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By J.B. Wogan July 20, 2012

More money for fatherhood programs, but no new law

When Barack Obama was a U.S. senator, he supported a bill called the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act.

As a candidate in 2008, Obama said he would sign the bill into law, but since he took office, it has been stuck in committee.

The bill would:

  • Eliminate a penalty that currently reduces welfare benefits for married families.  
  • Streamline child support payments to families, rather than giving some money to state governments.  
  • Pay for job-training for unemployed parents and support services for domestic violence prevention. You can read a more detailed summary here.

Since becoming president, Obama has given speeches, organized forums, created a task force, taken a pledge and revamped a government website all related to fatherhood.

His signature achievement on this front was an injection of $25 million -- a 50 percent increase -- in fatherhood programs through Health and Human Services. The extra money helps pay for 55 grants for fatherhood services.

Also, the administration has found ways to meet some of the goals of the bill, such as a pilot project for homeless veterans that has helped some fathers paying child support resolve almost $800,000 in old debts. Two agencies have started demonstration projects in a handful of cities to help parents without legal custody of their children to find jobs and pay child support. Both agencies target parents who used to be incarcerated and might have a harder time getting hired.  

Obama also launched a public information campaign called the Fatherhood Buzz, which provides classes on job training and financial literacy to fathers at barbershops in eight cities across the country.

Obama's main pledge to sign the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act remains unfulfilled. But we note that part of his campaign promise was to "implement innovative measures to strengthen families," something he has done. For that and expanding fatherhood grants programs, we rate this a Compromise.

Our Sources

Interview with Ron Haskins, co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families and Budgeting for National Priorities Project, July 13, 2012

Interview with Helen Mitchell, director of strategic planning and policy development for Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., July 13, 2012

Email interview with Bea Haskins, operations manager for National Fatherhood Leaders Group, July 9, 2012

Email interview with Elaine Sorensen, senior fellow for the Urban Institute, July 13, 2012

Project Vote Smart, President Barack Obama's Weekly Address: Celebrating Father's Day, June 18, 2011

President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, A new era of partnerships: report on recommendations to the president, Fatherhood and Healthy Families, March 2010

Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Fiscal Year Budget 2012

Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Income, U.S. House of Representatives, Statement by David Hansell, principal deputy assistant secretary Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Responsible Fatherhood Programs, June 17, 2010

The White House, Promoting responsible fatherhood, June 13, 2012

The Huffington Post, Supporting our fathers and our families, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, June 29, 2011

The Washington Post, Obama steps up fatherhood advocacy with new mentoring initiative, June 21, 2010

The White House, Giving a hand up to low-income families

The White House, President Obama Promotes Responsible Fatherhood: "No Excuses,"
June 21, 2010

National Fatherhood Initiative, National Fatherhood Initiative applauds Congress' Extension of Fatherhood and Marriage Funding, Feb. 17, 2011

U.S. Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Promoting Responsible Fatherhood, 2011 Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Grants

Administration for Children and Families, ACF announces $150 million in available funding for Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Marriage Grants, June 29, 2011

Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, ACF announces over $119 million in Grant Awards for Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood, Oct. 3, 2011

By Lukas Pleva November 16, 2010

Bills stuck in committees

While on the campaign trail, President Barack Obama pledged to sign the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act. Among other provisions, the legislation would repeal fees for child support collection, direct the Secretary of Labor to award grants for transitional jobs programs and for public-private career pathways partnerships, and provide an additional tax credit for certain workers required to make child support payments.

We last checked how President Obama was doing with this pledge in Oct. 6, 2009. At the time, we rated the promise In the Works, since identical versions of the bill had been introduced in both chambers of Congress. We wanted to see how things have moved along since then.

As it turns out, neither version of the bill has made much progress. The Senate version has been stuck in the Committee on Finance since October 19, 2009. In the House, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry on June 18, 2010, where it has been sitting ever since.

With about a month-and-a-half left for Congress to tackle issues including the expiring Bush tax cuts, funding the federal government, and the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, it seems unlikely that this particular bill will make it onto President Obama's desk before January 3rd, 2010, when the current session of Congress ends. At that point, all bills that have not been passed have to be reintroduced. We checked to see if Obama had been actively advocating the bill's passage and found no evidence that he has.

We should note that the administration has made at least some progress in promoting "responsible fatherhood." On June 21, 2010, for example, the White House announced the launch of the Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative. In addition to continuing to host community forums on fatherhood and personal responsibility around the country, organizations affiliated with the initiative will be sending out e-newsletters "featuring articles, tips and resources from prominent leaders in the fatherhood and family fields and information about model programs."

Still, this promise is about signing specific legislation. Our research shows that the bills are stuck in committee, with little hope of coming out before the 111th Congress ends. We'll keep watching to see what happens, but for now, we rate this Stalled.

Our Sources

By Ian Jannetta October 6, 2009

Bill pending in Congress, but no movement

As a candidate, President Barack Obama laid out a plan for urban prosperity that included a pledge to sign a bill that would promote "responsible fatherhood" and to remove some government-imposed financial burdens on low-income families.

The Responsible Fathers and Healthy Family Act would benefit low-income families in several ways. It would remove mandatory state fees for child support collection and give states grants for implementing child support collection programs. The bill would also fund domestic violence prevention programs and responsible fatherhood programs.

"As president, Obama will sign this bill into law and continue to implement innovative measures to strengthen families," stated an Obama campaign fact sheet on urban policy.

Then-Sen. Obama co-sponsored versions of the bill in 2006 and 2007. Neither bill made it past committee, and bills that are not passed by the end of a session of Congress have to be reintroduced for consideration in the next Congress.

The current version of the bill, the Responsible Fathers and Healthy Family Act of 2009, was introduced by Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., on June 19, two days before Fathers Day. A House version of the bill was introduced by Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., on the same day.

The Senate version of the bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, where it has been ever since. According to the congressional Web site Thomas, no major action has taken place on either bill since being introduced.

For his part, Obama hosted a town hall meeting at the White House in June to discuss the importance of fatherhood, and recently signed a presidential proclamation commemorating Family Day. But according to our research, Obama has not mentioned the Responsible Fathers and Healthy Family Act or otherwise lobbied for its passage publicly since the bill was introduced.

So the bill has been introduced, but it's now up to Congress. For now, we rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources, Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2006 , accessed Oct. 2, 2009, Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2007 , accessed Oct. 2, 2009, Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2009 , accessed Oct. 2, 2009, Urban Fact Sheet , accessed Oct. 2, 2009, S.1309, Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act of 2009 , accessed Oct. 2, 2009, H.R. 2979 , accessed Oct. 2, 2009, Proclomation of Family Day 2009 , accessed Oct. 2, 2009, Remarks by the President at Fatherhood Town Hall , accessed Oct. 2, 2009

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