As we head into Father’s Day this year, we are celebrating the bonds created through spending quality time between fathers and father figures, families and children. As the President has said before—Our children don't need us to be superheroes. They don't need us to be perfect. They do need us to be present. They need us to show up and give it our best shot, no matter what else is going on in our lives. They need us to show them -- not just with words, but with deeds -- that they, our kids, are always our first priority.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continues to support the important role fathers play in families and we’re pleased to highlight these recent efforts:
Protecting Men’s Health - To help fathers take control of their health and be around for a lifetime of quality time with their kids, we’re reminding all men that thanks to the Affordable Care Act new options will soon be available for the nearly 23 million uninsured men who are eligible. Beginning October 1, 2013, individuals and small businesses will be able to visit the Health Insurance Marketplace to compare health coverage options and choose the plan that best fits their needs and wallet. In fact, some individuals will be eligible for free or low-cost plans. Coverage will begin as early as January 1, 2014.
Getting Engaged Early through Head Start and Early Head Start - We’re also helping fathers develop responsible parenting skills and economic stability. Head Start and Early Head Start programs are bolstering resources and training as a part of their Father Engagement Week for creating father-friendly programs to make it easier for men to engage in their children’s lives. Through these efforts, we are encouraging and equipping fathers and families to create quality time with their children through these programs.
Tips for New and Expecting Dads - Spending time together can start early. That’s why text4baby is launching a new series of messages for expecting fathers and fathers with a baby under the age of 1 through its free text messaging service. These messages created in partnership with HHS contain critical information and tips on how to improve child health and safety, ways to engage with your baby and how to support a mother’s health.
Equipping Organizations to Reach Dads – Office of Adolescent Health within Office of the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health developed an e-learning module that provides an overview of important insights and data on the unique and irreplaceable role that fathers (including teen fathers) play in the well-being of their children. It equips organizations to effectively support fathers, consistently and for the long-term, and reduce the ill effects of father absence in communities and have more families spending quality time together.
Modernizing the Child Support Program – As the President laid out in State of the Union and his budget, we will continue to reform our child support program to work better for families and fathers, including by getting more men working and engaged with their children. This includes rigorous research to evaluation promising strategies to improve fathers’ employment prospects and an interagency initiative to assist military and veteran parents manage their child support responsibilities as they come home.
Supporting Fatherhood and Marriage Programs - Programs within the Administration for Children and Families continue to connect dads to jobs, training, and other resources. They also aim to strengthen the bonds between couples with children, reduce domestic violence, and help provide children strong role models of adulthood. Through these programs, more fathers and families are connecting creating more opportunities for quality time and an evaluation of these strategies is helping further understanding of how best to improve parent, couple and parent-child relationships.
Continuing the Fatherhood Buzz - The Administration for Families and Children works in partnership with the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse to support Fatherhood Buzz, an initiative to promote responsible fatherhood and provide community resources through barbershops across the country. These barbers and clients are focusing on how they can encourage fathers to engage with their families and make more time quality time with their children.
Launching New PSA Campaigns - The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse also recently unveiled new public service announcements, featuring the characters from the movie Despicable Me 2 and focusing on the theme “Take Time to be a Dad Today.”
Investing in Fatherhood Research – In addition to investing in research to learn more about fatherhood involvement and promising strategies for employment and engagement, HHS is establishing a Responsible Fatherhood Research Network that will disseminate information about good fatherhood parenting practices by supporting the development and evaluation of evidence- or theory-based interventions to increase positive father involvement in the lives of their children.
Ben O’Dell is Associate Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.