HHS Fact Sheet
April 26, 2002 Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343


Overview:  Over the last four decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children growing up in homes without fathers. In 1960, fewer than 10 million children did not live with their fathers. Today, the number is nearly 25 million. More than one-third of these children will not see their fathers at all during the course of a year. Studies show that children who grow up without responsible fathers are significantly more likely to experience poverty, perform poorly in school, engage in criminal activity, and abuse drugs and alcohol. HHS supports programs and policies that reflect the critical role that both fathers and mothers play in building strong and successful families and in the well-being of children. Some programs reach out directly to fathers to promote responsible fatherhood and strengthen parenting skills. Other programs work to discourage young men from becoming fathers until they are married and ready for the responsibility. HHS also partners with states and faith-based and community organizations to promote responsible fatherhood in local communities nationwide. And HHS conducts extensive research into the role that responsible fathers play in ensuring the healthy development of children. More information about many HHS initiatives promoting fatherhood is available at http://fatherhood.hhs.gov.

President Bush and HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson have made promoting involved, committed, responsible fatherhood a national priority. To further expand these efforts, HHS' fiscal year 2003 budget request includes an additional $45 million to support two fatherhood initiatives — $20 million primarily to support competitive grants to faith-based and community organizations that work to strengthen the role that fathers play in their families' lives, and $25 million to support grants to mentor children of prisoners.


Promoting responsible fatherhood. Helping young mothers is an important part of HHS efforts to assist America's families, but it is also important to recognize the critical role that fathers play in the lives of their families. The President's budget requests $20 million to launch a new initiative to promote responsible fatherhood and healthy marriages. Most of the money would be awarded in competitive grants to faith-based and community organizations for skill-based marriage and parenting education, job training and other services that help fathers provide emotional and financial support to their children. The new initiative will complement related efforts in other HHS programs.

Mentoring children of prisoners. The incarceration of a parent can result in traumatic separations for children, often followed by erratic shifts from one caregiver to another. Children of low-income parents who are in prison suffer disproportionate rates of many severe social problems including substance abuse, gang involvement, early childbearing and delinquency. The President's budget requests $25 million to promote a new effort to fund a program authorized in fiscal year 2002 to mentor and provide other support to these children through the time their parents are imprisoned. Under the initiative, competitive grants will be available to governments and faith-based and community organizations.


Dads play indispensable roles that cannot be measured in dollars and cents: nurturer, mentor, disciplinarian, moral instructor, and skills coach, among other roles. HHS funds a variety of programs to help fathers establish positive relationships with their children, provide financial and emotional support, and develop responsible parenting skills. These programs include:

Partners for Fragile Families. Through the Partners for Fragile Families program, HHS has approved demonstrations in nine states to examine ways for child support enforcement programs and faith-based and community organizations to work together to help young, unmarried fathers obtain employment, provide financial support to their families and improve parenting skills. Projects are underway in California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Strengthening the role of non-custodial fathers. HHS' Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has awarded Responsible Fatherhood projects to test comprehensive approaches to encourage more responsible fathering by non-custodial parents. Each state project is different, but all provide a range of needed services — such as those related to job search and training, access and visitation, social services or referral, case management and child support — to strengthen fathers' financial and emotional involvement with their children. Projects are underway in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Washington and Wisconsin.

Welfare reform and fatherhood. President Bush has indicated his commitment to "encourage the formation and maintenance of healthy two-parent married families and responsible fatherhood" as one of the goals of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF). States now have the flexibility to use TANF funds to develop responsible fatherhood programs. ACF has issued guidance with examples of such efforts. Almost half of all states use TANF funds for fatherhood programs.

Abstinence education. Becoming a father before one is married and ready for the responsibility can have severe negative consequences for a father, the mother and the child. The welfare reform law enacted in 1996 created a separate program for abstinence education under Title V, Section 510, of the Social Security Act. The program provides federal grants to states for abstinence-only education activities, including mentoring designed to promote abstinence from sexual activity until marriage.

Many programs involve boys and young men in order to encourage behavior that promotes responsible fatherhood. The President's fiscal year 2003 budget requests $50 million in annual funding for the program for each of the next five years, for a total of $250 million over the next five years. In addition, HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provides grants to support the development and implementation of community-based abstinence-only education programs for adolescents.

