Fatherless Children and Welfare

 Posted by on 2 January 2012 at 10:00 am  Ethics, Parenting, Responsibility, Welfare
Jan 022012

Oy, this article — Fathers disappear from households across America — pushed a few buttons for me. It begins:

Nicole Hawkins’ three daughters have matching glittery boots, but none has the same father. Each has uniquely colored ties in her hair, but none has a dad present in her life.

As another single mother on Sumner Road decked her row-house stoop with Christmas lights and a plastic Santa, Ms. Hawkins recalled that her middle child’s father has never spent a holiday or birthday with her. In her neighborhood in Southeast Washington, 1 in 10 children live with both parents, and 84 percent live with only their mother.

In every state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.

It’s tragic that any child is abandoned by either mother or father, as happens far too often these days. Here’s the bit that irritated me, starting with a bit more backstory on Ms. Hawkins and her children.

Ms. Hawkins, the mother of three, lives with her youngest child’s father but considers herself a single parent.

“When he’s home, he’s watching TV; it’s his time. I get no help. Financially, he’s been a good provider,” she said, even for the children who aren’t his. But “as far as being involved in activities, not so much.”

Her relationship with her eldest child’s father ended over his refusal to support their offspring, and her second child’s father is in prison.

“My oldest was raised by both parents, so it’s just selfish,” she said, but “my middle one, he wasn’t raised by either parent, so he doesn’t know how.”

“We need more fatherhood initiatives,” she said, pointing to government- and nonprofit-funded programs at churches, prisons and community centers, such as those offered by Mr. DiCaro’s group, “so they can see what they’re missing.”

Basically, the woman who bore three kids by three different men — none willing to be a decent father. And now wants others to fix her problems. That’s absurd. This woman has made a mess for herself and her children by bearing children indiscriminately. She needs to take responsibility for her life and her womb — and be more choosy about the men that she makes into fathers.

What’s so tragic here is that this woman’s children — and so many others — are the victims of the unthinking actions of their parents. Alas, the impulse to “do something” via welfare programs is often the most dangerous and destructive to children at risk. Such programs encourage even more irresponsible behavior on the part of adults, and thereby result in the creation of even more children at risk. The alarming numbers cited at the beginning of the article are evidence of that.

That’s been, I think, one of the worse tragedies of the welfare state. In the name of helping children in the past, we’ve created far worse circumstances for children today.

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