The Father Factor
Our culture and policies have revolved around the myth of the "dead-beat dad,” but in many cases, low-income fathers face serious legal, economic, and other systemic obstacles in engaging with their kids as the dads they would like to be. Yet research shows that children with fathers actively engaged in their lives are more likely to perform better in school and meet key developmental milestones. Learn about some of these barriers and how father-inclusive programs and policies can bring families and communities together — and may even help disrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty.
Joseph Jones Jr.Founder and CEO, Center for Urban Families
Reggie BichaExecutive Director, Shine Early Learning
Kimberly DentExecutive Director, Ohio Commission on Fatherhood
Jessica SeinfeldFounder and President, GOOD+ Foundation
Daniel TorresOffice Services Specialist, Forrest Solutions; Contractor, Oppenheimer...
- 2019 Festival
Absent, cruel, or incompetent fathers are the default in much of our cultural imagination of down-on-their-luck dads — just look at the depictions of fathers on most TV shows. Jessica Seinfeld, founder and president of the GOOD+ Foundation, says that the stereotypes, pernicious even amongst advocates for families and fathers, are harmful to everyone:
The idea that most fathers want what’s best for their children shouldn’t be a radical notion, but Jessica Seinfeld says that many people don’t understand what's really at play with absent or struggling fathers:
This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity
Jessica Seinfeld: All of these men are not indifferent to their children. They are just scared; they have never grown up with a father, they have only experienced violence, trauma, assault in every way. And they’ve never seen healthy relationships or role models in their lives—not to mention the structural barriers in this country that exist, the bias, and the countless obstacles that they have to hurdle themselves over and against every day.
Many men who struggle to be a healthy father figure have experienced trauma from a young age that follows with them throughout their lives. This trauma is compounded by both the lack of resources to address it and the taboos that prevent many people from discussing it.
The data is unequivocal, claims Reggie Bicha, executive director of Shine Early Learning. Outcomes for children are better across the board when both parents are involved in the upbringing of their child. The parents don’t have to live together to see the improved results, but they both need to be in the picture. That’s why Bicha says we should be fighting equally as hard for fathers as we do for mothers:
If the public and private sectors alike are failing fathers, so what does truly father-friendly policy look like in practice? Kimberly Dent, executive director of the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood, explains how Ohio is actually leading the country to lift up fathers: