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Sec. Kathleen Sebelius Headshot

Supporting Our Fathers and Our Families

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On Father's Day, many of us took the time to celebrate how much our dads mean to us. My father turned 90 this year, and I feel blessed that he is able to enjoy and engage with his children, grandchildren and now a great-granddaughter. Whether it's coaching little league or getting involved in a parent-teacher association or just being a good role model, active and involved fathers boost their kids' self-esteem and provide them with a secure environment to thrive.

Unfortunately, far too many children today do not have a father figure in their lives. One out of every three children in America lives apart from his or her father. And research shows that these children are more likely to live in poverty, drop out of school, and engage in risky behaviors.

As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I believe we need to provide fathers and families with the support they need in the most important job they have: raising America's next generation.

This is why I am pleased to announce a new $150 million investment in programs that support responsible fatherhood and healthy marriages. We know there's a close connection between having a job and being able to provide for a self-sufficient, functional family, and these programs will connect dads to jobs, training programs, and financial advice. They will also strengthen the bonds between couples with kids, reducing domestic violence and providing role models for adulthood. This work supports families without dads, too, affirming the central role that mothers have in the lives of their children.

Responsible, involved fathers help raise healthy children and build strong communities. Today's investment builds upon the president's Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative, which I helped launch last year. This effort is a call to action to cities and states, individuals and organizations -- from the NFL Players Association, to the National PTA, to everyday moms and dads -- to raise awareness about responsible fatherhood and to work together to re-engage absent fathers with their families.

Recently, the effort brought Jonathan Mayo to the White House for an event celebrating fatherhood. Jonathan believes his responsibility as a father goes beyond his children. As internship coordinator at an organization called Year Up, he takes time to mentor young people in his community who need someone to have high expectations of them.

Mary Polk also participated. Through her work in Delaware government, she saw first-hand the obstacles that fathers faced like limited parenting skills due to a lack of role models in their own lives. To address these obstacles, Mary co-founded Delaware's Fatherhood/Family Coalition. The group has developed strategies that promote parenting and mentoring skills while also raising awareness about the needs of fathers and families.

Thousands of individuals like Jonathan and Mary have signed on to the president's Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative. Businesses are joining to promote simple, yet meaningful, opportunities for dads and kids to connect. And organizations are supporting families as they learn how to adjust to a military parent returning from a tour of duty.

One day a year is not enough to honor the lifetime of love and support that our dads have given to us. And our commitment to promoting responsible fatherhood does not end with one announcement. Our work is ongoing. We need more Jonathans and Marys -- people who are willing to step up and do everything they can to set our kids on the right path, in community centers, on basketball courts, in libraries, and at dinner tables across America. While the responsibilities of being a father are never easy, being a dad is a privilege and can be one of the most fulfilling roles a man can have.

I encourage you to visit Fatherhood.gov to learn how you can get involved this year to help strong fathers build strong families in your neighborhood.

To my Dad, and all the dads out there -- and all the family and community members working to help them succeed as parents -- thank you for helping our children thrive, and for helping to ensure a brighter future for all of us.

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