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Map and Track: State Initiatives to Encourage Responsible Fatherhood, 1999 Edition

Bernard, Stanley; Knitzer, Jane

“What makes an absent, uninvolved father change his behavior and take on his paternal responsibilities—physically, emotionally, and financially?” This question, asked by David Cohen in the introduction to this report, is a complex one. His analysis, drawing on social science “tipping point theory,” which is used to explain the spread of epidemics as well as social ideas, suggests that peer pressure, religious leaders, community programs, and corporate culture all play a role. So, too, do larger social norms. And so, too, do state policies and practices. Through them, states have the opportunity to help define social expectations about fatherhood and develop policies and strategies that can benefit not just fathers, but most importantly, their children. Recognizing this, in 1997, the National Center for Children in Poverty, with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, produced Map and Track: State Initiatives to Encourage Responsible Fatherhood. At that time, every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico had at least one policy or program initiative to promote and encourage responsible fatherhood. It is now two years later. Evidence from the larger society suggests that there is a cultural change in the way fathers are viewed and view themselves. The people expressing the new view vary widely, from rappers who sing about the joys and responsibilities of fatherhood to employees of corporations who admit to struggling to balance work and family life. Given these larger social changes, this edition of Map and Track Fathers explores how the states are responding. The 1999 edition of Map and Track Fathers addresses four questions that are central to developing an understanding of state strategies to promote responsible fatherhood: • To what extent are state policies and practices responsive to the complex demographic picture of fatherhood that is emerging? • What specific strategies are states developing to promote responsible fatherhood, and how do these strategies vary from state to state and from those used two years ago? • To what extent are states providing leadership in developing policies and practices that promote responsible fatherhood, from an economic, social, and psychological perspective? • What are the lessons from the current status of state efforts to promote responsible fatherhood for future state efforts?

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National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University

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National Center for Children in Poverty
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February 22, 2019