Fatherhood.gov Started Under Bush!

Fatherhood.gov, the website Obama launched to some criticism yesterday, actually has its roots in the Bush Administration and has a predecessor dating to 2000.

You know that Communist plot fatherhood.gov that we’re all buzzing about?  It turns out that, despite the Obama administration’s touting its “launch,” it was actually put up by the Bush administration in 2007!

Commenter “John Personna” alerted me to this in the discussion section of my previous post, “Fatherhood and Other Things That Ain’t Government’s Business.”  Sure enough, if you go to the Internet Archives (aka, the Wayback Machine) you’ll see that the site began in September 2007 and seemed to go away about a year later:

Additionally, there was apparently a predecessor site at fatherhood.hhs.gov going back to the beginning of the decade:

Was it dispensing advice on muting the television during sporting events?  Not insofar as I can tell.

Going back to the first listing for the HHS site, I see:

On June 16, 1995, President Clinton requested every agency of the Federal government to review its programs and policies to strengthen the role of fathers in families.  Under the leadership of Secretary Donna E. Shalala and Deputy Secretary Kevin Thurm, the Department has undertaken activities that recognize and support the roles of fathers in families.  These activities are guided by the following principles:

  • All fathers can be important contributors to the well-being of their children.
  • Parents are partners in raising their children, even when they do not live in the same household.
  • The roles fathers play in families are diverse and related to cultural and community norms.
  • Men should receive the education and support necessary to prepare them for the responsibility of parenthood.
  • Government can encourage and promote father involvement through its programs and through its own workforce policies.

The Department’s activities account for those circumstances under which increased involvement by a father or a mother may not be in the best interest of the child.  This is true for a small number of children, however.  The Department strongly supports family preservation and reunification efforts when they do not risk the safety of the child.

The site itself was quite rudimentary, mostly linking to HHS publications and programs.   Nor did it evolve much over the years of the Clinton administration.

The Bush relaunch was done as part of  The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC).  Indeed, that’s what the site was titled.

The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) supports the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Family Assistance’s (OFA) efforts to assist States and communities to promote and support Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Marriage.

Primarily a tool for professionals operating Responsible Fatherhood programs, the NRFC provides access to print and electronic publications, timely information on fatherhood issues, and targeted resources that support OFA-funded Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Marriage grantees. The NRFC Web site also provides essential information for other audiences interested in fatherhood issues.

Feel free to take a look around the NRFC Web site by looking on the left for resources relevant to who you are or in the “Topics and Tools” section in the lower left for information relevant to a specific subject.

Don’t forget to search our online library for information on Responsible Fatherhood from statistical profiles, to program evaluations, to tips for how to be a better father.

There is also an NRFC email newsletter that you can sign up for to receive free email updates on what is new on fatherhood.gov!

The site was done in partnership with something called the National Fatherhood Initiative and seems mostly to have been concerned with absentee fathers, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and other deviant behavior.

The new site?  Ditto:

The initiative will be a partnership between the Administration for Children and Families, White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, as well as parents, family-focused organizations and other leaders.

Is the re-launch much more ambitious than the predecessors?   It is.    Is a difference in degree a difference in kind in this case?  Possibly.

Certainly, Bush and Clinton weren’t giving advice to normal fathers on how to raise their kids.   Rather, they were advising people on how to avoid committing crimes or to keep their kids from doing same.  That’s pretty obviously a role for government!

Is there something insidious about telling dads to take time out to chat with the kids?  No, of course not.   Do we really want the federal government doing this?  I’d prefer they didn’t.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    Excellent recast, congratulations.

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    Hey, my previous post on the topic still works. I must not be a partisan tool regurgitating RNC or Fox News talking points.

  3. tom p says:

    “Is there something insidious about telling dads to take time out to chat with the kids? No, of course not. ”

    So your point is..???

    “Do we really want the federal government doing this? I’d prefer they didn’t.”

    OK… Why?

    It is better when a church does it? An NGO? The neighbor? A corporation?

    Tell me James, “Why?”

  4. James Joyner says:

    It is better when a church does it? An NGO? The neighbor? A corporation?

    Yes!

    Tell me James, “Why?”

    Because governments have coercive power. And they speak for me, or at least claim to. The others are simply speaking for themselves as equals in the marketplace of ideas.

  5. Mike G says:

    The reason not to want the government to do it in this case is because the current content demonstrates overwhelmingly that they have no frickin’ clue what fatherhood is actually about. Lightbulbs! TV commercials! Go the hell away, government man!

  6. Jim Treacher says:

    It is better when a church does it? An NGO? The neighbor? A corporation?

    Tell me James, “Why?”

    For one thing, because I can choose whether or not my own money goes towards it.

