- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2011

Americans strongly believe that having a father and a mother in the home is essential to a child’s happiness, although a significant minority of the nation’s children still live at least part of their formative years without their fathers in the home.

Findings like these galvanize the “responsible fatherhood” movement to investigate ways to improve men’s relationships with the mothers of their children and their children.

“We don’t have a fatherless child to spare,” said Roland C. Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), which just released its sixth edition of “Father Facts.”

America had 74.7 million children under age 18 in 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

The majority of these children - nearly 70 percent, or 51.8 million - lived with two parents. However, about 27 percent, or 19.8 million, lived with only one parent, in most instances their mother. Another 4 percent, or 3 million, had neither a father nor a mother in their homes.

All these trends have been fairly stable since the early 1990s, and the NFI says its and others’ advocacy on fatherhood has helped keep “father absence” in check.

Still, more work needs to be done to ensure that more children are connected to their fathers, “heart to heart,” said Mr. Warren. Fatherhood programs and support for fathers are “an irreplaceable part of any effort to strengthen our families,” he said.

The Obama administration has announced the “Year of Strong Fathers, Strong Families” as part of its Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative.

“The idea is simple,” President Obama told a gathering of military fathers and their children at the White House Wednesday night.

“We’re working with organizations to help dads connect with their kids in simple, meaningful ways,” he said, listing sports leagues, zoos, aquariums and bowling centers as participants.

Details, he added, are at the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse at www.fatherhood.gov.

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has released public service announcements about how fathers play a unique role in the lives of their children, and this weekend, hundreds of public-housing authorities will be hosting Father’s Day celebrations for fathers and their families.

Social-service agencies will also be at these events with information for the fathers about jobs, health, education and parenting, federal officials said at the recent 13th Annual International Fatherhood Conference, hosted by the National Partnership for Community Leadership.

Separately, the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends released a report Tuesday that found 69 percent of Americans believe having a father in the home is essential for “a child to grow up happily.” A slightly higher 74 percent said the same about mothers in the home.

Despite wide appreciation for fathers, today’s dads only get “mixed grades” on their performance reviews, wrote Pew researchers Gretchen Livingston and Kim Parker.

When all adults were asked, in general, how fathers today compare with fathers 20 to 30 years ago, 40 percent said they were doing “about as well as” the other dads. But 34 percent said dads today were “worse” than older dads, while only 24 percent said they were doing a better job.

“Dads themselves have similar opinions,” with only 26 percent agreeing that today’s fathers are doing a better job than men of the previous generation, Ms. Livingston and Ms. Parker said.

However, when dads assessed their own fathering skills, 47 percent said they were surpassing their own fathers, and another 47 percent said they were “about the same” as their dads. Only 3 percent of fathers said they were doing “a worse job” than grandpa.

The Pew findings were based on an analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth and telephone interviews with 2,006 adults in May and June.

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