Doing more for dads

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Fathers aren’t optional, they’re essential.

Like snowflakes or their own precious children, no two are exactly the same.

There are the dads who get up with the birds, grabbing lunchboxes and tying ties before heading out to spend every waking hour at work, like their dads and granddads did before them.

There are the dads who make the breakfast, clean up the dishes and get the kids to school.

There are stay-at-home dads and single dads and every variation in between. Every one of them a hero. Every one of them is important and unique. That’s true even when dads don’t live with children — even if they never have.

It can be difficult for non-custodial dads to stay connected with their kids. Some dads step up; others don’t. Many try, only to find themselves struggling for resources, for access to their kids, for respect.

The greatest Father’s Day present we could give them? An honest shot at being a dad.

As much as we talk about the crisis of fatherless children, we’ve done little to help pave the way for non-custodial dads’ involvement.

For the most part, promoting responsible non-custodial fatherhood has meant making sure Dad got a job and paid his child support on time.

There’s no question dad as breadwinner is important, but there’s a lot more on the line.

Making sure young men don’t become fathers before they’re ready to take responsibility for their kids, financially and emotionally. Promoting parent partnerships and making sure dads are actively involved in their children’s lives, even when those partnerships fail.

We’re lucky to have the Young Parents Network (see guest column), committed to addressing the full-spectrum of dads’ unique needs — from job training to parenting skills to help seeking legal and medical advice. We can do more.

Courts, social services, schools, community organizations and — perhaps most important, moms — all have a role to play in removing barriers and helping dads engage with and positively influence their kids.

Fathers often come as part of a “package deal” but they are more than just a bonus; more than a paycheck or extra set of hands around the house.

Just as dads bring something unique that helps young kids to thrive, we ought to step up and support their involvement in dad-specific ways.

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