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Supporting Families, On Father’s Day and Every Day

June is the month for a celebration of fathers; Father’s Day is only a few days away. Television commercials and greeting cards picture the day as an idyllic celebration of happy families, smiling children, and dinner on the backyard grill. As appealing as that is, unfortunately, this is not the way that some fathers and children will spend the day.

In reality, many fathers and children will not be together. Broken relationships have developed due to parental relationship problems, non-payment of child support, unemployment, substance abuse, domestic violence, or other reasons disruptive of peace and cooperation within a family unit. These issues are hard for parents to handle, but many bring results that are even harder on children. Ask any juvenile court judge or elementary school teacher if the actions of parents make a difference in a child’s life. You know the answer.

The good news is that child support organizations are trying to help. The Title IV-D child support program is a federal-state partnership that promotes establishment of paternity, medical, and child support orders, collects child support, and enforces orders. In the past decade, state and county agencies charged with these tasks have been expanding their visions beyond these basic functions of establishment and enforcement. They seek to address barriers that prevent parents from developing healthy relationships with their children. Expansion has occurred through state and community partnerships and through improvements in direct services from child support agencies.

Fatherhood and parental responsibility programs offered by public agencies, faith-based organizations, and non-profit community organizations are growing and gaining recognition for the good work that they are doing. These groups work to remove issues that lead to fragile or broken family relationships. Currently, these programs link with child support agencies in 32 states to provide supportive services to non-custodial parents who need help. In three states (Georgia, Maryland and North Dakota) the programs are statewide while in others the programs serve a limited population. Along with basic parenting skills and conflict resolution, the programs offer job skills training, job search, and job development services. When barriers are removed, walls start falling down. Good things are happening in these programs!

States are also taking advantage of help from companies like Conduent. Our Child Support Services group is proud to partner with states and counties in this area. New technology enhances data reporting and analysis for identification of those needing help and for referral to the appropriate resource. Improvements in website services, customer services, automated systems, and new channels of communication allow caseworkers to work easier and faster.

It will take more time and funding, and more personal commitment, to make every father have a great Father’s Day, but this is a goal worth pursuing. Title IV-D programs and their public and private partners are to be commended for building on this vision.  Parents are important, and children are more than worth it.

Happy Father’s Day! And may many more families celebrate Father’s Day next year.