April 05, 2005

Council looks for ways to get fathers more involved

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood along with Southern Illinois University Carbondale will hold a free, public forum from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 16, in the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, 150 E. Pleasant Hill Road in Carbondale.

Organizers hope to build a statewide network of supportive groups and individuals, pinpoint challenges that hinder fathers' involvement in their children's lives, develop ideas for programs that would support fathers and look for means of bringing about legislative reforms. To accomplish this, the council is reaching out to SIUC faculty, churches, social service organizations and individuals in Southern Illinois to participate in the forum.

The council also is hoping to identify people from Southern Illinois with experience promoting responsible fatherhood in their communities to join its Board of Commissioners.

The Illinois legislature established the council as a statewide commission under the office of Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2003. Jeffery M. Leving, a Chicago attorney and SIUC alumnus, serves as its chair.

"The deterioration of responsible fatherhood over the last half-century has had a devastating effect on American families," Leving said in the council's first annual report to Gov. Blagojevich.

"Countless studies and mounting anecdotal evidence continue to demonstrate how children who grow up in father-absent homes are much more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse and to engage in criminal behavior."

"The Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood is one of the first government programs of its kind and will serve as a model for other states across the country seeking to restore responsible fatherhood as a societal norm."

In an effort to establish its statewide network of legislators, educators and community leaders and to develop strategies for promoting responsible fatherhood throughout Illinois, the council, in collaboration with U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, (D-Ill.), will hold the 2005 Fatherhood Empowerment Conference June 4 in Chicago.

Drawing on feedback from the Carbondale and Springfield meetings, the Chicago conference will bring together representatives of state agencies, such as the Illinois Department of Public Aid, Illinois Department of Human Services and the Department of Children and Family Services, to focus on making state policies and programs more father friendly.

For planning purposes, organizers would like those interested in attending the Carbondale meeting to contact Joe Englert, who is also able to respond to requests for more information. Reach him by e-mail at responsiblefatherhood@hotmail.com or by telephone at 847/644-1534.