Catholic Charities USA to Congress:
To reduce poverty and strengthen families, support low-income fathers

As part of its Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America, Catholic Charities USA has crafted a series of legislative proposals that call on Congress to develop more comprehensive policies and strategies to help low-income fathers become more connected and engaged in the lives of their children.

"If we truly want to cut poverty in half by 2020, building strong family connections-especially by providing more support for low-income fathers-must be part of the solution," said Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. "By supporting low-income men and fathers in a more comprehensive way, we can reduce many of the challenges that cause families to fall apart and children to fall into poverty."

Studies show that children who grow up with both parents are more likely to finish school, become self-sufficient, and have a healthier lifestyle than those from single-parent homes. Greater involvement by fathers in their children's lives promotes positive physical, social, emotional, and mental development.

Thirty-seven percent of poor children live in homes with a single mother and where the father is uninvolved. As a result, current public policies have logically and primarily focused on the mothers and their children, often overlooking the needs fathers have in providing financial and emotional support to their children.

"Despite all the information we have about the benefits to children of having strong families where both parents are involved, some of our nation's social welfare policies actually undermine the central role that both parents play in the stability and well-being of the family, community, and our society. In fact, some of these programs portray fathers in a negative light, demeaning the role of fatherhood, and equating it to simply an economic contribution," said Father Snyder.

According to Catholic Charities USA a comprehensive legislative agenda for improving support to low-income fathers should focus on policies that help keep families intact by providing-among other supports-the following.

• More employment and training opportunities for low-income men.

• Stronger support for marriage and two-parent families.

• Equitable health and mental health services for low-income mothers and fathers.

• Improvement in work supports like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

• Livable wages for working families.

• Comprehensive supports for mothers and fathers who are disconnected from their children due to incarceration.

• Reform to the child support system to encourage the presence of fathers in the lives of their children.

• Expansion of opportunities for youth aging out of foster care.

• Additional support to encourage work and economic opportunity among low-income parents.

"Developing better policies and programs that support low-income dads will not only benefit the children in short term, it will improve the long-term economic and cultural strength of our nation," said Father Snyder.

Catholic Charities USA's legislative agenda is part of the organization' efforts to reignite a national dialogue on the need to build strong family connections and to find additional ways to help fathers become more involved in the lives of their children.

To kick off this national dialogue and hear first hand the challenges dads face in engaging in their children's lives, Catholic Charities USA is hosting a conversation June 14 with Chicago area low-income fathers, services providers, and community leaders. This local conversation with fathers, held in partnership with the Catholic Charities of Chicago, will give CCUSA a deeper understanding of the barriers fathers face and what resources can assist them. Catholic Charities USA will use this information to guide its advocacy efforts for public policies and programs that strengthen families.

Catholic Charities USA also plans to engage local Catholic Charities and the communities they serve in joining in this dialogue as well as to help them create, share, or improve their existing programs that support dads and families.

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