At U.S. housing projects, fathers drawn into the fold

Sat Jun 16, 2012 6:13pm EDT
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By Mathew Murphy

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thousands of absentee fathers are expected to join Father's Day celebrations this month at public housing projects, where single-mother households are the majority, in a nationwide push to help dads bond with their children.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the 3-year-old program is designed to help the one in three children across America, or more than 24 million children, living in homes without fathers.

At one such event on Saturday, 7-year-old Myles Marshall played among the inflatable bounce houses, food stands and music at the Van Dyke Community Center in Brooklyn. He was joined by his father, Robert Smith, whom he typically sees only on the weekends.

"I am just having fun spending time with my dad," Myles said.

The events are part of a broader push by the government, charities and advocacy groups to aid children raised in homes without fathers. Of those children, 42 percent are living in poverty, compared with 8 percent of children in married-couple families, according to the National Fatherhood Initiative, a non-profit group that is not affiliated with the HUD program.

It estimates that children in homes without a father are two times more likely to suffer abuse or neglect, drop out of school, commit crime and suffer poor health.

The Father's Day program was begun in 2010 by the New York Community Housing Authority in Brooklyn, and caught the attention of officials at HUD, who then took it national.

"I think it is really important to try and help these dads reconnect with their kids," said Eric Cumberbatch, acting deputy director of Brooklyn community operations, who helped start the first event.   Continued...

Joseph Perry helps his daughter Kira Perry during a Father's Day carnival at the Van Dyke Community Center in Brownsville, New York June 16, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer