Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law on Monday that creates new state programs designed to support involved fatherhood. The “Responsible Fatherhood” bill calls for the investment of $70 million to encourage Sunshine State fathers to take an active role in children’s lives, largely through grants to community membership programs.
The programs and grants will be administered by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The new law goes into effect on July 1.
The new DJJ programs will include mentorship programs for at-risk minors, including fatherhood classes and “barbershop talks.”
DCF will be charged with managing a new campaign to raise public awareness of the importance of fathers in children’s lives. It will also support nonprofits that help fathers remain connected to their children and engaged in their lives. New funding will also go to case managers and social resources intended to help fathers looking for employment opportunities to support their children and themselves.
The DCF initiative allocates almost $33 million in grants for the fatherhood programs and also provides stipends of $1,720 to young adults who have recently been in foster care.
The new law was a legislative priority for outgoing Florida House Speaker and former prosecutor Chris Sprowls, who declared a “fatherhood crisis” in the state earlier this year. He has previously said that almost every negative outcome that faces boys in Florida and around America can be “linked back to an absent father in the home.”
Tony Dungy, Pro Football Hall of Fame coach attended the signing ceremony, and runs one of the nonprofits the new law is designed to support. Dungy is a founder of All Pro Dad, a program of the Family First nonprofit that supports parenting, marriage, and pro-family initiatives. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach said the new law will be “tremendous,” and a big help to fathers in Florida and the agencies that support them.
The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that there are now more than 18 million American children who do not live with their biological father, a stepfather, or an adoptive father. DeSantis said that statistic has a severe impact on kids and leads to school dropouts, criminal activity, and substance abuse.
DeSantis also said that he is proud that Florida will not allow for the diminishment of the importance of fatherhood and nuclear families.