Rick Santorum

Encouraging married fatherhood means recognizing the benefits that a married father brings to the home. The facts speak for themselves, as, once again, President Obama has explained better than anyone:

We know the statistics -- that children who grow up without a father are five times likelier to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times likelier to drop out of schools and 20 times likelier to end up in prison. They are likelier to have behavioral problems or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves.

Recognizing this reality, much of the 1996 welfare reform initiative that I was deeply involved with focused on strengthening and encouraging marriage.

Where marriage declines, the welfare state expands. Today more than 40 percent of children are born outside of marriage, and in most instances, mothers bear the full burden of single parenting. In 2011, Americans were forced to fund single-parent households in the amount of $330 billion. We footed this bill because government steps in to fill the role of absentee dads. In the interest of limited government, government should promote married fatherhood as a matter of personal responsibility and good fiscal sense. It is time that Americans confront the devastating effects that face fatherless children.

The president sometimes seems to understand this. We need all of our national leaders to understand it all of the time. We need public officials to make overcoming fatherlessness not just a slogan but an active priority in governing. We need courage to conquer a lifestyle choice that sees no difference in whether a mom or dad is involved in a child's life.

Let's remember that renewing America begins in every home where selfless acts of devotion demonstrate the true grit and true love that come with being a committed, married father. And let's support the organizations doing great work to promote fatherhood and strong families -- such as First Things First, serving families in Chattanooga, Tenn., since the 1990s and now in other cities. There's no greater threat to America's future than the vicious cycle of fatherless children -- and no situation we need more desperately to overcome. It is up to all of us in our own lives and families to encourage and support fatherhood.

Rick Santorum

Former Senator Rick Santorum is the author of Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works.

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