The billboards are everywhere. On one, a child's tiny toes rest atop the big, burly feet of a man, suggesting a playful moment between a dad and his toddler. Another portrays a laughing boy being chased by what appears to be his boisterous father. In another, a dad and son hop across the grass on bouncy balls in a larger-than-life spontaneous moment.
All of these images are captioned, "Take time to be a dad today" and refer to the Web site www.fatherhood.gov.
Positive images of fathers engaging with their children are a welcome message in a culture where families struggle to remain intact and mothers generally bear responsibility for childrearing.
Then again, I'm certain that our Founders are gathered in some corner of heaven wringing their hands and wondering how we evolved into a government that teaches its citizens how fulfill our most basic human responsibilities.
What next? Take time to brush your teeth today? Take time to blow your nose today? Take time to visit the potty today?
There's a reason they call it a "nanny state." But sure enough, this ad campaign is a major component of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families' Office of Family Assistance (OFA).
It "supports efforts to assist states and communities to promote and support responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage."
Maybe I'm a cynic, but I think it's ironic that a government that quite literally is bankrupting our children by incurring incomprehensible trillions of dollars in public debt purports to be concerned about quality parenthood.
No matter. We have plenty of money for this sort of campaign, because after all, it's intended to go upstream to solve the root cause of other social problems. We know that single parents are at a measurable economic disadvantage as compared with those who are married, and that children who grow up in two-parent families enjoy countless educational, social and psychological benefits compared wih their single-parent peers.
Since the research clearly proves that America would be better off if more couples married and stayed in healthy marriages, and if more children were born to two married parents, and if more fathers were committed to both their wives and their children, it must be the job of the federal government to make it so.
It may be a worthy goal, but I have my doubts about the efficacy of having what is mostly a national advertising campaign to recommit our country to the worthy institution of marriage as a function of the federal bureaucracy.
A report available at www.acf.hhs.gov offers proof, by way of case studies, that federal dollars can and do save marriages and prepare couples for committed family life. The report showcases only "select" grantees with "promising" results, but hey, it's close enough for government work.
We may be up to our eyeballs in debt, but at least we're borrowing against our children's future so that we can shore up their parents' relationships.
The problem is, there is other research the government seems to ignore. For example, studies prove that men who are churchgoers are more likely to remain married and to be involved with their children than are unchurched men, and that couples whose relationships include a strong religious component are more likely to establish solid, traditional family homes.
Try as we might to avoid the truth, there's no getting around the fact that family life that is centered on God is simply more stable and more successful.
Rather than spend our tax dollars on ad campaigns, our federal government might do more to eradicate threats to family well-being such as crippling unemployment, burdensome taxes, benefits for remaining unmarried and the scourge of pornography that rots men and marriages from within.
Not as much fun as an ad campaign, but perhaps more effective in the long term.
Copyright 2010 Marybeth Hicks
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