Involving fathers in Early Head Start. Last year, ACF awarded grants to 21 Early Head Start projects in 17 states to develop new approaches to sustain fathers' involvement in their children's lives. These grants, worth $7.5 million over three years, are designed to provide strategies that other Early Head Start projects can use to involve fathers in their family-centered, community-based programs. HHS also has worked with the National Head Start Association and its fatherhood partners to develop a father-friendly assessment tool to help programs create more inclusive programming for fathers.

Helping fathers in the criminal justice system. ACF funds grants to help parents involved with the criminal justice system provide more reliable and regular child support for their children. These grants support a number of state and local projects that provide services to non-custodial parents who are incarcerated, unemployed or underemployed, in order to increase employment and reintegrate them into their communities. Projects are underway in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Washington.


Promoting Safe and Stable Families. This program focuses on strengthening families, preventing abuse and protecting children. The program provides grants to states to keep children with their biological families, if safe and appropriate, or to place children with adoptive families. HHS' fiscal year 2003 budget request includes $505 million for the program in fiscal year 2002, an increase of $130 million above the current year's funding level.

Access and visitation programs. Over the past five years, HHS has awarded a total of $50 million in block grants to states to promote access and visitation programs to increase non-custodial parents' involvement in their children's lives. The grants may be used to provide such services as mediation, counseling, education, developing parenting plans, visitation programs, and development of visitation and custody guidelines. Based on data reported by the states, the program serves nearly 50,000 parents each year, evenly divided between fathers and mothers.

Strategies to promote marriage. HHS supports efforts to identify successful approaches to strengthen and support families by encouraging the formation and maintenance of healthy marriages and improving relationships and parenting. For example, the 2003 budget proposal contains $300 million to fund research, demonstration and evaluation on programs to encourage and sustain healthy families.

Parenting IS Prevention initiative. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Parenting IS Prevention initiative works to engage fathers and mothers about the role in preventing substance abuse among children. This campaign emphasizes the importance of a close and positive relationship between parents and children and includes tips for parents, training guides and other materials. More information is available at http://www.parentingisprevention.org.

Healthy Start. The Healthy Start program works to reduce infant mortality rates in nearly 120 communities across the country. Through Healthy Start projects in Baltimore, Boston and the District of Columbia., HRSA supports male mentoring and fatherhood initiatives to provide education and services to involve fathers. Hawaii provides similar services using state funds.

Reducing family violence. HHS plays a key part in the federal government's overall strategy to prevent and stop domestic violence, which often has serious consequences for children. These efforts include programs designed to reduce the violence committed by men through intervention and support services. More information can be found in the "Violence Against Women" fact sheet at http://www.hhs.gov/news/facts.


HHS directly and in collaboration with other federal agencies, researchers and private foundations is working to improve data collection, research and evaluation activities related to family formation and fathering. These projects include:

Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH supports a wide range of research that relates to fatherhood and children's health. Examples include studies examining coping skills for parents of adolescent drug users; the association between alcohol dependence and psychopathology in female children of alcoholic fathers; and identifying parents' marital conflict styles that are most constructive and most destructive for children. Information about ongoing NIH fatherhood-related research is available at http://www.fatherhood.hhs.gov/fi-research.htm.

The National Survey of Family Growth. This HHS-sponsored study is being expanded to ask a sample of 7,000 men directly about family formation, their fathering experience and their fertility. Previously only women were interviewed in this survey. HHS will begin collecting data using the expanded survey in fiscal year 2002. The data will identify trends and inform policymakers on issues including fatherhood and men's health.

Program evaluations and reports. HHS and several of its agencies fund and conduct program evaluations and research related to fatherhood issues. Current and recent projects include an early evaluation of ACF's responsible fatherhood demonstrations; a broad review of HHS programs and policies related to the criminal justice system, including the effects on children and families; a report on Welfare-to-Work efforts for non-custodial parents; and a review of strategies for Hispanic fathers to strengthen literacy. More information on many of these projects is available at http://www.fatherhood.hhs.gov.

Responsible Fatherhood Management Information System. HHS has developed a management tool to help faith-based and community programs oversee and assess their efforts to meet the needs of fathers in their programs. The system allows programs to track the progress of individual fathers and to compile data on program participants for reporting purposes. The system is being used by 15 HHS fatherhood projects and eight fatherhood projects funded by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina.


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

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Last revised: April 26, 2002