by Omar Epps, Malik Yoba and Emily Abt
The image of the “deadbeat dad” has been and remains pervasive but there are millions of men in America who live in defiance of this stereotype. Our film “Daddy Don’t Go” was born from these parallel and enduring realities: that one in three American children is fatherless but there are also countless fathers fighting to be active in their children’s lives who deserve to be seen.
In an effort to better understand the obstacles these men face, we followed four disadvantaged dads –Roy, Nelson, Omar and Alex – over the course of two years as they struggled to be present fathers. The issues in the film are close to our hearts. Omar is the product of a fatherless household but now a proud father of three. Malik credits his own father with being the inspiration for his perseverance during a tough custody battle. Emily’s grandfather was excluded from her father’s life for his inability to pay child support. So we were all deeply committed to exploring the issue of fatherlessness when we began making the film three years ago, what did we learn along the way?
Persistent unemployment is a major problem for disadvantaged fathers. All four of the fathers in “Daddy Don’t Go” very much wanted to work but struggled to get and keep steady jobs. They are certainly not alone in this struggle. Working, in America, is in decline. The number of men ages 25 to 54 who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s.
Making this film had us yearning for the work programs of the New Deal era when millions of men were given the opportunity to work and provide financial security for their families. Our current government has made great efforts to enforce child support payments but where are the large-scale job programs for disadvantaged men that could really make a difference?
Our second big take-away from making “Daddy Don’t Go” is that while there have been vast improvements; our family court system still treats men like second-class parents. Child support payments are mostly shouldered by men but only 18% of fathers have custody of their children. This means that a man’s financial role in his child’s life continues to be prioritized above his emotional one.
Continue reading “EDITORIAL: Disadvantaged Fathers Should Be Supported, Not Stigmatized”