foundations in an effort to improve data collection and research on fathers. A town-meeting on fatherhood and male fertility issues was held on March 27 to identify issues and barriers to better data collection. As a part of this continuing year-long effort, a conference on clinical and ethnographic research on fathers will be held June 11-12; a conference on large
scale surveys and quantitative analysis will be held October 10-11; and a conference to make recommendations on measurement and data collection on fatherhood will be held in March 1997.
Working With HHS Employees
The Department is conducting a survey of its employees to determine problems and issues regarding availability and use of its family friendly work-force policies, such as flexible work schedules and sites, leave programs and job-sharing. This survey will be used to determine if fathers feel they have appropriate access to these department-wide programs.
May 3, 1996
Contact: HHS Press Office (202) 690-6343