Written by: Ed Davies

Giving Fathers Another Chance

In an episode of the television show “Black-ish” I recently watched, a father attempted to re-enter the life of his adolescent daughter. She had to move in with her father’s extended family because he left her after a series of poor choices, selfish actions, and life circumstances. He had gotten his life back on track, and wanted to move with his daughter to another city to restart their lives together. However, his family was against the father’s plan to relocate with the daughter, fearing he would fail as a parent…again.

This begs an important question: When do we stop holding a father’s past against him…especially when he’s making efforts to live a positive and productive life, as a person and a parent? Read More

In the episode, the father’s family provides the daughter who came from the inner city an upper middle class lifestyle, including attending a private school. The father had worked hard to address his issues, and find a stable job and housing for him and his daughter. Despite his efforts and earnest vow to be and do better, the family was reluctant to let her leave with him because he could not provide as much financially as they could, and they were highly skeptical of his track record as a parent and his life choices.

Many of the fathers in Power of Fathers and across the country face this same level of skepticism, resistance, and outright denial of their attempts to reconnect with their children and resume their parental roles because of their past. They run into roadblocks from their co-parents, from families, from family support organizations and agencies, and policies and systems that assume the worst about fathers, despite their best efforts to turn their lives around.

There is no easy answer to this dilemma. When we are focused on protecting children and ensuring their opportunities to thrive, we must factor in whose care they will be in, and caregivers’ ability to provide sufficient nurturing, support, guidance, and safety. However, we must also recognize that for a parent who has failed in the past, it is not a foregone conclusion that they will fail in the future. Depending on the specific circumstances of their past, and their bona fide efforts to address their circumstances, we have to take a different approach with these fathers.

We should not just forget or ignore a father’s past. We also should not just categorically hold his past against him. We must find the balance that allows fathers to resume a presence and role in their children’s lives, while factoring his past into the supports he may need going forward to ensure success. When we deny fathers the opportunity to resume their parental roles, we also are denying children their opportunity to have a healthy relationship with their fathers…which they desperately need.