PA report highlights barriers facing fathers in state services

In a new 119-page report, the Joint State Government Commission (JSCG) of the PA General Assembly calls on state government to “identify strategies to remove obstacles that separate fathers from their children’s lives” in state agency practices.

The report can be found here.

In a letter to members of the General Assembly, JSGC Executive Director Glenn J. Pasewicz said that the Commission’s goal was to “identify strategies to remove obstacles that separate fathers from their children’s lives by any number of situations, whether military service, unemployment, housing, medical or mental health problems, divorce or separation from their children’s mothers, or involvement with the criminal justice system.”

In addition to a detailed analysis of the issues related to each category, the report calls for the establishment of a “permanent commission on greater fatherhood involvement” in state government to assure state policies don’t inhibit father involvement in the lives of their children.

The recommendations were authored by a 13-member Advisory Committee that worked during 2023 to flesh out the recommendations.

“Opportunities for fathers to become more involved in their children’s lives frequently turn on the legal relationship between the father and the mother,” the report argues. It notes that “legal, institutional, societal and relational barriers” often unintentionally get in the way of a father being an active participant in the life of a child, and that state agencies need to take pro-active efforts to overcome those barriers.

Dr. Rufus Sylvester Lynch, founder and chair of the Strong Families Commission, said “We are so grateful to the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Tom Wolf for their foresight in moving Pennsylvania forward by becoming proponents of greater father family involvement in the life of Pennsylvania children, families, and the communities in which our children live. Yes, Pennsylvania is on its way to becoming one of America’s most father friendly states in the union.”

Commission Chair Jeffrey Steiner, M.Ed., said that the report was “an important step in our ongoing effort to better serve the children of Pennsylvania. Involved fathers solve a lot of the problems children and society face, with less need for programs and taxpayer money."

"Children have the best chance of being happy and successful in life when both parents are active in their upbringing,” Steiner continued. “There is much more that we need to do to ensure that both parents have the opportunity to provide the love, nurturance and guidance their sons and daughters need."

The report recommends efforts to “ensure fathers’ equal treatment in areas of family leave, judicial proceedings, housing, children & youth agencies’ policies and practices” and reform of the child support system.