Rep. Summers said Republican states like Mississippi addressing the “so-called fatherlessness issue” put value on traditional roles, not on individuals or lasting solutions.
Earlier this week, the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor (OSA) released a report titled, “Dads Matter: The Taxpayer Cost of Fatherlessness.” The report states that Mississippi taxpayers will see an additional $700 million of current and future spending obligations as a result of fatherlessness.
According to a release from OSA, the report shows:
- Fatherless children are less likely to obtain a high school degree. Taxpayers will likely lose $560 million due to the fatherless children who dropped out of school during the 2021-2022 school year alone.
- Fatherless boys are more likely to go to prison than boys who have present fathers. Taxpayers in Mississippi likely pay $180 million each year to imprison fatherless male prisoners.
- Fatherless girls are more likely to be teen mothers than girls with involved fathers. Taxpayers likely spent over $50 million on costs like increased foster care as a result of fatherless teen mothers in 2019 alone.
The report proposes solutions as well, such as expanding programs like JROTC and considering new ways to address fatherlessness and mitigate its effects.
Following the release of the report, State Auditor White said Mississippians know that engaged fathers are critical for the well-being of children.
“The added discipline and income that comes from two committed parents is important for everyone to understand,” White said. “But it’s particularly important for taxpayers to understand, because they often bear the cost of broken homes.”
“I have single mothers in my own family, and they worked tirelessly to raise their children. This report doesn’t take away from their herculean efforts,” White continued. “But men—and taxpayers—in Mississippi need to see the sad results when dads do not show up for their kids.”
On Friday, the State Auditor wrote on Twitter that some people do not believe a person should take responsibility for their own decisions and believe everyone is a victim of life’s circumstances.
“Can’t pay off the student loans you signed up for? We’ll just cancel them. Don’t want to care for the baby you fathered? Just walk away, we won’t criticize. Don’t want to stay in prison after you committed a crime? We’ll let you out,” White said on Twitter. “By teaching people they don’t have to take responsibility for their choices, and deserve to be saved from the consequences, they are training people to think of themselves as victims.”
On Thursday, State Representative Zakiya Summers, a Democrat representing House District 68, released a statement in response to the State Auditor’s report.
Rep. Summers said that there has been a wave of efforts across many Republican states to address the “so-called fatherlessness issue,” but these efforts put value on traditional roles, not on individuals or lasting solutions.
Summers, the former director of communications and advocacy for the ACLU of Mississippi, said that the mission of the State Auditor is to assess state and local government to ensure that public funds are legally spent, accounted for, and reported.
“I’m not certain why the auditor took it upon himself with the use of taxpayer dollars to study this issue and not offer any real solutions,” Rep. Summers continued. “The JROTC program is a fantastic program, but the Auditor will have to do better than that. We need real solutions and support from leadership to move the needle forward.”
Rep. Summers said that if Mississippi wants to address the absent fathers issue, then this report is addressing it from the wrong end.
“Instead of looking at it as the sole issue that contributes to increased incarceration, a negative economy, teen pregnancy and increased crime, as the report indicates, we should investigate the issues that lead to fatherlessness in the first place and then put policies backed by equitable funding in place,” Summers continued.
Summers said that the report ignores the range of forces that contribute to inequities, including structures that continue to widen the gap between the haves and have nots.
“By focusing on so-called absent fathers, we ignore the persistent oppression and disparities faced by marginalized communities,” the Democrat State Representative of District 68 said.
“I want to see the auditor ensure that those who are taking money out of the mouths of our children are held accountable and that taxpayer dollars are not going to those who simply want to fatten their pockets or be utilized to paint a portrait that will not move Mississippi in the right direction,” Summers concluded.
In response to Representative Summers’ statement, Fletcher Freeman, official spokesperson for OSA, told Y’all Politics that the report and data around fatherless children speak for themselves.
“President Obama gave a speech citing nearly the same stats in 2008, so we assume that Rep. Summers accused him, too, of ‘stigmatiz[ing]’ fathers back then,” the spokesperson stated.