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Obama pledges to promote responsible fatherhood

President Obama on Monday pledged a series of new initiatives to support responsible fatherhood, but called on fathers to recognize that government cannot do what they can best do in the home.

In his annual Father’s Day event, Obama urged fathers to mentor their children and to reach out to those in the community who don’t have strong parental or guardian support.

“I can’t legislate fatherhood. I can’t force anybody to love a child,” Obama told a crowd gathered at a community center in southeast Washington. “But what we can do is send a clear message to our fathers that there is no excuse for failing to meet their obligations.”

The message echoed a noted Obama campaign speech from 2008, when he told absent fathers to stop making excuses and take economic and emotional responsibility for their children.

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Last year at this time, Obama started what he called a national conversation about fatherhood, sending Cabinet secretaries and other staff members around the country to hear from fathers and their families about the challenges they faced. At Monday’s event, Obama unveiled some of the ideas those trips fostered.

For one thing, the White House is kicking off a program to recruit mentors and give them support. People who sign up to take part in the Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative will get e-newsletters with tips and information about being a father and mentor.

The NFL Players’ Assn. is also getting involved by sponsoring local forums on parenting, and the national Parent Teacher Assn. will help promote participation.

Obama has also proposed a new Fatherhood, Marriage and Families Innovation Fund meant to expand programs around the country to strengthen families, and has provided funding through the Department of Labor for transitional jobs programs for unemployed, noncustodial parents.

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In addition, the White House will continue to host community forums on fatherhood and personal responsibility around the country, with the next event scheduled for early August in New Mexico.

“What we can do is make it easier for fathers who make responsible choices and harder for those who avoid those choices,” Obama said. “What we can do is come together and support fathers who are willing to step up and be good partners and parents and providers.”

cparsons@latimes.com


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