On October 27th, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that the state of Florida would be launching a statewide community network as part of the fatherhood initiative, as well as the Father First website. This campaign is part of a larger movement that first began in 2022, when historic legislation was signed that guaranteed over $68.9 million in an effort to support responsible fatherhood within the state, although more than $83 million has been cleared for spending through 2026. In this blog, we’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about Father First and Florida’s fatherhood initiative, as well as what the data truly says about children who grow up without a father figure in their life.
The roots of Father First date back to April of last year (2022), when legislation was first introduced to address the “fatherhood crisis” in Florida. The fatherhood initiative was first known as House Bill 7065, a wide-ranging measure aimed at bolstering fathers’ parenting skills and promoting changes to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) that would prioritize resources for fathers and assistance for current and former foster children. The primary portion of the bill was directed at DCF to contract for the creation of the “Responsible Fatherhood Initiative,” which would eventually lead to a website and to an active effort to distribute materials on effective parenting to fathers throughout the state.
The bill also addresses “at-risk” male students and recently or soon-to-be released convicts. Millions in grants are slated to be awarded to organizations aimed at working with these groups by providing mentorship and support programs.
A breakdown of the funding included in the bill reflects the following:
- $32.6 million towards grants aimed at assisting fathers
- An increase in monthly stipends available to young adults who formerly resided in foster care (from $1,256 to $1,720)
- An increase in funding to Department of Children and Families programs
- An increase in funding to Department of Juvenile Justice programs
HB 7065 was passed unanimously and signed into law on July 1, 2022.
Available Resources And Features Of The Website
The Father First initiative, born out of HB 7065, includes educational programs, mentorship programs, and one-on-one support to encourage responsible and involved fatherhood in Florida. When users first arrive at the homepage of the website, they notice the proclamation, “It’s never too late to be the dad your kids deserve.” Furthermore, the initiative is described this way:
“Father First is a statewide and community-driven initiative empowering fathers to embrace their unique roles in their children’s lives. We champion the belief that every father is the dad their kids need and deserve. Fathers can learn, grow, and push toward being better every day with the right resources, encouragement, and connection. We stand together as dads, showing that perfection isn’t the goal, but being present is.”
The website targets not only fathers, but “at-risk” male students. Under the “Your Community” tab, a map of Florida is displayed with symbols marking the locations of either a “Dad Resource” or “Mentorship Programs for At Risk Students.” Some of the services provided at these organizations include career exploration and readiness, co-parenting classes, coaching for fathers, emotional health development, life skills development, job and trade skills training, male responsibility classes, and more.
There are five locations within the Orlando area, which are:
- Foundation for Foster Children (mentorship for at-risk students) – Winter Park
- MBK Orlando (mentorship for at-risk students) – Orlando
- SCARF Organization (mentorship for at-risk students) – Kissimmee
- Specialized Treatment, Education and Prevention Services (STEPS) (dad resource) – Orlando
- The VERB Kind (mentorship for at-risk students) – Winter Park
Additional resources on the website include information regarding grant opportunities for community-based nonprofits that promote fatherhood or deal with fatherlessness; press releases, news articles, and success stories.
Fatherlessness Isn’t Just An Issue In Florida
In the early 1990s, social trends began to show that there were a record number of U.S. children living in father absent homes. Subsequent research then reflected that those children were more likely to suffer negative outcomes across a vast array of child-well being measures. Thus, the National Fatherhood Initiative was founded in 1994. Since then, the 501c3 non-profit has worked to increase father involvement by equipping human service organizations and communities with the father-engagement training, programs, and resources they need to be father-inclusive.
So why is so much time and energy being deposited into the issue of fatherlessness? Simply, because of what the data shows happens to kids who are products of a fatherless home, which is that they are:
- At a 4x greater risk of poverty
- More likely to have behavioral problems
- More likely to go to prison
- More likely to commit crime
- 7x more likely to become pregnant as a teen
- More likely to face abuse and neglect
- More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol
- 2x more likely to drop out of school
- And more.
Additional Organizations Aimed Toward Responsible Fatherhood
In addition to Father First and the National Fatherhood Initiative, there are many other organizations that champion dads and promote their involvement in the lives of their children. Some include:
- All Pro Dad – a non-profit founded by former NFL coach Tony Dungy, NFL player Benjamin Watson, ESPN personality Dan Orlovsky, and other prominent sports figures which provides tools and resources to dad that allow them to be more present in the lives of their children
- Black Fathers Foundation – a Georgia-based, Black-led nonprofit devoted to addressing the unique challenges, inequities, and discrimination faced by Black fathers in the U.S.
- Center for Family Policy and Practice – a think-tank which advocates for, and develops solutions to barriers experienced by, low income fathers and fathers of color.
- The Fatherhood Project – a Massachusetts-based program that empowers fathers to become more knowledgeable, active, and emotionally engaged with their children
- Fathers’ Uplift – an organization that provides fathers with the tools they need to overcome trauma, addiction, racial barriers, and emotional issues so that they can fully engage with their children and families
- And more!
The Men’s Divorce Law Firm Is Committed To Protecting The Rights Of Fathers And Supporting Them On Their Parental Journey!
Fatherhood is important to us – that is apparent in everything we do and stand for. If a legal issue such as divorce, custody, visitation, paternity, or something else is preventing you from being the involved and present father you want to be, call us. We are an award-winning team of attorneys who are passionate about representing men and fathers to ensure that they achieve a fair outcome. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation and learn more!