Responsible Government: Investing in the Well-Being of Black Fathers, Families and Communities

by Paula Dressel; Stacey Bouchet

Oct 1, 2009

Beginning with a summary of the history of public policy contributions to poverty and racial inequity in America, the report describes how this context impacts black fathers, and how their circumstances and choices in turn affect black children. It concludes with an overview of the Julia Carson Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2009 (which subsequently died and was re-introduced in 2011 and 2013).
  • Educational opportunity and jobs access are largely place-based as a result of a long history of public policy choices. This particularly hurts working class urban African Americans and their chances for intergenerational mobility.
  • Family policy has more recently sought to engage and support fathers, guided by a notion of "mutual and interlocking responsibility" of government and fathers advocated by the Responsible Fatherhood movement.
  • Research has proven that punitive policies and regulations do not work. Instead, the focus should be on supporting men to develop the capacity to fulfill their fatherhood aspirations.
  • Many prevailing perpections about unmarried, low-income parents or "fragile families" are not true. For example, non-marital births are usually not the product of casual relations, and unwed parents are not apathetic to marriage.
  • Fathering from prison and upon return present exceptional challenges that disproportionately affect black males. Yet promising solutions exist, including education and reintegration programs and policy change.