(The Center Square) — A Florida House subcommittee met this week to discuss implementing some of the elements of a bill that passed during the 2022 session designed to promote responsible fatherhood.
House Bill 7065 was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in April of 2022 and was designed to “aid in creating and sustaining safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children and families that allow children to grow up to their full potential,” and also focuses on responsible fatherhood.
During the Florida House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee meeting on Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Community Services Jess Tharpe from the Florida Department of Children and Families gave a presentation on the steps toward implementation the agency has taken since the bill was passed in 2022.
“This was an important bill for the department, and we thank the House for spearheading this initiative and the investment made in fathers across the state of Florida,” Tharpe said.
Tharpe added that approximately 39% of children live in a household with a single parent, 24% of children live in a fatherless household, and the majority of children who are removed from their homes and put into state care are from single-parent households. Married couples account for around 9% of situations where a child has been removed.
“Fatherless youth are at increased risk of homelessness, dropping out of school and suicide. When fathers are involved, we see higher levels of social competence and better peer relationships, better performance in school and educational outcomes, more advanced language skills, better flexibility and emotional control skills, and higher levels of self-esteem,” Tharpe said.
Tharpe noted that even when fathers are not looking after their children full-time, research suggests that presence in the child’s life can still result in positive outcomes.
The bill allows for the DCF to contract for an initiative to promote responsible fatherhood, to provide services and resources to fathers to encourage more involvement with their offspring. The bill also creates the opportunity for non-profit organizations to provide a mentor program for at-risk youth and to address the needs of fathers.
The DCF expects to launch the ‘Fathers First’ website in October, along with the full implementation of the initiative’s overall campaign across the Sunshine State.