This year has been a trying one for our nation in many ways. We’ve essentially been physically separated from family, friends, and colleagues for months now. We’ve taken time to process the countless changes going on around us. Where do we go from here? Will things ever go back to “normal”? These are just a few of the questions we’ve thoughtfully wrestled with.
There’s been a surprise consolation for some parents at the same time — the chance to spend more time with their children. I’m a father of two and can tell you firsthand that it’s been life-changing. The fathers that I’ve spoken with agree. The pandemic has given many fathers renewed appreciation for what we’d forgotten was possible because of work demands like commuting to the office and working long hours. It’s given us the chance to be present at all times. We can have lunch with our children. We can log off the computer at the end of the day and immediately transition to our families. They have the comfort of knowing we’re there throughout the day for anything that they need.
New routines create new habits
I’ve heard that it takes 21 days of doing something to make it a habit. Have fathers now gotten into the habit of spending as much time with their children and families as possible? Can we say that this will be the new normal even when social distancing has ended? I can say yes for the fathers that I’m in contact with. Men are now experts at juggling professional and family life more intensely than we did before the pandemic. We have to keep the momentum going and use the lessons learned in this new space.
You’ve done extraordinary work, as well, to be able to say yes for the fathers in your caseloads. It’s been encouraging to see how quickly state, tribal, and local child support offices have shifted to virtual services. Your commitment to helping families and children has been paramount as the child support program has evolved over the last few months. That evolution helps to ensure that every child has what they need to thrive, including an engaged and committed father.
We celebrated Father’s Day last month, and I want to thank you for giving many fathers the connection they sorely need with their children. Thank you, too, for giving children more time with their fathers. Both are invaluable gifts. The child support program has the most extensive access to fathers and mothers of all social service programs. You’ve shown what a benefit that is in times of need.
James Murray, Senior Advisor to the Commissioner
This blog gives the commissioner a forum to communicate directly with child support professionals and other stakeholders about relevant topics. This Commissioner’s Voice is reprinted from the June - July 2020 Child Support Report newsletter (PDF).