Children & Families

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All 50 states now have programs designed to encourage responsible fatherhood, says a study conducted by the National Center for Children in Poverty, based at Columbia University.

State activities focus on such issues as preventing unwanted or too-early fatherhood, increasing public awareness about responsible fatherhood, promoting fathers' ability to contribute to their children's economic security, and encouraging fathers as nurturers and caregivers.

The study also identifies demographic trends about fathers that show a need for such programs. For example, the number of children in families headed by a single father increased 220 percent between 1976 and 1996, from 863,000 to 2.8 million. At the same time, the number of children in married-couple families decreased 9 percent, from 52.9 million to 48.2 million.

During the 20-year period, the researchers point out, the number of children growing up without a father in the home increased 56 percent, from 10.9 million to 17 million.

"Map and Track: State Initiatives To Encourage Responsible Fatherhood" is available for $16.95 from the National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University School of Public Health, 154 Haven Ave., New York, N.Y. 10032; (212) 304-7100.

Divorcing parents in a Texas county who were required to attend a seminar about the effects of divorce on children were either less likely to complete the proceedings or had divorces that were far less contentious, a study has found.

Brandi Buckner, then a doctoral student in the counseling education program at the University of North Texas in Denton, examined 673 divorce cases in Collin County, north of Dallas.

Slightly more than half the couples came before a local district court judge who required seminar attendance; 330 of the couples appeared before judges who did not order attendance.

Twenty-five percent of the couples who attended the four-hour For Kids' Sake program withdrew their lawsuits and remained married, compared with 14 percent of the couples who did not attend the sessions.

Those who attended the seminar also filed fewer interim motions regarding custody conflicts and restraining orders. And even those seminar attendees who did divorce were less likely to file additional litigation, such as custody modifications, Ms. Buckner, now a therapist in private practice, concludes.

--LINDA JACOBSON [email protected]

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