Policymakers Reflect on Fatherhood

In recognition of Father’s Day last Sunday, the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on opportunities for the federal government to support and promote responsible fatherhood. The subcommittee heard testimony from a panel of witnesses that included representatives of nonprofit organizations, a program participant, and other experts on delivering programs that strengthen fatherhood. The witnesses described a range of best practices for community-based programs, such as relationship skills building, education and job training, employment services, counseling and case management, and peer mentoring—many of the holistic strategies that are being utilized by local Goodwill organizatioons to support families in the communities they serve.

Subcommittee members noted some of the federal resources available to help fund community-based organizations, specifically the Healthy Marriage & Responsible Fatherhood Grant programs that fund projects that help participants build and sustain healthy relationships, achieve economic stability, and access pre- and post-release responsible fatherhood services for second chance individuals. “We know that well-designed fatherhood programs increase parenting skills, improve relationships between parents and children and between co-parents, and generate positive outcomes for fathers and their children,” said Subcommittee Chairman Danny Davis (D-IL).

During the hearing, the witnesses also spoke at length about delivering fatherhood programs for those who are currently incarcerated or exiting the justice system. Assistant Warden Nicolette Duffield of the Sheridan Correctional Center in Sheridan, IL discussed her institution’s family reunification and reentry programs, which provide therapeutic sessions and other support services to help reconnect incarcerated parents with their children and promote healthy family relationships. She noted a 20% reduction in recidivism among those who completed the program compared to individuals released from other prisons in the state. These programs can serve a vital role in reducing the likelihood that people exiting the justice system will reoffend by teaching them the skills they need to develop a strong family support network.

Father’s Day was the perfect opportunity to reflect on the important role that Goodwill plays in helping to strengthen families through direct services, holistic support, and advocacy.