Congress finally approved the budget, including $100 million for healthy marriages and $50 million for fatherhood initiatives, per year, for five years. $50 million for fatherhood initiatives next year, divided among 50 states, is likely to mean that Kentucky could have $1 million to do something to promote better fatherhood.
I have been involved in the discussions of the Commonwealth Marriage Initiative for the past few years. I know there is not a well-developed plan on the table for how to spend the money. There are some local agencies, but nothing statewide. There are family promotion initiatives, but few even attempting to produce better fatherhood. Moreover, it is very difficult to target government money to do anything that will deliver better fathers.
We are at a blue-sky moment. So what should we do?
As I have argued before, the only institution that can really improve families are families themselves. Yet it would not really do the job to give every Kentucky family its piece of the $1 million. We need to pick some families to have the greatest impact with this money.
My nominee: Marry Your Baby Daddy Day. There are couples in the commonwealth who have children together and who plan to marry "some day." The best thing that we could do for the children of those couples is make some day, now. Sure, there are some who are ambivalent about marriage for more than just monetary reasons. Yes, everyone should have pre-marital counseling. But the crucial facts, I think, are that they say they want to marry, and they already have kids.
So, I propose that ministerial associations and the justices of the peace get together and arrange a whole bunch of weddings so moms and dads can become wives and husbands. The average wedding costs about $20,000. If we used the money to leverage donations, we could get 100, maybe 200 weddings out of that. That is, at a guess, 500 kids who could have a permanent father at home by, say, Father's Day. If everyone is more modest in what they need, double all those numbers.
That is my idea of a worthwhile fatherhood initiative.