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Florida celebrates Responsible Fatherhood Month, touts new funding to get more dads involved

Gov DeSantis and his child are in silhouette. The governor is pointing to something on a golf course.
Florida Governor's Office
Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill into law that's intended to support fathers taking a more active role.

It’s Fathers Day today and Florida is celebrating Responsible Fatherhood Month. But not everyone has an active dad in their lives. That’s something state leaders hope to help shift.

A new state law that goes into effect July 1 with the start of the fiscal year earmarks dollars to support programs aimed at getting dads more involved.

“Every child has a father, but only an involved father can be a Dad," said House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

Sprowls championed the law which will support efforts to provide mentoring, and career building for dads to give them needed tools to get more involved with their kids. He said one in four U.S. kids grows up with no dad in their home and he says that can have long lasting impacts.

“From poverty to crime to incarceration, just about every negative outcome that 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.

Eric Hall, head of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, hosted a recent round table discussion and press conference on the new law and initiatives.

Hall said many youth at the Department of Juvenile Justice grew up in single family homes, but many of their fathers would like to be more active, but aren't sure how.

“It think what this bill does is it helps to champion by leveraging those resources at a local level, get our families and our fathers connected—but I think it comes back to what the data says," Hall said. "We have fathers who are not as present as we hoped that they could be so how do we create the conditions for their success and the success of their children through these pathways that ultimately leads to upper mobility for them and their families?"

Hall said his agency is uniquely positioned to address the issue from both sides. At the Department of juvenile justice, many of the youth would benefit from having more active fathers, but he said many are also parents themselves.

“We have several of our youth that are in the system whether through our prevention programs, our probation programs and community intervention services or in our residential programs, we have young men who are fathers today or who are expectant fathers. And to help support their effort of being fathers and becoming engaged we’re kicking of a mentoring initiative called DJJ Dads," Hall said.

Hall and other state agency heads are looking for ways to be a better “megaphone” to let fathers know about the programs available to support them and he says part of that includes working to connect with community leaders to to connect with fathers and families who could benefit from the programs. Officials hope to create those paths now with funding to help support the new efforts expected to begin flowing with the start of the new fiscal year.