  7. wr says:

    Mr. Joyner — Do you really believe that a church lacks coercive power? I mean, sure, it’s not like they can still get out the thumbscrews and waterboards, but an awful lot of them use the threat of hell as a prod. The Catholic church in particular has been quite insisten on refusing its sacraments to those who don’t follow the most right-wing of their teachings.

  8. Brad Hankinson says:

    “but an awful lot of them use the threat of hell as a prod…”

    Been a while since Sunday school but God, not the church or Church or Pope, has the guest list for heaven and hell. Pretty much in the Bible, there. Don’t remember Sister Mary opening a demonic circle to hell if someone slept in church.

    And for the Catholics, it’s not an open club. To twist Jeff Foxworthy, if you don’t believe Christ was born of a virgin mother, died for our sins, was resurrected on the third day, etc, if you eat meat on Fridays and abort babies on the Sabbath, yeah, you might NOT be a Catholic.

    Freedom of association: I associate with the people I want, and they can NOT associate with me if they want.

  9. ChePibe says:

    Do you really believe that a church lacks coercive power?

    The moment a church has the power to throw me in jail if I don’t give it money, then it will have coercive power.

    Using your logic, one could argue that virtually all of Hollywood has coercive power. After all, those who fail to follow the cultural norms it helps to establish are subject to ridicule. Not to mention the “coercive power” of, say, virtually any media outlet.

    What wr and his friends demonstrate more than all is a fundamental lack of understanding of the concept of choice. One can choose to be coerced by the Catholic church or choose not to be without legal consequence. (I, for example, couldn’t possibly care less what the Pope thinks of me.) On the other hand, if one chooses to do the same with government, incarceration and/or the seizure of property with the full backing of law is likely to follow.

    There is a difference between imposition by force of law and convincing through force of argument.

  10. Huh says:

    A lot of tangents here in the comments, but hey it is a blog so no surprise. I’m more interested in the text that accompanies the Obama graphic at the head of the post regarding fatherhood:

    “…but it doesn’t have to be hard. All it takes is a few minutes of your time.”

    !!! This is the lead advice?!! I get the “small moments” thing, by the way. But who could possibly give such crap advice other than someone who is not a parent? I have great kids, no major problems (drug abuse, depression, relentless bullying, illness, etc., the list is long) but really “a few minutes of your time.” what a load of crap. This, sadly, was no doubt written by an intern who has no children. Guess what morons, the medium and big moments can have a more lasting effect, and they require much more than a few minutes a day and it is hard. Heck, even some small moments require more. Unbelievable.

    Is there something insidious about this, no. Is there something that smells like BS about this, yes.

  11. Brad Hankinson says:

    There’s also fraud, waste, and abuse – I can almost guarantee that no father in America will get a manicure or learn a pom-pom routine because of this website, so what’s it for?

    Here’s what drives me crazy about the government (state, local, federal, your choice): they aspire to half-ass everything. A penny-business costs tens of millions per year in perpetuity, does nothing unless it does something soul-numbingly stupid, and leaves us worse off than we were before.

    For however much in taxes this single program costs over the next 20 years, every family in America will go splurge at Applebee’s 1 time less. And that’s too bad.

  12. anjin-san says:

    Do you really believe that a church lacks coercive power?

    I have a friend who was treated pretty damn badly when they were having some financial issues and told the church that they could not afford to tithe 10% of their pretax income every month.

    For however much in taxes this single program costs over the next 20 years, every family in America will go splurge at Applebee’s 1 time less. And that’s too bad.

    Really? Skipping a meal at a mediocre chain restaurant is bad?

  13. john personna says:

    As I mentioned in the other thread, I’ve always thought public-private partnerships were a bad idea. For me that’s the clear bright line. If we keep things separate then organizations for fathers can make whatever recommendations they want, etc.

    But I feel that my position is so far in the minority, that so many of you like public-private partnerships, that we’ll be doomed to these discussions of what exactly they should recommend.

  14. James Joyner says:

    But I feel that my position is so far in the minority, that so many of you like public-private partnerships, that we’ll be doomed to these discussions of what exactly they should recommend.

    I think it makes sense sometimes for government to subsidize private groups doing quasi-governmental things very well. It may be that local charities are better at running soup kitchens, homeless shelters, battered wife centers, and the like. Or that, say, the Nation of Islam can do a better job of making a given neighborhood feel safe than could additional police forces.

    But I don’t see the need for this fatherhood business. I almost certainly more efficient to let church groups and the like instruct people on parenting skills and government to worry about enforcing laws against abuse and requiring child support payments and the like.

  15. Jim Treacher says:

    I have a friend who was treated pretty damn badly when they were having some financial issues and told the church that they could not afford to tithe 10% of their pretax income every month.

    They were penalized and/or incarcerated by law?

  16. Beth Donovan says:

    I don’t care who started the website, it’s a waste of taxpayer money. How many “absent fathers” are going to read it and suddenly feel the need to become a real parent?

