Drive to Collect From Absentee Fathers
Response to Complaints of Rising Relief Rolls
In a nation where more and more children are growing up in broken homes or are being raised in homes where they have never known more than one parent, the question of who shall support the children and how well should they be supported becomes of overwhelming public interest. Much of the spotlight falls on absentee fathers who evade the fundamental responsibility of parenthood. Pressure is now being brought to bear on these fathers from two sources. One is from a toughening of government policy on welfare cases in which the children's fathers have deserted their families. The other is from the demands of women's groups for stricter child-support orders and enforcement in divorce cases.
The fatherless family with small children is the focus of these crusades. Such families constitute an economically deprived group in the population, whether or not they receive assistance from the public purse. The women's rights groups seek to improve the economic position of one-parent families not only by extracting a larger financial contribution from the absentee parent, but by removing obstacles to the working mother's ability to earn a decent living.
Proposals to assure adequate financial support for the nation's children run into many controversies. The central issue concerns the extent to which society must or should take on a responsibility of this kind—that is, where to draw the line between the responsibilities of government and those of the family in providing the necessities of life for children. While government authorities emphasize a concern over “welfare cheating” or parental evasion of responsibility, other groups sympathetic to the interests of the poor point to the meagerness of assistance payments to the destitute. A government survey in 1972 showed that in 37 states the payments to families with dependent children did not meet basic family needs—as determined by the states' standards of assistance.