Washington Post

Letters to the Editor

Crisis of Fatherhood

Thursday, February 15, 2001; Page A22

Stephen Baskerville [op-ed, Feb. 4] trivializes the work of thousands of individuals nationwide who are committed to ending father absence when he describes fatherhood programs as "vague" and "feel-good."

Federal, state and local governments and community-based organizations are increasingly focusing on the fact that 25 million children live absent their fathers. These fatherhood programs are operating in prisons and churches, in welfare offices and schools, in family-planning clinics and maternity wards. They range from small, local efforts to aggressive statewide efforts.

One of the most impressive is in Texas, where, contrary to Mr. Baskerville's assertion, then-Gov. George W. Bush created the Texas Fatherhood Initiative (TFI). The TFI is mobilizing communities to combat the problem of fatherlessness; running a successful public education campaign highlighting the importance of fathers to the well-being of children; and providing training and technical assistance to community-based organizations interested in implementing a fatherhood outreach, support or skills-building program.

National Fatherhood Initiative

Stephen Baskerville argues that divorced and never-married fathers are "forcibly driven away" from their children by mothers and the courts. This stance reflects a victim psychology in which men avoid personal responsibility by blaming other people, especially women, for their problems. Mr. Baskerville's assertion that "very few fathers voluntarily abandon their children" reflects a fantasy world in which all but a "very few" noncustodial fathers are good, and all but a "very few" single mothers are bad.

I agree that some fathers get a raw deal, and current custody laws, which favor mothers, may contribute to more women filing for divorce. But the underlying societal crisis is not, as Mr. Baskerville implies, that we mistreat noncustodial fathers but that we have so many of them in the first place.

As long as the United States has a 33 percent rate of unwed childbearing and the highest divorce rate in the world, we will have a profound crisis of fatherhood, no matter what ex-wives, ex-girlfriends and the courts do and or do not do.

Institute for American Values
New York

© 2001 The Washington Post