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Real talk about single fathers

Jasmin K. Williams | 4/12/2011, 5:23 p.m.
Single fathers frequently get a bad rap. They are often categorized as deadbeats and called...
Rodney Harraway

"There is also a lot of communication breakdown between the custodial and non-custodial parent. This has been coined as 'baby mama drama' and has been blown out of proportion. I see mothers that don't have support orders keep the hope alive that the relationship will be rekindled with the father. Once the father has gone on with his life or remarried, there is a revenge factor that takes place. Some women are not able to handle that.

"The men, in general, are getting a raw deal, but the kids just want their fathers. These kids cry because their fathers are not there. It's so unfair to deny them their other parent."

Harraway has discussed this issue with mothers, fathers and the children who still clearly want their fathers in their lives.

"There were two young ladies, ages 16 and 18, and two young men ages, 17 and 18. I asked them if they would rather have the money from their dad or their dad in their life. In most cases, the mother has built a barrier. During the course of the interview, the boys were disrespectful and inattentive, texting on their Blackberries. They suppress their feelings. The girls were more emotionally attached. The young men wanted the money. They wanted the material things. The girls wanted their fathers," he said.

Harraway raised interesting issues when he talked to the mothers.

"There were a lot of contradictions. They said that the men were deadbeat dads. 'He never comes around to see his child.' But it has to be done on their terms and by their rules. It's unfair. A man might be working two jobs or on the weekends. If it's not conducive to the mother's schedule, then he is denied visitation. If he wants to be there, then why not let him be there. The umbilical cord to the relationship is still there with hope that he might come back.

"I'm not against child support," Harraway said. "If you have them, you need to take care of them, but some men may not have the monetary means to do that. But he can help out in other areas like picking the children up from school or taking them out to give their mother a little down time. There are other ways to be a good father besides just giving money.

"According to New York State Law, if you pay your child support, you are considered to be a good father. The Clinton administration made non-child support a crime but it did not fix the problem for fathers. The system needs to be revamped so that these guys do not go from mother to mother.

"We only hear the bad part about these fathers, when in fact, according to the 2008-09 Census statistics, only 10 percent of them are truly deadbeats, resisting to comply with the court order to actively be involved in the care and support of their children."

President Obama released a bill in June for $130 million for programs to improve father/child relationships. New York City was the first to receive these funds. Mayor Michael Bloomberg started a program called NYC Dads as way to open up better relationships for fathers and their children.