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The Impact of Invisible Fathers

Mary Polk, Service Program Manager for Delaware’s Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families, works on initiatives to engage fathers and male mentors in families with little or no paternal family support.

Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

As part of the service system within the State of Delaware, I am involved with Prevention, Child Maltreatment, Youth Rehabilitative, and Child Mental Health Services under the Department of Children, Youth and their Families and we work closely with the Department of Education, Child Support, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. With diligence, the State of Delaware and our community partners work as partners with community members, organizations and faith-based services. At the same time, our state services have begun to reassess our approach in working with families.   

Often, when you look for a common denominator for families we serve, we see the issue of the disruption in relationship between the father and their children and/or with the custodial parent which is often the mother of the child. We often fail to recognize or are insensitive to different types of challenges and barriers fathers face which supports disengagement. 

Recognizing this issue and the implications the invisible father has on the parent’s stress level and the child’s ability to reach its fullest potential, the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families are involved in creating initiatives to engage fathers and male mentors into services as well as infusing strategies around fatherhood involvement and co-parenting in their practice, policies and contracted services.

I must acknowledge the support of all who work side by side with me over the years to instill the importance of fatherhood and the significance of a healthy adult relationship in co-parenting to initiate institutional changes and increase the awareness for the community to become unified, therefore creating a movement. It was the tears, fears and the hunger of fathers who wanted to be involved with their children lives who inspired me as well as the stress of mothers experienced in raising children without paternal family support.

Mary E. Polk is a Service Program Manager for Delaware’s Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families.