More services needed to support fathers, Oklahoma legislative panel told

Most agencies aren't set up to help men deal with becoming fathers and few programs are available to help dads struggling to make child support payments, speakers tell a legislative interim study.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: October 19, 2011
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The problem can't be stereotyped: It involves fathers in rural and urban areas, all races and different income levels, he said.

“Men aren't equipped, men aren't taught, men aren't shepherded,” Williams said. “It's just an event that occurs in a variety of ways. Families are formed in a variety of ways and men find themselves as fathers.”

Many men don't have the community support to learn to be good fathers, he said.

He said it would be helpful if the state had a fatherhood network to help men prepare for the emotional and financial stress of being a father as well as honing relationship skills with their child and also the child's mother.

Laws should be changed so fathers are allowed to have a salary equal to at least the poverty level before child support payments are determined, he said.

“At least let him have some gas in the car, an apartment and a little food,” Williams said.

Leon Skillens III, a fatherhood program coordinator with the Tulsa Health Department, said one out of three children in the U.S., or 24 million children, live in a home without a father.

Children growing up without a father are nearly five times more likely to commit suicide, 24 times more likely to run away from home, 6 times more likely to drop out of school and 15 times more likely to end up in jail or prison while still a teenager.

Children in fatherless homes also are five times more likely to be poor, Skillens said.