Our Most Destructive Problem – Fatherless Kids – Is Public Policy

August 21, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Last week’s riots in Milwaukee, sparked by a police shooting of a young black man, have brought the pundits out of the woodwork. Everyone has an explanation, everyone sees a cause. One prominent commentator, Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, has since been featured prominently on Fox News, largely, I suspect, because of his powerful anti-progressive point of view.  Here’s some of Sheriff Clarke’s commentary as quoted by conservative columnist Cal Thomas (MSN, 8/19/16).

"You know what encourages this? The growth of the welfare state. These are underclass behaviors. Seventy percent of the kids born in Milwaukee … are born without an engaged father in their life. So I look at the progressive policies that have marginalized black dads. They push them to the side and say ‘you’re not needed.’ Uncle Sam is going to be the dad, he’s going to provide for the kids, he’s going to feed the kids … Uncle Sam has been a horrible father. Uncle Sam does not love these kids. He might keep a little food in their mouths and that is about it. But we all know the importance of an intact family, what it can do to shape the behavior of kids."


"These progressive policies have hit the black community like a nuclear blast and until we reverse this government dependency, that’s what creates all of this and it encourages it by the way, along with some questionable lifestyle choices."


"Until the black community does a self-evaluation and until they begin to self-criticize about some of the lifestyle choices they are making, this stuff is going to continue to fester."

I don’t find much to quibble with in all that. Clarke courageously enunciates some truths that are indeed hard for mainstream politics to admit. His truths wouldn’t be so hard though, if they were new, but they’re far from it. It’s been almost 50 years since Daniel Patrick Moynihan said much the same thing. Back then, federal welfare policy paid poor women, large percentages of whom were black, to keep fathers out of their families. Put simply, Aid to Families with Dependent Children could be received by a mother with kids at home, but not if there was a father present. Unsurprisingly, that produced the first generation of fatherless black children.

The result is what we’ve seen in countless different ways, the rioting in Milwaukee being just the most recent. The fires have died down in Milwaukee, but fatherlessness goes on and will produce more kids with little education, more in prison, more with few skills they can market to employers, more using drugs, more dying long before their time.

Sheriff David Clarke is right. Progressive policies that promise ever more federal largess that is supposed to replace fathers in children’s lives, and fails miserably at doing so, must finally be changed to promote intact families.

And yes, the black community must “self-criticize” to do the same. Adults must teach their daughters that having a child without a father is bad for the child and for the community. They must teach their sons that walking away from a child is not an option. If you choose to have unprotected sex, the consequences for you may well be 18 years of hands-on childcare and working to support your family. If you’re not prepared to do that, either abstain from sex or make sure you’re using effective contraception.

Now I have some other hard truths for Sheriff Clarke, but not just for him. They’re not just for those on the left of the political spectrum either. They’re not just for Democrats or Republicans. They’re for everyone who even pretends to care about the state of our society.

We must end all of our policies that encourage fatherlessness. Yes, the liberal policies of the Great Society struck a terrible blow against the black family. They must be changed. But amazingly, the plague of fatherlessness has spread far beyond the black community. We now have over 40% of children every year born to single mothers. We have 33% of children with no contact with their fathers. Those aren’t just black mothers and their children; fatherlessness is a nationwide, society-wide disaster.

The reason that disaster is so wide-spread is that the policies that promote it are. Those policies exist mostly at the state level, but Washington puts its hand in as well. Family courts promote fatherlessness every day. Indeed, they create it. They do so by systematically removing fathers from their children’s lives. They do that by routinely giving primary or sole custody to mothers. They then refuse to enforce the meager visitation they give fathers. The result is that the very fathers who for years were told how important they were to their kids, all of a sudden find themselves to be as expendable as a lone sock. The best of fathers are kicked to the curb for no good reason and the message is clear: you are not needed; Mom is all your child needs.

That is not true. Far too much social science on children’s well-being now exists for anyone to pretend that children don’t need their fathers to be the best they can be or even good enough.

But divorce and custody laws aren’t the only way in which the legal system marginalizes fathers in their children’s lives. Adoption laws do the same by removing Dad from the process. Some 34 states have putative father registries whose sole purpose is to force children into the adoption marketplace without notifying their fathers. In so doing they deny good adoptive parents to the 400,000 + kids whose parents who’ve died or had had their rights terminated.

The lack of any law prohibiting paternity fraud does its part to ensure that fathers can’t play a role in their children’s lives. So do child support and alimony laws that encourage mothers to divorce fathers.

And let’s not forget child protective agencies across the country that routinely ignore Dad when a child is taken from Mom due to abuse or neglect. In 2006, the Urban Institute found that in over 50% of those cases no attempt was made to locate the father and ascertain whether he would be a suitable placement in lieu of the child’s mother.

That of course may be due to the Adoption and Safe Families Act signed into law by President Clinton in 1998. It offers states hefty cash payments for every child taken into foster care and every one adopted out of foster care. State legislators have spoken about the effect that had on CPS agencies, calling the “influx of children” taken from their parents by states “huge.” Of course the ASFA may well be one of those progressive policies Sheriff Clarke was referring to.

It is long past time that we acknowledge one hard truth: from sea to shining sea, the United States and its fifty states have a uniform policy regarding fathers. It is exactly the opposite of what it should be. Our policy is to marginalize fathers at every opportunity, to remove them from families on the slightest pretext and make children having contact with them – even minimal contact – as difficult as possible. Let me repeat. That…is…our…public…policy.

Nothing, not the current political upheaval in presidential politics, not rioting in Milwaukee, not income inequality, nor anything else so threatens our well-being as a nation as does the spreading plague of fatherlessness. And nothing so measures our dysfunction as a society and a culture as our willingness – while fully aware of its destructive effects – to remove fathers from children’s lives.

Are those hard truths? They’re not nearly as hard as the end game of a fatherless society.




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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