- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2007

Of all the bizarre stories that have emerged since the passing of Anna Nicole Smith, perhaps the most unexpected is the sad commentary on the state of fatherhood in America her death has prompted. In short, her death has reminded us fatherhood is still defined solely on economic terms for too many Americans.

There are up to 20 men — some only seeking publicity to be sure — who claim to have fathered Miss Smith’s infant daughter, Dannielynn, born in September 2006. The sudden interest in fatherhood by these wannabe daddies is clearly driven by the multimillion-dollar estate to which they wish to stake a claim. Funny that none of them came forward when the baby was born to express their interest in helping raise Dannielynn. But now that the “lottery tickets” are up for sale, a whole slew of “doting dads” have stepped up to the counter to try to hit the jackpot.

Compare this with the unfortunate situation where some men studiously avoid being named the father of a child because it will cost them in child support payments.

In a country with 24 million children living in father-absent homes, this is a highly disturbing instinct — one the media tend to overlook and does little to condemn.

The Maury Povich Show produces a series of segments I call “Baby Daddy Roulette.” During these segments, a young, pregnant woman is brought on stage with a “boyfriend” whom the mother is confident is the father of her baby… along with a few other men with whom she has been intimate. Mr. Povich sets up a suspenseful moment for the audience as they try to guess who the father is.

With feigned concern in his voice, Mr. Povich asks the women if they are sure their significant other is the father of their baby, to which they tearfully reply “yes.” Through a paternity test, Mr. Povich then informs the woman her boyfriend is not the father of her baby, devastating the mother-to-be and, more disturbingly, sending the man who is “off the hook” into a gleeful dance before hundreds of raucous audience members — as if he has just won the lottery.

The Smith paternity case is not much different ? each of the men now claiming paternity of Dannielynn is trying to win Baby Daddy Roulette in reverse, with a potential payout of millions. Dannielynn, a real child who needs an involved, responsible, committed father, has been reduced to an “inheritance” no father had an interest in taking responsibility for just weeks ago.

All children, especially girls, draw much of their self-esteem from their fathers. He is the first man who is supposed to love her unconditionally. Unfortunately, there are millions of conditions tied to the affections offered by Dannielynn’s potential daddies.

While baby Dannielynn remains blissfully unaware of the greed and selfishness around her today, she will reach an age when she will want to know who her parents are. The money will not matter as much as whether or not she was loved, nurtured and guided by her father, because, sadly, she will never meet her mother. Tragically, she may only know her father as the winner of a twisted game of lottery who, if he had the choice, may have given her the middle name “Jackpot.”

Dannielynn and all of our nation’s children deserve better.

Roland C. Warren is president of the National Fatherhood Initiative in Gaithersburg, Md.

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