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Florida's House Speaker says the state is facing a fatherhood crisis

A group of men wearing jackets and ties stand behind a lectern that has a sign reading "# proud Fl Dad."
The Florida Channel
House Speaker Chris Sprowls is touting legislation he says will help dads take a more active role in their kids' lives.
“Every child has a father, but only an involved father can be a dad.”
House Speaker Chris Sprowls

One in four children grows up without a father in their home. Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls says that leaves a gap in the lives of those children that can have far-reaching negative impacts.

“From poverty to crime to incarceration, just about every negative outcome we see that faces boys here in Florida and across the country can be linked back to an absent father in a home,” Sprowls said.

During a news conference on the steps of the historic Capitol Wednesday Sprowls touted HB 7065 by Rep. Thad Altman (R-Indialantic) just before lawmakers passed the measure through the House. Sprowls says he sees it as a solution for helping fathers take a more active role in their kids’ lives.

“Every child has a father, but only an involved father can be a dad,” Sprowls said.

The bill directs nearly $70 million to support programs aimed at helping fathers become more active dads—including creating fatherhood programs and helping non-custodial fathers become self-sufficient.

“We cannot legislate fatherhood, responsibility or character, but there are things that we can do to make it easier to be a dad,” Sprowls said.

The measure also includes grants to support mentoring programs for at-risk youth without active father figures.

“It’s a natural instinct for fathers to protect, to want to love and protect their children, but sometimes things go wrong. We as leaders can stand in the gap, as mentors for those children who are missing that positive influence, reminding them of their self-worth and potential,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Thad Altman.

Altman credits Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-Tallahassee) with helping to shape the bill’s language. Alexander said he appreciates the collaborative process and believes in the bill.

“When you see that a young man’s father is in jail, their grandfather is in jail, when they have no direction, they have no guidance and they go on to get a Ph.D., they go on to provide for their families, they go on to break down generational cycles of poverty and despair—this is a game-changer,” Alexander said.

The measure passed unanimously on the House floor Wednesday.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy covers healthcare and government in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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