NOW,NOW/LDEFand a variety of domestic violenceandchildwelfaregroups questioned theFathers Count Act's approach, citing thedangers of domestic violence, the pressing needs of custodial mothers andthe bill's unconstitutional gender discriminatory language.The ostensible goals of H.R. 3073 are to teach parenting skills to poor, non-custodial fathers and to enhance their employability so they may obtain jobsand meetchild supportobligations. Other services offered would include:anger managementtraining,family planning information, tips on relationshipskills and money management techniques, plus encouragment for fathers tospend more time visiting their children.
Backers of the bill have exploited the image of the impoverished,unemployed African-American dad to gain support for"fatherhood"programs.It is a false image, however, as four-fifths of non-custodial dads who must pay child support are white and are notimpoverished. Some $50 billion in unpaid child support is owed by non-custodial parents to 30 million dependent children, according totheAssociation for Children for Enforcement of Support, Inc.(ACES).
What About the Moms?
Approximately 84 percent of all children living in single-parent families arecared for by their mothers.NOWhas argued that thegrant moneymight bebetter used to improve the condition of the custodial parents rather thandead-beat dads. Custodial parents, however, take second seat in eligibilityfor services in this legislation.While some of the objectives of theFathers Count Actmay be worthwhile, anumber of themen's groupsthat have spoken out in favor of H.R. 3073have a record of aiding non-custodial dads in reducing theirchildsupportobligations and taking away custody from moms, often afterextensive litigation, biased expert witness testimony and violation of dueprocess.Women's rights groups have also argued that the Fathers Count Act'spromotion of marriage as a solution to poverty, with no exception for casesof family violence,is inappropriate governmental policy.Right-wingreligiousgroups have an agenda of promoting marriage without regard for the welfareof women and children (and such groups would be eligible to receive fundsunder this bill). Numerousstudieshave shown that family violence is amajor factor in divorce and in keeping women poor; five major recentstudies have documented that up to one-third of welfare recipients arecurrently experiencing abuse in their lives. A much higher proportion of poorwomen have faced domestic violence at some point in their lives.