Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo (FP)????

A government official has advised that the role of a father in the life of a child should never be taken lightly.

Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, made this known yesterday at the launch of "Fatherhood in the Neighbourhood", a book written by counsellor and sociologist, Lloyd Springer.

She said: "We should never underestimate the role of the father in the life of a child.?? There is much evidence which shows that where fathers are involved positively in the lives of their children, whether or not they are in the same household, the children perform better in schools and they are less likely to be involved in negative activity."

Minister Byer Suckoo noted too that "fathers had a profound impact on their children by whatever they do and don’t do" and pointed to one case where a male became a responsible adult although he never knew his father.

Stating that today, although many men had responded to the clarion call to become more involved in the nurturing of their children and were continuing to do so, she observed many men had several issues and concerns which had been given a voice in the book, among them the right to access to their children.??

Suggesting the need for fathers to have equal access to their children, Dr. Byer Suckoo opined: "I strongly believe that mothers and fathers have equal responsibility in child rearing. … The joys of parenting are for mothers and fathers and also the awesome responsibilities that come with these roles.?? This is a matter that is a part of the ongoing legislative review process."

The Minister of Family added: "Too often, fathers have their rights rescinded.?? Access is seen as a privilege, bestowed when the father has met certain criteria, often established by the mother, and this is wrong … Unless the father is likely to harm the child, he must be allowed to see his children, regardless of how he gets along with the mother or when last he has paid the child support."

She cautioned: "Children are not to be used as pawns.?? Whatever the adult relationship is, children need their fathers and not just to provide financial support."

"Fatherhood in the Neighbourhood" investigates the working class father’s performance of his role towards his children. Organised around the extra-residential union, it tells the story of 50 fathers from their individual perspectives.

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