HHS Launches "Be Their Dad" Parental Responsibility Campaign

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HHS News Release

The Department of Health and Human Services launched a new, nationwide public service campaign today challenging fathers to remain emotionally and financially connected to their children even if they do not live with them. The campaign's tag line is, "They're your kids. Be their dad." The ads were unveiled by Deputy Secretary Kevin Thurm at a Fatherhood Summit in Chicago, Ill.

The new public service announcements were developed in a unique public-private partnership of HHS' Administration on Children and Families; the states of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Maryland; the Advertising Council; and the advertising agency of Ogilvy and Mather. The ads will air nationwide through the Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) advertising campaign. This campaign requires a 100 percent public service "match" by the networks and local stations, and the new PSAs are included in the list of spots that stations can count toward the match. Ads are also being distributed by the Advertising Council.

"While many noncustodial fathers eagerly support their children, too many choose not to be a part of their child's life financially or emotionally," said HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala. "Without the involvement of both parents, too many children don't get the chance they need and deserve to reach their full potential."

Deputy Secretary Thurm, who leads the HHS fatherhood initiative, said, "Fathers need to understand that even if they do not live with their children, their influence is profound. This creative and powerful campaign challenges fathers everywhere to reach into their hearts, not just their wallets."

In 1995, President Clinton directed all federal agencies to ensure that federal programs and policies strengthen the role of fathers in families. HHS has begun a number of activities that recognize and support the important role of fathers. The federal child support enforcement program provides $10 million in state grants annually to fund access and visitation programs, and it has also funded eight state demonstrations to develop and implement responsible fatherhood projects. The Head Start and Early Head Start programs also support fathers' involvement in the early learning and social development of their children. All these activities are guided by the principles that all fathers can be important contributors to the well-being of their children and that parents are partners in raising their children, even when they do not live in the same household.

This public service campaign stresses the importance of fathers by showing the consequences for children when fathers do not have a positive role in their children's lives.

"With the new welfare reform law, we have the tools we need to find and make non-custodial parents pay child support," said Olivia Golden, HHS assistant secretary for children and families. "Now we're launching a nationwide campaign to tell fathers that they can make a difference for the better in their children's lives even if they don't live with them."

More than a quarter of American children-nearly 17 million-do not live with their father. Girls without a father in their life are two and a half times as likely to get pregnant and 53 percent more likely to commit suicide. Boys without a father in their life are 63 percent more likely to run away and 37 percent more likely to abuse drugs. Both girls and boys are twice as likely to drop out of high school, twice as likely to end up in jail and nearly four times as likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems.

Since taking office, the Clinton Administration has made child support enforcement a high priority, resulting in a record $14.4 billion in estimated collections for fiscal year 1998, an 80 percent increase from 1992. Paternity establishment rose to nearly 1.3 million in 1997, an increase of more than 250 percent, from 516,000 in 1992. The child support enforcement measures included in the new welfare reform law are projected to substantially increase collections.

The Parental Responsibility PSAs will be sent to more than 1,800 television stations, 8,000 radio stations and 15,000 print publications throughout the United States. For copies of the PSAs, contact Ken Ulmer of the Advertising Council at (212) 984-1919.

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

Contact: Michael Kharfen (202) 401-9215
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