On Monday, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new bill focused on addressing what House speaker Chris Sprowls calls a “fatherhood crisis” that the state is currently dealing with. The bill, formally known as HB 7065, showed support from Republicans and Democrats, and it unanimously passed Florida’s House and Senate. Under the measure, about $70 million from Florida’s budget will be allocated to various educational/mentorship programs as well as non-profit organizations to support teens, fathers, and foster parents. “If you look over the last many decades, one of the worst social trends has been the decline of fatherhood,” stated DeSantis Monday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis holding the hand of his daughter Madison during a news conference on Monday in Tampa where he signed HB 7065 (Photo provided by MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times)
Along with giving money to many educational programs, grants will be given to any fathers who need help finding a job, paying child support, and transitioning from being incarcerated so that they’re not tempted to leave the family. In addition, stipends for young adults who were in a foster care system and moving on to post-secondary education will be increased from $1,256 to $1,720. The bill also hopes to bolster collaboration between the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) so they can better help children involved with both agencies. DeSantis stated that this measure could have “huge ramifications” in helping young Floridians achieve their full potential.
Tony Dungy, Hall of Fame coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts, also attended the signing in Tampa. Dungy is among the founders of All Pro Dad, a program that benefits under the bill and supports family, marriage, and parenting initiatives. “This will be such a big help to fathers in Florida, agencies that support fathers in Florida,” exclaimed Dungy. All Pro Dad will receive around $1.2 million for its family engagement and literacy programs as well as an additional $1.92 million to promote adoption and foster care. Furthermore, Sprowls, who’s a former prosecutor and also made the bill a top priority during the session, constantly reiterated the importance of having a father figure in the family. “If you look at every social study there is on this topic, whether it is suicide rates or depression or dropping out of school, everything you can think of, mass incarceration — one of the greatest common factors that unites those people is an absent father in their life,” opined Sprowls. “We’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re here showing the importance of this. But you’ve got to be willing to do the right thing and be present in your child’s life. You’re not a man by leaving your kids hung out to dry. You need to be there,” proclaimed DeSantis.
Not even a day after the conference in Tampa, the Florida Senate had also passed Senate Bill 7034, which Desantis signed into law on Tuesday. This bill, more commonly known just as ‘Child Welfare,’ focuses on giving better benefits to relatives and non-relatives who take care of children who can’t be with their biological parents. For example, the monthly payment amount for these relatives and non-relatives will be the same as licensed foster parents. Additionally, those who are taking care of children between birth and school-entry age get an additional $200 subsidiary per month. Finally, the bill will also expand the range of students that can be eligible for a tuition and fee exemption in any Florida college, university, or workforce education program. “We are making a difference here today with foster and adoption,” stated DeSantis at Miami Dade College on Tuesday. “Every kid counts and we got to do what we can as a state.”