Father’s Day 2020 couldn’t come at a more tumultuous time. A killer virus is ravaging the world’s population. Unemployment is sweeping the nation. Social unrest has filled the streets with protesters and police. Dads have never been more important in helping their children feel secure.
Quality Over Quantity
Studies show that the quality of the time a dad spends with his children is more important than the amount of time they share. Reliable dad routines create stability, and positive interactions paired with clear boundaries show a marked improvement in a child’s ability to handle stress.
All parents sometimes struggle with making the time they spend with their children more valuable. Men excel at bringing a playful and encouraging edge to parenting, which is why children who spend time with their fathers demonstrate higher levels of confidence and self-control.
What do we need to make sure children and fathers have quality time together?
Establishing Dad Routines
Men who don’t live with their co-parents must go through the court to establish legal parenting orders. They must also follow-up with those orders when they’re broken. Individual states – sometimes individual counties – have different ways of dealing with violations. Some are as simple as filing a form online. Others require you to retain a lawyer.
Some men struggle for years in informal situations where they’re controlled by an ex. They provide as much money as the co-parent wants, when she wants it, or else. These men often tell themselves it will be worth it because they’ll have access to their children, but these situations leave your kids vulnerable too.
Unfortunately, some dads make things official and then find their orders difficult or impossible to enforce. Others find themselves unreasonably burdened with child support. There are no easy fixes for these men. Laws – and attitudes – need to change to make parenting possible for everyone. The biggest waves are made toward change when we start with the rights of those dads who are stuck at the bottom.
The Plight of the Poor Father
No one feels the injustice of this bias more than poor fathers and their children. Many dads don’t earn enough to make ends meet, let alone pay child support. Worse, some states add in the cost of social services their ex has qualified for, even when they all would have qualified if they still lived in the same home.
It creates a domino effect. A common impact of failing to pay child support is losing your driver’s license. Men are forced to drive illegally or lose their jobs. If they get caught, they could lose their cars, face hefty fines or go to jail. Some states have overturned these laws. Others have increased penalties like losing your professional license. In all states, men lose their tax refunds and related payments, as we saw happen with stimulus payments.
In so many ways, the system is designed to keep poor people where they’re at. Other factors, like race, can make it even more difficult. We know some people are tired of social justice topics, but they’re central to father’s rights. We can’t ignore them any more than we can ignore gender bias in the court system.
Native Americans make up less than one percent of the population and more than 25 percent of Americans living in poverty, according to USA Today. Black Americans makeup 23% of the US population but are twice as likely as whites to live in poverty. Racial bias pens people in, just like economics and gender bias. Many single fathers deal with all three.
What can we do to help?
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
The good news is that whatever we do to help poor fathers or minority fathers will eventually help all dads. Here are just a few ways we can do that:
1 – Demand that your state adopts a presumption of joint custody unless there is a demonstrated and significant ongoing risk to the children involved.
2 – Demand that your state keeps its greedy fingers out of child support. Amounts should be determined based on the percentage of parenting time and comparable incomes. Those payments should go straight to parents and not siphoned off to pay for state support programs.
3 – Demand your leaders practice anti-racism and support policies that make it easier for all dads to be a part of their children’s lives.
4 – Reach out when you need help. Contact the United Way and similar organizations in your area not just to get the support and services you need to do your best, but to keep single fathers visible. Once you’re able, commit to giving back.
Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor
With all the stress you’ve been under lately, we hope this is a day you can find some time to relax. Enjoy the rewards parenthood has brought to your life, and celebrate the difference you’re making, even if your fight is focused now on the lives of other fathers and their children.
Our society has a long way to go in respecting dads of all kinds, but we see you. We’re proud of you. We hope you’re proud of you too.