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Forgotten Fathers

As Father’s Day approaches, retail sales are everywhere. Yet although fathers have a secure place in the annual sales calendar, their role in the lives of their children is underappreciated by government at every level.

Too many children, including here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, lack the benefit of being raised by both parents. Usually it is the father who is absent. In Philadelphia, for example, 60 percent of children live in a single-parent household. Of all single-parent households, 83 percent are mother-only households and 17 percent father-only.

Social research strongly suggests that a father’s absence from a child’s life has a negative impact on child well-being throughout the child’s formative life and beyond. Negative effects include economic depri­vation, increased probability of later incarceration, double the probability of dropping out of high school, greater likelihood of smoking and use of alcohol and drugs, plus higher risks of economic, physical, and emotional neglect.

Further, the tendency of child protective services is still to focus on serving mothers despite research high­lighting the important role of fathers in their children’s development. “Current policy regarding child protection services places increasing demands for providers to engage fathers whose children are involved in the child protection pro­cess. Implementation of this policy clashes with the ongoing challenges that fathers have historically faced in working within these systems” (“Engaging Fathers in Child Protection Services,” Children and Youth Services Review,  August 2012).

The current policy and practice of state intervention in family affairs suffer from an institutional and cultural bias that undervalues the role of fathers. This Father’s Day, let’s take time to reflect on the pressing need to help all fathers become fully involved in the lives of their children. Let’s hope, too, that those who provide children services of all types will make a greater effort to include fathers in their programs. For those fathers affected, the added time spent with their children would be far more appreciated than a new necktie.

 

My thanks to Rufus S. Lynch of The Strong Families Commission for educating me on the urgent need for father involvement.


 

Shadowboxing with our Future

Mr. Trump (I believe he deserves the respect of “Mr.” because he is the president-elect) was successful in tapping the fear, anger, and frustration of an America that is hurting economically. Job prospects generally improved under President Obama, but the benefits did not reach many of those who supported the winning candidate. Certainly, their wages have not risen in recent memory, and the hope that their children would achieve a better life than they did was lost along the way and has never returned. Worse, the “establishment” didn’t seem to care about or even recognize the depths of their discontent.

In 2001 I was hired to lead a large regional foodbank. That year I became aware of a shift in economic conditions that was like a silent tide raising around our ankles. More of the folks seeking help at food cupboards were not unemployed, and they lived in communities where hunger had never been a problem. As conditions continued to deteriorate, few national alarms bells went off, up until the economic crash in the fall of 2007. Massive layoffs then sent the unemployment rate soaring and lengthened the lines of people trying to get food assistance. Read more

Sometimes Facts Make My Head Spin

Recently, the CDC published a report showing that the economic cost of child abuse and neglect places it at or near the top of major public health problems in the U.S. The scope of the problem is mind boggling. In 2008, state and local child protective services received more than 3 million complaints. That’s an average of six complaints every minute of every day.

The CDC also studied the lifetime economic cost of each confirmed case. In a somewhat macabre financial cost analysis, precise to the dollar, the CDC calculated that the average cost is $210,012. That is comparable to major health problems such as stroke ($159,846) and type 2 diabetes (over $200,00). Read more

America’s Children: The Poor Among the Plenty

Thursday, UNICEF released Fairness for Children: A League Table of Inequality in Child Well-being in Rich Countries (Innocenti Report Card 13).  This comparative study looks at income inequality among households with children in the richest nations around the globe.

In the U.S., among households with children, there is a 58.9 percent gap between households at the median income level and those at the 10 percent level (those whose income is less than that of 90 percent of all households with children). Why is this measure important?  Economists use it to show how far a country allows its poorest children to fall below children in families with an average income. In calculating it, all social programs that help to lessen the gap are taken into account. Read more

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