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Fathers Count Bill to Fund Men's Custody Movement

Fathers Count Bill to Fund Men's Custody Movement

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06/26/2014

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Fathers Count Bill to Fund Men's CustodyMovement
Nov. 10, 1999
 
by Jan Erickson, Government Relations Director, and Palesa Mazamisa, GovernmentRelations Intern
 
 
 
 
NOW's Message to Legislators: Don't Be Fooled On Nov. 10, 1999, the House passed the Fathers Count Act of 1999 by a vote of 328 to 93. Sponsored by Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., H.R. 3073would provide $155 million in grants for programs that promote marriage and "responsible fatherhood." Written at the behest of such groups asthe Children's Rights Council(CRC, a men's custody organization), activists in the so-called men's rights movement and right-wing religious organizations, the legislation is ardently supported by the Republican leadership with the help of Vice President Al Gore. 
Women's Rights Advocates Question Bill's Strategy
 NOW, NOW/LDEF and a variety of  domestic violence and child welfare groups questioned the Fathers Count Act's approach, citing the dangers 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 meet child support obligations. Other services offered would include: anger management training,family planning information, tips on relationship skills 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 tothe Association 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.NOW has argued that the grant money might be better 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 the Fathers Count Act may be worthwhile, a number of the men's groups that have spoken out in favor of H.R. 3073 have a record of aiding non-custodial dads in reducing their childsupport obligations 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-wing religious groups 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). Numerous studies have shown that family violence is a major 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.
Where Will the Money Go?
 Several provisions of  H.R. 3073 are so narrowly defined that the only organizations qualifying for $5 million grants are certain men's custodyorganizations, such as Wade Horn's Fatherhood Institute and the Institute for American Values,whose president, David Blankenhorn, is a leader inthe National Fatherhood Initiative.Horn relies on discredited research which he says proves that the absence of fathers alone causes social ills such as

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