For many, Father’s Day brings a feeling of gratefulness. It’s a time to think about dads and the powerful ways they influence their children’s lives for the better. Whether with wise advice, a listening ear or just a sense of humor when the chips are down, their example and guidance are significant in shaping the lives and futures of their children.
But Father’s Day also feels bittersweet, because it is a reminder of the many children in our community who are living without the presence of a father in their lives.
As a child support prosecutor, I am faced daily with the repercussions of rearranged families – parents who no longer live in the same home, and children who rarely see their fathers.
The National Fatherhood Initiative reports one in three children live in a father-absent home. These children are four times as likely to live in poverty, seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teenager, twice as likely to drop out of high school and more likely to both commit a crime and go to prison.
The incredible link between the absence of a parent and almost all societal ills is the impetus behind programs like the Ohio Commission of Fatherhood, which has helped Ohio become a national leader in encouraging and aiding fathers to be involved in their children’s lives.
In partnership with the commission, and with the help and support of our courts and child support enforcement agency, we have spent the past year developing a fatherhood initiative here in Clinton County.
During multiple meetings over the last year, we’ve heard from agencies, schools, churches, and nonprofits who all want to help encourage responsible fatherhood in our area. This week, I will be submitting a proposal to the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood to create the position of a part-time fatherhood coordinator in Clinton County. We are among the first small counties in Ohio to launch a Fatherhood Initiative, and it is my hope that our neighboring counties such as Highland and Fayette will also benefit from having a fatherhood coordinator in southern Ohio.
Time and again it has been shown that when fathers are stable, they are far more likely to support their children, both financially and emotionally. My hope and goal is that when fathers land in a difficult spot, we can come alongside them with hope and a helping hand.
On a small scale we want to at least connect parents with resources for the barriers they face: employment, transportation, treatment, counseling and legal help.
On a wider scale, we realize that even in the difficult case of a divorce or broken home, we can still pursue outcomes that are positive for the family, the children, and our society as a whole. Our purpose is to provide hope and promote stability by connecting dads with resources to help them be the best fathers they can be.
As a prosecutor, it’s my job to hold parents accountable and ensure that children receive the support they need. As a daughter, I recognize the profound role that a father can play in a child’s life. And as a member of society, I know it’s imperative that we work together to promote responsible fatherhood – in our nation and here in Southern Ohio.
This Father’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate and thank the fathers and father figures in our lives. Please join us as we work to encourage and empower fathers in our community to be that powerful influencer for good in their child’s life.
Katie Wright is the assistant prosecutor for the Clinton County Child Support Enforcement Agency.