Healthy Marriage & Fatherhood Programs Make a Difference

By Lynn Johnson, Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families

I recently had the privilege of addressing the National Association of Relationship and Marriage Educators (NARME) during their annual summit in Nashville, Tenn. The work and commitment those in this field put forth to help keep marriages and relationships healthy, strong and growing is both vital and inspiring.

Those of us here at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) have a significant responsibility in promoting healthy marriages and relationships and especially the part they play in healthy, thriving families across our nation. Studies show that the economic, health and emotional benefits of marriage result in positive outcomes for both children and adults. Specifically, children raised by their married parents enjoy more favorable physical, cognitive, and emotional youth and adult lives.

Presently, ACF funds 45 grantee organizations that provide marriage and relationship education services. Another 40 grantees are funded to provide three specific responsible fatherhood activities. These educational activities promote and teach responsible parenting and economic stability, while engaging either directly or indirectly with individuals and couples, fathers and families. Five grants specifically target fathers returning to their communities from incarceration.

While at the NARME, I shared ACF’s new Responsible Fatherhood public service videos which revolve around the theme of “Dance like a Dad.” These videos help to highlight how sharing small moments between fathers and their children are meaningful and positive in father/child relationships.

This June I also participated in another fatherhood gathering in Nashville: the ACF-sponsored National Fatherhood Summit which was attended by 650 fatherhood practitioners and researchers, as well as federal, state and local government agencies from 43 states. This first-of-its-kind conference was designed to increase engagement of stakeholders in the fatherhood field of social work. I left this event confident that our goals and hopes are in sync and in good hands, both now and for the future.

Please also note that we’re putting out a very important white paper soon titled “The Effect of Marriage Penalties on Economic Mobility, Poverty, and Family Formation.” This paper shows how marriage penalties adversely affect both personal income taxes and social safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps and mostly penalize lower-and moderate-income families. The paper’s highly respected authors recommend many policy reforms to minimize these penalties and which ACF intends to vigorously adopt.

I also want to make you aware of a very important HHS report just released titled Fatherhood Ongoing Research and Program Evaluation Efforts in the Administration for Children and Families. This report highlights our efforts around marriage, relationships and fatherhood.

FYI: Did you know that our Office of Family Assistance funds the National Fatherhood Clearinghouse, which serves as a primary repository for responsible fatherhood information, educational tools and media campaign kits? I highly encourage you to visit the website and see for yourself all the wonderful resources we have available.

We at ACF have a purposeful and serious commitment to participate and help shape the healthy development and well-being of America’s families and children, its communities, and our society.  I’m excited and hope that you are too, and that together we can utilize our government’s valuable resources to benefit us all.

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