Thursday, February 1, 2007

Does a Man Have To Be a Husband To Be A Good Father?

What is the best way the government can assist in promoting strong families? Should it be by encouraging better parenting skills or by promoting marriage?

This past fall, the Bush administration awarded 42 million dollars in grants to almost 100 "fatherhood initiatives" around the nation, which emphasize the importance of fathers. Grant recipients will offer services in marriage education, parenting skills and job training. Marriage promotion is the most common approach, with social conservatives in Congress and the White House strongly promoting marriage and traditional family life.

This focus is a matter of concern for many family and policy experts. Vicki Turetsky, an attorney with the Center for Law and Social Policy, believes that fatherhood programs should concentrate on economic issues, to assist men in acquiring steady, long term employment that would allow them to support their kids, whether or not they are still romantically involved with their childrens' mother.

Barbara Risman, executive director of the Council on Contemporary Families believes that programs that pressure single fathers in to marriage could result in short-lived marriages that upset childrens' lives, rather than stabilize them.

I agree. I think that any federally funded program promoting involved fatherhood should be just that, about being a better father, not geared toward making husbands out of them. Such programs should focus on how the man relates to the children, not whether or how he relates to the mother romantically. That's essentially their own business and one can be a good father regardless of how he conducts his romantic relationships.

I raised my son to adulthood as a single father, though I was urged many times to marry for my son's sake during his childhood. Though I disregarded this advice and though I'll never win the Father of the Year Award, I don't think I did too badly as a parent.


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