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Experts challenge the notion that Black men have abandoned their children

caines | 6/13/2013, 5:30 a.m.

U.S. needs more father-friendly policies

Dr. Waldo E. Johnson, Jr. associate professor, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago and the author of Social Work with African American Males, asks, Is it fair to chastise or accurate to depict those fathers struggling to construct paternal identities or enact evolving paternal roles . . . as missing in action and implicitly ignore the historical role that race and ethnicity, nativity and citizenship status and institutional and structural barriers have played on their success as fathers? Undoubtedly, there are some fathers who are missing in action [MIA]: young males who become parents but are unprepared to assume the expectations of fatherhood and fail to assume/uphold their paternal responsibilities; fathers who subsequent to divorce or separation from their wives/partners, start new families and shirk their paternal responsibilities to children from the prior relationship; and finally, fathers who reside with their children and even provide financial support but are emotionally detached from their children. However, the challenge facing many fathers and their families alike lie in successfully enacting the multiple and sometimes contrasting paternal and parenting roles which constitute contemporary fatherhood. Dr. Henrie M. Treadwell, author of Beyond Stereotypes in Black and White, and professor of Community Health and Preventative Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, says the idea of missing Black fathers is both myth and media hype.

My search for Black men began awhile ago and I learned that more Black men would like to spend time with their children but the criminal justice system gets in the way of the bonding process, she said. Current drug law sentencing puts men away for a very long time but has no appropriate visiting centers where children can spend time with their fathers. When fathers are released from prison, for certain convictions, they cant return to public housing. That means kids are intentionally and deliberately separated from their fathers fathers who want to be with them. Is it fair to imprison a man who cannot pay child support because he is unemployed and cannot find work? We have some policies that tend to hurt more Black families and need to be changed. Why do our kids have less of a chance growing up with both parents now than during slavery? Each of us needs to stand up and be a leader. We need better diversion programs, we need churches to get more involved, we need health clinics that are accessible to Black men. We know what we need to fix and we can the question is do we have to the public will to do so.

Editors note: Readers may also wish to consult the following books for additional information about the challenges facing Black fathers and Black youth: The Myth of the Missing Black Father, edited by Roberta L. Coles and Charles Green; and The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander. Braswell and Johnson will be keynote speakers at this weekends Do Right Dads Fighting for Fatherhood Conference, Friday through Sunday at Florida Memorial University. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com