Florida lawmakers want to put nearly $70 million into historic fatherhood initiative

House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, speaking in the chamber in 2020. (Photo from myfloridahouse.gov)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers want nearly $70 million in the coming year’s budget to strengthen fatherhood in Florida through grants and education.

The legislation directs the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Department of Juvenile Justice to coordinate care when a child is involved with both agencies. It’s the first effort of its kind with any cash behind it.

One in four children in Florida and across the country have no father, stepfather, or adoptive father in their household. House Speaker Chris Sprowls calls the lack of guidance the root cause for many of the state’s problems.

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“From poverty to crime, to incarnation, just about every negative outcome that we see that faces boys here and across the country can be linked back to an absent father in the home,” Sprowls said.

House Bill 7065 would provide millions in grants to help fathers find a job, satisfy child support obligations, transition from being in jail and get parenting education. Rep. Thad Altman, (R-Brevard) is the committee chair that developed the bill.

“With House Bill 7065, we can change lives,” Altman said. “We can make a difference. We have the opportunity to connect fathers with their families.”

State Rep. Ramon Alexander’s day job is finding mentors for kids.

“This is a game-changer,” he told the crowd. “These young people, they don’t have a deficit in talent, they just have a deficit in opportunity.”

The staff analysis for this bill says there are studies that show fathers who are involved with their children are happier and may live longer.

News4JAX asked Speaker Sprowls about the expected outcome.

“So, you ask what the outcome is, the outcome is that we move the needle on fatherlessness and therefore we have a great huge benefit to our community as a whole,” he said.

And for Jack Levine, who has fought for kids for more than four decades, there is hope.

“I’m very very optimistic. There are good people driving this bus” Levine said.

June is Fatherhood month. Expect to see a month-long campaign and education effort from the state.

The legislation was the last bill on the House calendar Wednesday and is expected to be sent to the Senate by the end of the night.

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