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Voices in the Fatherhood Debate

March 01, 1995

Name: Charles Ballard.

Position: President, National Institute for Responsible Fatherhood and Family Revitalization, Cleveland.

Goal: To persuade unwed fathers to legitimize their children, stay in school, get a job and decrease destructive behavior such as substance abuse or unprotected sex.

Strategy: Intensive, in-home and prison-based outreach programs for fathers in Cleveland, Nashville and Washington, D.C. Also lobbies legislators to require father involvement as part of welfare reform.

Quote: "Everyone has father hunger. It's just that it's keener in people's lives who use drugs, alcohol, who are abusive and violent. We are re-nurturing fathers. Inside is a small child begging to hug and be loved."

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Name: Ken Canfield.

Position: Founder, National Center for Fathering, Kansas City, Kan.

Goal: To train and equip fathers in the practical, day-in, day-out tasks of good fathering at every stage of life--from infancy to school age, adolescence, leaving home to grandparenthood. To convince men that being involved with children is one of the most beneficial things they can do for themselves.

Strategy: Conducts polls and research, holds seminars mostly for religious audiences, hosts a daily upbeat radio spot and publishes the magazine Today's Father. Has developed a 138-item personal quiz for fathers to see where they stack up on the "seven secret skills of effective fathers": commitment, knowing your children, consistency, being a protector and provider, respecting the child's mother, active listening, moral and spiritual guide. Offers fathers a three-step plan: examine their own fathers' influence, identify how their lives are different and reconcile those differences.

Quote: "Men are not islands. We are very dependent on each other. We need to reconcile the effect of our fathers in order to break down our openness to one another as men. . . . If we can get men thinking in the life course framework, it helps them to anticipate instead of waiting for a crisis to happen. They can think preventively."

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Name: Don Eberly.

Position: Founder and president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, Lancaster, Pa.

Goal: To create a "moral climate" in the United States favoring responsible fatherhood, with committed marriage as an ideal; attracting fathers by promoting the notion that they play a unique and irreplaceable role in the lives of their children and families.

Strategy: Well-orchestrated public awareness campaigns combined with grass-roots effort to obtain a commitment from 10,000 men to reverse the trend of fatherlessness. The pledge reads in part: "To protect and provide for my children; to teach my children right from wrong; to spend time with my children, and to be actively involved in their lives. . . ."

Quote: "Our obligations to one another really can and must assert a certain claim on the individual. One of the great dangers to civil society is rampant materialism combined with individualism. . . . We represent a truly centrist position, between the androgynous left and the patriarchal right. If the movement to renew fatherhood in America succeeds, if we have a lot more committed and capable fathers who are willing to sacrifice for their families, life will be dramatically better for children, for women and for men."

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Name: William A. Galston.

Position: Deputy assistant to the President for domestic policy.

Goal: Revitalizing a two-parent family that is good for men, women and children.

Strategy: Examining economic as well as cultural forces that are bringing down families in an effort to make both the economy and the culture family-friendly.

Quote: "The President campaigned on the basis of the principle that if you have biological responsibility for a child, you have a continuing moral, emotional and economic responsibility as well. We are not going to surrender that economic principle. It is a principle with some bite. It is a principle that requires, from time to time, the coercive hand of the state, where the good will of the individual to obey the law does not suffice. I make no apologies for that."

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Name: Al Gore.

Position: Vice President of the United States.

Goal: To reconnect absent fathers with their children and to raise awareness of the "epidemic" of absent fathers.

Strategy: Support systems for fathers, including the "FatherNet," an electronic information and communication system, as well as a nationwide "Father to Father" movement where "mature, experienced" fathers help struggling young fathers. Also, implementation of federal policies to aid families and children and to provide family-friendly work sites.

Quote: "It is an experience at the heart of the human experience. There can be nothing more noble than to see a father succeed. And there can be nothing more tragic than to see a father fail. . . . Because for too many Americans, fatherhood has been a failure, whether for the father himself or the child on the receiving end."

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Name: Jim Levine.

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