By Darryl James
If we were truly concerned about the future of our children, then we would focus on the benefits, not the costs of amending the Welfare system, because as study after study has shown, our children are doing worse with fewer fathers in the home.
An early study from the Journal of Genetic Psychology found that the differences in development between children were connected more to the amount of interaction with the father as opposed to the socio-economic status of either parent or even the number of adults in the household.
Current studies prove that children without fathers in the home are more prone to an assortment of difficulties.
Yet, society focuses on jailing fathers who do not pay, which has not proven to make them pay or make them show up.
The problem is not that fathers just want to have children and walk away, as we have been told. The problem is that Welfare, in many ways, supplants the father, and in other ways, the courts simply ignore or impede fathers who desire to be present.
Nearly 40 percent of unwed mothers are living with a man and are already mothers to one or more additional children., but the “income-tested” Welfare System creates blockages to marriage.
Governmental assistance programs often root out males who may be dating single mothers prior to deciding to marry and attempt to assign financial responsibility to them, often resulting in a breakup.
For example, if a mother who is living with her boyfriend applies for benefits as a single head of household, she will have support from the system, while her mate ostensibly will have his own income, even if it’s minimum wage.
But if the two do decide to marry, the system will immediately count the man’s income against the woman’s Welfare eligibility, reducing or ending her benefits.
What this means, as dramatized in the ‘Seventies movie Claudine, is that benefits are maximized when a single mother remains single, and slashed if she marries. The two incomes represented by the man’s income and Welfare benefits, are reduced to solely the man’s income—a huge burden delivered with no preparation.
In this manner, the Welfare System forces impoverished couples to choose to remain unmarried over combining incomes in a marriage. While the popular concept of single Black mothers is of Welfare Queens, that concept is neither based on truth or intelligence. Welfare benefits are scarcely enough for a family to survive on and most of the Welfare fraud is actually committed by white women.
Welfare case workers will even deduct gifts from a man from the amount of monthly assistance provided to the single mother.
What must be stated and underscored is that these solutions are designed to create financial responsibility, not to place fathers in the lives of children.
And, in reality, there is no huge single parent Welfare drain on the economy. Total Welfare program costs in the United States are just over $400 billion per year, which is only FIVE PER CENT of the Gross Domestic Product. And only half of this goes to households with children.
But, even as America’s president seeks more billions for a failing war effort overseas, many Americans fly into a rage over the possibility of Welfare’s five percent of the GDP growing to a whopping six percent.
The total arrearages in child support is just under $100 billion dollars, while the cost of the Iraq War will be over $1 trillion by the time things are all said and done.
If we acknowledge the fact that 70 percent of men in arrears earn less than $10,000 annually, then forcing a single woman off of Welfare benefits if she marries, tacitly creates fewer marriages and more single parent households. It also makes for fewer fathers in the lives of children, when the man is pursued for repayment of Welfare benefits.
Can the Welfare and Child Support System be revamped to make more fathers present in the lives of more children?
The easy answer is yes.
First, since the focus on making him pay has failed (arrears have actually risen despite arrests), more efforts to make him present should be pursued, which will benefit everyone.
Instead of continuing to penalize parents, society would fare better to actually reward couples who marry and combine incomes while improving their standing.
For example, instead of slashing Welfare benefits when a man is in the home, the system would be pragmatic to provide assistance for education or the acquisition of trades, in addition to time-limited extension of daycare support and transportation costs for both parents.
The net result will be fewer families languishing in poverty and on Welfare.
Additionally, a single father who is present in the home and taking full advantage of those incentives should also have his debt to the Welfare system reduced substantially. Largely, impoverished men are being jailed and their licenses are being revoked for being unable to reimburse the Welfare system, not for refusing to pay into a single mother headed household.
A great many fathers hit the road when facing a loss of license and/or jail.
If we wish to have more fathers in the lives of children, then we must stop viewing them as responsible for repaying the government. If a single mother’s benefits were to be unaffected by marriage, particularly to an already impoverished father, no one would have to make choices between marriage and Welfare benefits.
The net benefit here would be mostly for single Welfare mothers and the low-wage earning, fathers with low or no skills, who are the overwhelming majority of so-called “Deadbeat Dads.” Both groups are also among those for whom marriage is most elusive.
Funny, but with all the current hoopla over same sex marriages, there are no huge outreach programs by either church or state to urge single parents to set marriage as a goal to better the lives of their children.
Political and social leaders would do their communities justice by providing the positive message that marriage will improve the lives of all involved, as opposed to the negative message that fathers desire to be absent, which has generally been proven to be a lie.
And, both church and state must stop delivering confusing messages about sex, while allowing the media and entertainment to deliver sex and sexuality. The battle is against sex education in the schools, with little other education suggested. We know that people will learn from somewhere, so the decision is whether they will learn in the schools or in the streets. Some adults have yet to learn.
Finally, the Welfare System must stop competing with fathers as the breadwinner in the lives of single mothers and children.
The bottom line to all of this is that single fathers, especially single Black fathers, have gotten a bad rap. Most of the negative views are based on mythology and personal biases, not fact.
The sad reality is that even though I have presented research and statistics in this book, many ignorant people have still responded with their same old, tired stereotypes, ignoring everything except their silly misconceptions, which they have allowed to pose as truth.
If we truly desire to improve the lot of those at the bottom, then those above had better be about the business of creating pragmatic solutions
We can continue to chase after men who have little money, and we can continue to crow about how fathers “just need to pay,” but at the end of the day, that campaign has failed.
Perhaps it’s time for something new.
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” Now, listen to Darryl live on BlogTalkRadio.com/DarrylJames every Monday from 7-9pm, PST. View previous installments of this column at http://www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at firstname.lastname@example.org.