Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed House Bill 7065 (HB 7065) into law, which includes educational programs, mentorship programs, and one-on-one support to encourage responsible and involved fatherhood in Florida. The bill is tied to nearly $70 million in funding to provide a wide spectrum of family and youth support through the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
A chief effort of the bill would direct the department to contract for the production of the “Responsible Fatherhood Initiative,” partnering with a yet-to-be-decided company to launch a website and circulate materials that would inform fathers on effective parenting. The fatherhood initiative would include a print, television, and social media campaign to serve as public service announcements.
Under the bill, DCF would additionally be required to award grants to non-profit organizations to address the needs of fathers. To exemplify, the bill would require that grants be geared toward helping fathers in seeking employment, managing child support obligations, transitioning from a period of incarceration, accessing health care, understanding child development, and enhancing parenting skills.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, children from fatherless homes account for:
- 63 percent of youth suicides
- 90 percent of all homeless and runaway youths
- 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders 71 percent of all high school dropouts
- 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
- 75 percent of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers
Senate President Wilton Simpson placed child welfare as one of his principal concerns for the ongoing 2022 Legislative Session, making a vow in his opening remarks to amend the risk children living in homes without fathers face.
“The earlier in life we can give a child a safe permanent home, the better opportunities that child will have for the rest of their lives,” said Simpson, who was adopted as a child and grew up in a house with foster children,” said Simpson. “Costs of early childhood care are consistently identified as one of the biggest barriers for would-be foster families. We will address the gap between what the voucher pays and the actual costs of early childhood care. We need to make sure more children raised by their foster relatives have access to the waiver.”
Improving child welfare has long been an issue facing Florida’s lawmakers, gauged as far back as 2019 by House Speaker Chris Sprowls in a speech.