Gov. DeSantis: Florida will not Diminish Importance of Fatherhood, Signs Mentorship Legislation
Last updated 5/20/2022 at 7:12pm
ST. PETERSBURG - Today, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 7065, which includes educational programs, mentorship programs and one-on-one support to encourage responsible and involved fatherhood in Florida. The bill is tied to nearly $70 million in funding to provide a wide spectrum of family and youth support through the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
"There are more than 18 million children in our country who live without a father in their home," said Governor Ron DeSantis. "This has a severe impact on children, and often leads to dropping out of school, crime and substance abuse. Incredibly, there are those who diminish the importance of fatherhood and the nuclear family – we will not let that happen in our state. I am proud to say we are doing everything we can to support involved fatherhood in Florida."
"We cannot legislate fatherhood, accountability or character, but we can provide supports for fathers to equip and encourage them to take an active role in the lives of their children," said House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who first brought attention to the fatherhood crisis during his 2019 designation speech. "By addressing the root cause of so many of the challenges facing our sons and daughters, we will see the positive impact of this legislation send shockwaves for generations to come. To my colleagues in the Florida Legislature who worked so diligently to bring this vision to life and carry it to unanimous passage, including Reps. Altman and Alexander, Chair Burton, Senate President Simpson and the many others who stood on the steps of the Historic Capitol with us, thank you. And to Governor Ron DeSantis, a father himself, thank you for standing with us for Florida's fathers and families today and signing this first-of-its-kind legislation for any state."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 18 million children – one in four – in the United States who do not have a father in their home. To read more about the fatherhood crisis and the impact it is having on our nation's children, click here.
Supporting the bill signing were fathers from across the state and several national and community leaders who encourage involved fatherhood, including former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, former NFL professional football player and philanthropist Jack Brewer, and Glen Gilzean, president and CEO of the Urban League of Central Florida.
"This is a crisis in America, today," said Jack Brewer, Founder and Executive Director, The Jack Brewer Foundation. "Governor DeSantis is setting an example the entire country needs to follow. With bills like this and leaders like the men here behind me, we can change this nation."
"This is going to be tremendous and such a good help to fathers in Florida," said Coach Tony Dungy, Former Head Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "This bill is so important. I want to thank all of the men and women that have been behind this. It is going to allow groups like All Pro Dad and people like those here today to do great things for our fathers here in Florida."
"I truly believe that education is the solution to many of the issues that we face in society," said Glen Gilzean, President and CEO, Central Florida Urban League. "Education comes in many forms and empowering our fathers with the knowledge they need to better themselves helps the community as a whole."
One of HB 7065's main provisions is supporting and creating mentorship programs at DJJ for at-risk youth. For many of these youth, their mentor may be the closest thing they have to a father. DJJ also hosts and supports programs for involved fatherhood, including barbershop talks and fatherhood classes.
"I would like to thank Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for their efforts to better support Florida's fathers and to strengthen the role they play in their children's lives," said DJJ Secretary Eric Hall. "A supportive and committed family can help change the trajectory of a child's life, and DJJ looks forward to working with our partners to help even more Florida fathers become stronger parents and role models."
At DCF, the bill will provide a wide spectrum of family support. DCF will create a statewide awareness campaign to call attention to the importance of responsible fatherhood, and to equip fathers with resources to stay engaged in their children's lives. DCF will also support nonprofit organizations that use evidence-based parenting education to help fathers stay engaged and connect with their children, and support case managers who will help fathers find employment, transition from incarceration and manage their obligations.
"Our Department is very excited about this new fatherhood initiative, and we are so grateful for the Governor and Legislature's leadership in providing funding that strengthens families through responsible parenting," said DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris. "Studies have shown that when fathers are involved in their children's lives, there are undeniable benefits – children are statistically less likely be abused or neglected, and they have fewer behavioral and psychological problems. The Department of Children and Families is laser-focused on preventing adverse outcomes for children, so having the opportunity to work on this initiative is truly an honor."