U. S. Fatherhood Initiatives - Control of Women and Children Under the Guise of "Responsible Married Fatherhood"


On June 16, 1995, the same period of time during which welfare reform became implemented, President Clinton wrote a Memorandum entitled "Supporting the Role of Fathers in Families." 11 He directed "all executive departments and agencies to review every program, policy, and initiative... that pertains to families" to:

  • ensure, where appropriate, and consistent with program objectives, that they seek to engage and meaningfully include fathers;
  • proactively modify those programs that were designed to serve primarily mothers and children, where appropriate and consistent with program objectives, to explicitly include fathers and strengthen their involvement with their children;
  • include evidence of father involvement and participation, where appropriate, in measuring the success of the programs; and
  • incorporate fathers, where appropriate, in government initiated research regarding children and their families.12

The information gathered from this review was to be compiled in Vice President Al Gore's "Father To Father" Initiative and other father involvement programs.

In response to this memorandum as well as growing political exaltation of the role of father (as well as the simultaneous vilification of motherhood), the Department of Health and Human Services introduced a set of federal initiatives entitled the Responsible Fatherhood Project .13. These initiatives were created as a part of welfare reform. They operated out of the governor's offices and the Health and Human Services departments of selected states. The Benton Foundation's program KidsCampaigns sponsored these initiatives.14

These programs have received bipartisan support from both the Clinton and Bush administrations. However, a closer look at the recommendations reveal that fatherhood programs have dealt insufficiently with parenting, poverty, employment, and economic issues. Proper attention is not given to the fathers' personal histories, including addictions, history of incarceration for serious crimes, character defects, domestic violence and child abuse. These programs discriminate against mothers, especially poor mothers. They denigrate family forms outside that of the traditional, two-parent married household. In particular, single and divorced mother homes are debased by the dissemination of specious "fatherlessness" statistics. These programs ignore the contributions custodial mothers have made to their families. Over and above all, they validate patriarchal mores that demean the mother's role and usurp her authority as primary caregiver by introducing a man into the family circle solely because he is the children's biological father -- and then installing that man as the head of the household.

The fathers' rights groups that were initially considered a part of this campaign were listed on the Benton Foundation's KidsCampaigns web site under the heading "Mad Dads."17 The groups cited included some of the worst examples of the fatherhood movement. One of the groups, Dads Against Discrimination, has recently been slapped by the Oregon State Bar "with a $2,000 judgment for illegally practicing law without a license and obtained a permanent injunction against the group." This is D.A.D.'s third infraction in this regard, and it may be heading for a fourth. Bill Prout, the Secretary-Treasurer of the group, claims that the group continues to practice law without a license.18

National Fatherhood Initiative

"Fatherless America" and the House Resolution Regarding "Responsible Fatherhood"
Feel-Goodisms and the Culture of Fatherhood

Little research on fathering has been done over the past thirty years.41 Most of what we know about fatherhood today has been derived from small, select samples involving the self-reporting of white, middle-class European American men and statements about male parenting from mothers. Little remains known about low-income men, especially minority men.42 The lack of knowledge about low-income minority men is problematic, because fatherhood programs overwhelmingly affect low-income black and Hispanic men.

Political Promotion of Marriage, or Married Fatherhood?

Proposed bills such as the Fathers Count Act have sought to make grants available to public and private organizations designed to promote marriage.50 A Resolution was introduced in the House on June 12, 2000 that sought to recognize "the importance of strong marriages and the contributions that community marriage policies have made to the strength of marriages throughout the United States, as amended."51

David Blankenhorn and "Fatherless America" Turning Propaganda into Public Policy
Married Fatherhood as the Remedy for
Child Sexual Abuse

Blankenhorn does not address people who have children with more than one partner. When a man has fathered children with more than one woman, which woman and child should benefit from married fatherhood? Bigamy remains illegal in the United States. What if the man is already married? Adultery has not been stamped out. If a man marries the mother of one of his children, and if that woman has additional children who were fathered by other men, does Blankenhorn believe that this newly-married father will molest only his stepchildren while being a "responsible father" to his biological child? It's highly doubtful that a man has a molestation switch in his head that he turns on and off, depending on whether his child or his stepchild is present. These are problematic situations Blankenhorn has neglected to addressed.

"Fatherlessness" does not directly lead to child sexual abuse of girls. Dysfunction such as "gender, marital conflict, parental attachment, paternal overprotection, and parental alcoholism"79 as well as "conflicted parent-child relationships, parental substance or alcohol abuse, and emotional instability"80 are associated with increased risk of molestation.

A Bureau of Justice study cited in the Boston Globe reported that abuse escalates over time, so older women are more at risk than younger women for more serious incidents of domestic violence, including incidents resulting in death.95 Older, married women are also more likely to have had children by their abusers, so they may be more reluctant to leave the relationship. Abuse escalates greatly once the woman leaves. If she has children, her abuser is likely to contest custody, not pay child support, or kidnap the children,96 factors she considers when deciding how to handle the abuse. There are also economic factors to consider, such as the cost of litigation as well as the additional costs of raising a child that a childless, younger abused woman does not experience.

Read more at americanmotherspoliticalparty.org