Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy looks at Washington, D.C.’s Fathering Court, a hybrid family court to reconnect men returning from prison with their children and help them to get along with the mothers. The “fathers are empowered, not demeaned,” he writes. “The fundamental problem is that too many people are having babies before they are prepared to take care of them,” said D.C. Superior Court Judge Milton C. Lee Jr., who presides over the program. “Once the child is born, however, we are in a race against time to get the parents working together. Or else the cycle of fatherlessness and delinquency will never be broken.”
In the four years since Fathering Court was created, more than 55 ex-offenders who might otherwise be unemployed, unable to pay child support and uninvolved with their children are establishing an impressive track record as responsible fathers. Only two have been arrested again. Remarkably, an ex-offender in Fathering Court is likely to be treated with more sympathy than a law-abiding dad in a traditional family court. Disputes in divorce cases are typically settled in favor of the mother, while the father is reduced to being little more than an ATM for child support payments, Milloy writes.