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Fatherhood, not marriage, is focus of Obama family policies

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"The marriage-education movement is not against fatherhood programs, but we are against fatherhood programs being launched at the expense of marriage and relationship programs," says Chris Gersten, a former Bush administration official.

The apparent shift from a marriage to a fatherhood emphasis can be seen in the funding philosophies of the two administrations.

The Bush administration's family funding included dedicated line items in the budget – $100 million a year for marriage and $50 million annually for fatherhood. President Obama's new fund, which has yet to be approved by Congress, takes a different tack: It splits $500 million into two equal pieces that states deliver to local organizations. One piece is for "comprehensive responsible fatherhood programs – including those with a marriage component," and the other is to improve the lives of children by helping their parents get jobs.

To be sure, the Obama administration believes that marriage is important, says Jesse Moore, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, the agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that will administer the new fund. But at the same time, the fund reflects the fact that "children live in a wide range of family structures and there are many different ways that fathers can engage in the lives of their children," he says.

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