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Get the latest coverage of the 2022 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Joined by Dungy, DeSantis signs fatherhood bill into law

Tony Dungy at podium
Twitter/ Gov. Ron DeSantis
Tony Dungy praises DeSantis' fatherhood bill and emphasizes the importance of a father figure in children's lives at a press conference on Monday.

The legislation will provide $70 million in funding for family and youth support through the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Juvenile Justice.

A new law signed into effect by Gov. Ron DeSantis Monday puts $70 million in funding behind pro-fatherhood efforts and initiatives.

The bill, HB 7065, intends to support fathers and encourage “active participation in their children’s lives.”

During a press conference Monday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice facility — and with representatives from a number of parenting organizations as well as two of his own daughters in attendance — DeSantis emphasized the importance of fathers in the lives of children and young adults.

Ron DeSantis talking with his daughters.
Twitter/ Gov. Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis, joined by his two daughters, signs a bill promoting fatherhood at a press conference

Quoting various studies originally cited by former U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Winter Park) in a 2013 House speech, DeSantis said, “90% of homeless and runaway children did not have a father in their home. 70% of high school dropouts did not have a father in their home, and 60% of youth who commit suicide did not have a father in their home."

The bill will provide $70 million in funding for family and youth support through the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Juvenile Justice.

DeSantis pointed to a Juvenile Justice mentorship program for at-risk youth as a good example of work already being done to help those without father figures.

“DJJ helps young men develop social-emotional life skills that will prepare them for future success, but this bill takes those programs to the next level by increasing mentorship opportunities for at-risk youth,” he said. “For many of these youth, their mentor may be the only father figure that they have.”

Other programs supported include parenting education programs for fathers, awareness campaigns to bring attention to the importance of fatherhood, and help incarcerated fathers to transition out of jail and into employment.

Former Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy was among those speaking in favor of the bill, as well as the need for a strong fatherly presence in life.

“I had a dad who was around me all the time and supported me, and I thought everyone was like that,” he said. “Then I got to my job, and the National Football League started interviewing our players, and I began to understand not everyone had that same blessing that I had.”

Dungy also started All Pro Dad, a non-profit foundation that focuses on fatherhood education and resources to help fathers connect with their children. He expressed gratitude for the bill and its ability to help fund programs such as his.

And DeSantis hopes that the programs backed by the bill will encourage more fathers to meet their responsibilities and be more involved with their children.

“You got to be willing to do the right thing and be present in your child's life and you're not a man by leaving your kids hung out to dry,” he said.

I am WUSF’s Rush Family Radio News Intern for spring 2022.
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