Despite this, too often traditional approaches to child poverty not only ignore fathers but even put obstacles in the way of their involvement. In my work through the Good+ Foundation, I constantly hear about fathers who are socially and psychologically isolated. In conversations with social workers who work in family services, I have learned about their distrust of fathers — stemming from societal myths, historical stereotypes and personal biases they and many of us absorb. As a result, they often believe it is not worth their time to engage with fathers. So often we are also told by social workers that any attention to fathers is misplaced, that time and resources should be focused on single mothers, and that disengaged fathers are “deadbeat dads.”
Incredibly, we have even seen children go into the foster care system because no one bothered to even engage or locate the child’s father.
Policies, too, are often enacted in a way that keeps fathers out. For example, in New York City Public Housing, a mother who accepts financial help from a father risks losing housing eligibility for her and her children. This presents an awkward choice for unmarried parents, leaving mothers to choose between assistance from the government or accepting money from a father who cannot fully cover expenses through his low-wage job.
It’s time for new solutions. Successfully addressing poverty is going to require a different approach. With bipartisan support and by embedding fatherhood programming in the administration’s child poverty strategy, Biden can score an early, easy, unifying victory and help take decisive action towards ending the scourge of child poverty.