Last week, the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Department of Justice co-hosted an exciting Fatherhood Forum at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. This was the latest stop in President Obama’s National Conversation on Responsible Fatherhood.
The day’s events began with a community roundtable with local policymakers, fatherhood organizations and community leaders focused on the intersection of fatherhood and criminal justice issues. This event allowed key faith and community to engage in discussions with our nation’s leading policymakers. . The discussion topics for the breakout sessions included:
Through these breakouts, key leaders from the White House heard and learned from individuals on the ground who work on these issues every day. We heard about the obstacles facing fathers who are in prison and have trouble staying connected to their children. We learned about the important intersection of fatherhood programs and domestic violence programs. And while there was a tremendous amount of information to take back to Washington, community leaders spent equal time identifying innovative ways to support and encourage each other as they support families and work with dads who are reentering society from incarceration.
In the evening, we hosted a public forum featuring the Attorney General Eric Holder, basketball all-star Allan Houston and other key leaders. The Attorney General addressed many challenges facing communities across the country, pointing out that over 1.5 million American children have fathers in prison. The Department of Justice has led the way in supporting families with incarcerated parents and encouraging responsible ex-offender reentry.
The Attorney General emphasized that being involved in lives of his own children was a challenging task that required going the extra mile, pushing through the challenges of a busy schedule to make time and energy available to engage his three children. He and Allan Houston agreed that just as it is necessary to push yourself when training in any new skill or sport, being involved in the life of children takes added commitment to go the extra mile.
The President’s National Conversation on Fatherhood is intended to address the challenge of father absence in many communities by encouraging personal responsibility among dads across the country and assessing how we can all work together – individuals, community and faith-based organizations, and the government – to strengthen families and support father involvement.
Joshua DuBois is the Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships