The task of deciding how to engage fathers with their families is primarily under the purview of the provinces. Most provinces offer classes, mediation, and information for fathers and mothers on how fathers can maintain contact and be a positive influence in the lives of their children even after a divorce. Most provinces also offer such things as mental health services for children of separated or divorced parents. Although unstated, the policy of most provinces seems to be to try to keep the father mentally and physically involved with children even if they are not married or in a relationship with the mother. Unfortunately, the services offered to fathers seem to be almost an after-thought. Especially given the uphill battle unmarried fathers face in the Divorce Act. The primary target of the various departments is the single mother. Like most social welfare programs, the target of these policies is poor families. The Divorce Act complicates the relationship of poor faterhs with their children because poor fathers are more likely not able to meet the demands of their divorce or child-support decrees. At the same time, while not having a father affects all children, the results are especially damaging when the mother is poor. Similarly, tax benefits and allowances at the national and local levels (e.g. Canada Child Tax Benefit and national Child Benefit Supplement) are exclusively for the primary custody holder of the child. Meaning that although he is financially responsible for his children, fathers, even the very poor fathers, do not receive any support in trying to care for their child. This paper will show that while these efforts at engaging fathers are good and noble, the programs don't go far enough in encouraging parental involvement or assiting fathers who want to do the right thing for their children. Furthermore, those policies that try to encourage fathers to be more involved with their children are targeted primarily toward poor families, when in fact children of all economic classes would benefit from having fathers who better knew how to parent.
In order to figure out provincial policies on educating and engaging fathers in the parenting process, I looked at reports published by various local governments. I also looked at what services were available to parents and specifically to fathers and to divorcing or separated families. There is a large amount of literature in the journals on the role of fathers in contributing to or helping to eliminate child poverty. The literature nearly universally agrees that the financial and parental contributions of a father are one of the most effective ways or reducing the number of children in poverty. Some of the literature is strongly in support of marriage, suggesting that the way to bring down the numbers of children living in poverty, it would be best to encourage unmarried mothers to marry and to help couples that are married stay that way. Others suggest that it would be far better to teach fathers how to be good parents and to provide them with support so that they can help provide for their families whether or not they live with them. The governments seem to take this line. While many of the provinces offer some sort of marriage counseling, the vast majority of the services offered do not take into account whether or not the parents are married.
Issues Addressed by the Policy
The primary issue addressed by