Friday, September 26, 2008

Marriage is the Solution to the Black Fathers Problem

In the concluding practical chapters to Clayton, Mincy, and Blankenhorn's Black Fathers, two leaders in promoting involved fatherhood and black marriage offer some useful conclusions.

Wade Horn gives an overview of programs that aim to involve poor black fathers in their children's lives. The bad news is that it is hard to find these fathers - half the mothers don't even know where they are - and it is even harder to keep them in the program, which they regard as a trick to get them to pay child support. Peer support programs don't work well, since their peers are not reliable, either. Improving visitation doesn't help, since they don't have much authority with the children. Getting absent fathers to cohabit doesn't help, because they are likely to disappear, which is even worse for kids, and 2/3rds of the kids in the house are not theirs, anyway. Horn concludes that fatherhood programs need to do what they have been afraid to do: promote marriage.

Which leads to the main conclusion of Enola Baird, a crusader for black marriage. She goes so far as to say that marriage was the great right that slaves gained with freedom. Marriage is the foundation of successful black families - as it is for other families.

Closing the marriage gap would do the most to close the racial gap. Then we would not need a conference on the problems of black fathers.

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