Society is to be blamed for deadbeat fathers, advocate says

Rhondall Jesse Feeles

President of the Single Fathers’ Association in Trinidad & Tobago, Rhondall Jesse Feeles said society must take some of the blame for the men who are deemed to be “deadbeat fathers”.

In a Fathers’ Day discussion on OBSERVER’s Big Issues programme yesterday, Feeles said society is “hypocritical” because it does not celebrate the men who step up daily and play an instrumental role in the lives of their children, but is quick to zoom in on the absentee fathers who don’t pay child maintenance.

“There is never the same concern in the court system, or consideration from the other party in the relationship for the father to maintain that access and emotional connection. Many of them when they can’t provide, they stay away. There is a colloquial saying ‘paid per view’, if you can’t pay, you can’t see the children,” Feeles said.

Speaking of the Trinidad & Tobago example, Feeles noted that men who are unable to pay through the court because of unemployment are not given consideration while the account still attracts its usual charge.

He accepted that financial support is a necessity but said children crave stability and emotional support from their fathers and they suffer because society has labelled their fathers as irresponsible, so men opt to stay away when they can’t afford to pay.

Feeles said that even when men are paying child support, the structure of the court systems make it easy for them to be emotionally unavailable.

“Even in our legal system and judicial orders, the precedence set is that of fathers having no more than every other weekend with their children. So, on a whole, our legal perception is that four days per month is sufficient and then in another breath, we would hear ministers and talk shows talking about absenteeism. There needs to be clarity,” Feeles added.

President of CariMAN Dominica Chapter, Thomas Holmes stated that financial support is just not enough since boys and girls are affected differently when fathers are not involved in their children’s upbringing.

He said children often find themselves in educational, moral and spiritual conflicts when fathers are not around.

“In the Caribbean, we look at the men as being macho and the head of the households. But, when we look at the girls who are going to meet the young men later then they should see some of the good characteristics their fathers have,” he added.

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