  17. sam says:

    Ah, Jesus, say it ain’t so — yet another effed-up Bush program continued by Ozymandiabama. Has the man’s treachery no limits? Is there no precinct of American life safe from … wait, I’m repeating Charles.

  18. Beth Donovan says:

    Oh, and if you go to the http://www.fatherhood.gov and scroll down to the bottom menu, you will see that they have coined a new word: Practioners. I guess whoever administers the website can’t even use spell check (which would suggest the correct word, practitioners).

    To those writers who suggest that this is the proper role for government – I have to ask – what country do you live in? It is definitely NOT the proper role for the US Federal Government – show me where in the Constitution it says that the Feds should instruct people on how to be proper parents.

  19. sam says:

    “show me where in the Constitution it says that the Feds should instruct people on how to be proper parents”

    Show me in the Constitution where it says we can have an Air Force.

  20. WJ says:

    Mr.Joyner: Don’t agree with you very often, but this is certainly one of those time. This is not the business of government. Those workers spending time on this should be reassigned.

  21. Jim Treacher says:

    Show me in the Constitution where it says we can have an Air Force.

    So the Constitution is meaningless because they didn’t predict manned airflight.

  22. john personna says:

    I think it makes sense sometimes for government to subsidize private groups doing quasi-governmental things very well. It may be that local charities are better at running soup kitchens, homeless shelters, battered wife centers, and the like. Or that, say, the Nation of Islam can do a better job of making a given neighborhood feel safe than could additional police forces.

    But I don’t see the need for this fatherhood business. I almost certainly more efficient to let church groups and the like instruct people on parenting skills and government to worry about enforcing laws against abuse and requiring child support payments and the like.

    It is an understatement to say there is a tension between the first paragraph and the second.

    What you are saying is that government should support non-profits, but you want to choose which ones.

    My much simpler and less arbitrary position is that government should not support non-profits (what used to be called GNOs?). The only kind of partnership I support is when citizens volunteer to support government organizations, donating their time and effort. I’ve cleared brush for instance, in State Parks. I did that under the supervision of Rangers and docents. That’s they way it should be.

  23. Brad Hankinson says:

    “Really? Skipping a meal at a mediocre chain restaurant is bad?”

    Wow! Didn’t know how thick those lines appeared! I thought you could, I don’t know, read between them or so and see: He’s saying that this website is functionally useless – it’s a small-time, niche blog with the funding of a minor-league baseball team – so virtually ANY detriment to virtually any family, on its behalf, is too much to bear.

    “Show me in the Constitution where it says we can have an Air Force.”

    Show me where in the Constitution it specifically lays out the organizational structure of our military, where it diagrams our tactics and blueprints our fighting systems. In fact, show me where we’re allowed to have a Marine Corps. The United States Marine Corps predates the Constitution.

    There’s many ridiculous arguments floating around, but this is one of the least satisfying, most despair-inducing offerings. It is a single-sentence refutation of Darwinian evolution:

    “Have we evolved from apes?”

    [Some idiot asks where in the Constitution – excepting, of course, the clauses about providing for a common defense – we can have an air force.]

    “Evidently, no.Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s poo to be a-flinging.”

  24. sam says:

    Jesus Christ, guys, the AF thing was a joke. Get it … a joke. And strictly speaking, and I’m and ex-Marine, the United States Marine Corps cannot have predated the constitution, as the United States did not come into existence until the constitution was ratified. Not that for one instant would I have given that answer when asked where and when the US Marines were born: “Tun Tavern, Philadelphia, November 10, 1775, sir…and be goddamned if you don’t like the answer.”

    Lighten up.

  25. sam says:

    Oh, and

    “So the Constitution is meaningless because they didn’t predict manned airflight.”

    Absolutely not. But for extreme original meaning originalists and textualists, it can cause a problem. See, Ilya Somin, The Air Force and the Constitution for a discussion.

  26. Brad Hankinson says:

    Semper Fi, Devil!

    And I didn’t get that it was a joke – ALOT of people wield that cudgel like it was Excaliber and they are King Arthur, instead of a dead fish swung by a moron. Every time I hear it – after mind-numbing health care debate – I become this guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4ekylbTri4

    Let’s Rock! Let’s Rooooock!

  27. James Joyner says:

    I’m and ex-Marine, the United States Marine Corps cannot have predated the constitution, as the United States did not come into existence until the constitution was ratified.

    That’s simply not true. The United States came into existence as early as 19 April 1775 when the 13 colonies entered into open rebellion against the Kingdom of Great Britain. That June, the Continental Congress created the Continental Army. The Marines came in November.

    We formally declared independence on 4 July 1776 and were governed under our first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, starting 1 March 1781.

    All of those long predate the Constitution of 1789.

  28. sam says:

    OK