Pennsylvania Social Worker pushing initiative to recognize the value of greater father involvement in raising children

Social worker Rufus Sylvester Lynch is working to ensure fathers get more support to be involved with their children.

Social worker Rufus Sylvester Lynch is working to ensure fathers get more support to be involved with their children.

Social worker Rufus Sylvester Lynch says one out of three children in our nation would better thrive if public policy was more inclusive of fathers’ contributions to the well-being of children.

Research and studies show that children who are involved with their fathers, even when they don’t live in the same residential setting, typically have more access to benefits such as health insurance, improved emotional development and are less likely to be abused and/or neglected, Lynch said. However, the nation’s public policy focuses more on supporting maternal and institutional caregivers than the paternal side of a child’s heritage, which can put children at a disadvantage.

“We as a nation are primarily centered on children development through the lens of mother’s” said Lynch, ACSW, who is chair of The Strong Families Commission Inc., a Pennsylvania organization that is working to change children, youth and family polices so they are more inclusive of fathers. “Children have a right to access all possible resources in the world, including those of their father, which gives them a shot forward in life.”

Rufus Sylvester Lynch, ACSW

Rufus Sylvester Lynch, ACSW

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 31 percent of children in United States live with either a single parent or no parent at all. In Pennsylvania 36 percent of children are being raised in households run by single parents but in Philadelphia where The Strong Families Commission Inc. is headquartered that figure is much higher at 62 percent, Lynch said.

Lynch, who sits on the National Association of Social Workers Board of Directors, aged out of the foster care system. He has spent his entire social work career thinking about the role of men within families, especially the role of fathers. He noticed that policies that were designed to help troubled families often left fathers out of the equation, which eventually spurred his advocacy for fathers in the lives of children and families and the systems that serve them.

The Strong Families Commission Inc. hosted a symposium in Mechanicsburg, Pa. on September 27 entitled, “Child Well-Being in Pennsylvania and the Urgent Need for Father Involvement.”

The symposium pulled together more than 125 legal, social service, academic and other experts to brainstorm on ways to break down barriers that prevent father involvement. Plenary Speakers included Eugene DePasquale, Pennsylvania’s auditor general; Christine L. James Brown, president and chief executive officer of the Child Welfare League of America, and Janet Eisenberg Shapiro, PhD, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College.

The commission will draw from the symposium to produce a report on what can be done among executive opinion leaders, policy makers, and child and family service providers in Pennsylvania to support fathers in the care of their children.

Lynch said his organization is already preparing for a statewide convening of Father, Child and Family Advocates in 2018.  That meeting will be used to:

  • Review Pennsylvania’s best program practices for ensuring Father Involvement in the lives of their children and families.
  • Better inform executive opinion leaders and policy makers as to best practices locally as well as nationally for serving children and families, inclusive of fathers.
  • Provide recommended strategies to policy makers designed to ensure “Greater Father Involvement” that improves child well-being in Pennsylvania.

By focusing on fathers Lynch said the commission is not trying to overlook or downplay the hard work that single mothers do in raising children. He says mothers will benefit as well by having the fathers of their children more involved in the care of the children.

“Women can and are doing a lot by themselves, however even among many of the most liberal women today they are now recognizing that men make and can make contributions to the child’s well-being,” Lynch said. “We know when men are more involved women can experience less stressed in the home, thus there is less chance that children will be abused and/or neglected, thus find themselves in the care of public institutions, foster care homes, or in family kinship settings.


  1. I’m not sure what article you guys were reading. There was no suggestion that unhealthy fathers be reunited with their children. What I read was that there is a place for fathers with their children, whether he and the mother are a couple, and that attention to bringing them back into their children’s lives is not only needed but the responsible thing to support. All disconnected fathers are not criminals or deviant perpetrators.

  2. This is devastating to me. The focus should be on healthy vs unhealthy parenting/role models. If the healthy parent is female and you feel the child should have a male counterpart, then put funding into Big Brothers/Big Sisters and vice versa. I think you will do much more damage than good with this type of thinking. Efforts focused on protecting healthy parents and their children will much better serve the future generations. Rapists, murderers, drug dealers/active users, perpetrators of domestic violence (any type of abuse or coercive control!), etc. only serve to damage the children further and re-victimize the healthy parent, and the cycle continues to the next generation! The horrors stories of adult children of narcissistic parents would break you heart- and it is all being court sanctioned! There is ample evidence out there. Please stop protecting abusive and unhealthy parents.

  3. As a child he stole from my biological mother and lied to me to an adult. My daughter and abused my kids and now nobody will treat my children disabled miners cannot be treated in the Lehigh Valley I just want to say Bravo you guys bring anybody in society hands-down annoying her to abuse children and screwing them in the end to not get any help it’s disgusting and people like you what goes around comes around three to the same person twice That’s freaking pathetic you will get yours in the end

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