Editorial | Parents’ roles are essential

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Fathers matter, and moms, too. That's undeniable, of course, but giving them support and making it a matter of public policy isn't always a priority. Luckily, a few efforts in our community are making a difference, and they deserve further support.

This week's Review includes an article on the Fathers' Support Center in north St. Louis, which received a three-year, $319,000 grant for the organization's Parenting in Partnership (aka Mothers' Project) program to help mothers to work with the fathers of their children and achieve positive results. Students learn communication and relationship skills, health and nutrition, financial literacy and parenting approaches. The grant was awarded by an entity of the Daughters of Charity's Province of St. Louise. Sister Carol Schumer, a Daughter of Charity and facilitator at Fathers' Support Center for 18 years, was a supporter of the grant.

The work of Sister Carol and the grant from the Daughters of Charity show the importance of the contribution of women religious to families in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Various parish and archdiocesan efforts also support parents.

The Missouri Catholic Conference's Messenger Online reported recently that fatherless children face a number of challenges that those with two-parent families don't face. Studies show they are five times more likely to commit suicide, 32 times more likely to run away, 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders, 14 times more likely to commit rape, nine times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 20 times more likely to end up in prison and 20 times more likely to get pregnant as teens.

The Fathers' Support Center addresses the problem of absentee and noninvolved fathers, and the recent grant assists mothers as well. The center's goal is to establish relationships that are more than monetary, seeking to educate parents to support their children financially, emotionally and developmentally. Sister Carol teaches the parenting portion of the six-week core program called Family Formation.

A bill passed by the Missouri General Assembly in 2014 revamped the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash assistance to low-income parents with dependent children. The Missouri Catholic Conference, public policy agency of the state's bishops, was successful with provisions ensuring caseworkers have several face-to-face meetings with recipients to learn about job training and educational opportunities and that the "marriage penalty" in TANF is eliminated. MCC also obtained funding for programs that promote two-parent families and responsible fatherhood.

"The MCC believes fatherhood responsibility programs can be a successful and vital part of Missouri's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program," said Mike Hoey, executive director. "A vast array of research has shown that absentee fathers can weaken the structure of families and cause many to be mired in poverty. The MCC is committed to ensuring some of the TANF funds are used for family-strengthening programs, such as the Fathers' Support Center in St. Louis."

As individuals and Church communities, we must get off the sidelines and support these and other efforts. Our thanks go to Sister Carol, the Daughters of Charity, Fathers' Support Center, the Missouri Catholic Conference and others for what they have done. 

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