Tom Vilsack on Families & Children
Democratic IA Governor
Born into an orphanage and adopted in 1951
Tom Vilsack was sworn in as the 30th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on January 20, 2009. Prior to his appointment, Vilsack served two terms as the Governor of Iowa, in the Iowa State Senate and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Vilsack was born into an orphanage and adopted in 1951. After graduating Hamilton College and Albany Law School in New York, he moved to Mt. Pleasant, his wife Christie's hometown, where he practiced law.
Source: USDA.gov official website for Obama Cabinet biographies
, Dec 31, 2018
Give parents tools to balance work and family.
Vilsack signed the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":
Strengthen America’s Families
While the steady reduction in the number of two-parent families of the last 40 years has slowed, more than one-third of our children still live in one- or no-parent families. There is a high correlation between a childhood spent with inadequate parental support and an adulthood spent in poverty or in prison.
To strengthen families, we must redouble efforts to reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies, make work pay, eliminate tax policies that inadvertently penalize marriage, and require absent fathers to pay child support while offering them new opportunities to find work. Because every child needs the attention of at least one caring and competent adult, we should create an “extended family” of adult volunteer mentors.
Family breakdown is not the only challenge we face. As two-worker families have become the norm, harried parents have less time to spend on their most important job: raising their children. Moreover, parents and
schools often find themselves contending with sex- and violence-saturated messages coming from an all-pervasive mass entertainment media.
We should continue public efforts to give parents tools to balance work and family and shield their children from harmful outside influences. For example, we should encourage employers to adopt family-friendly policies and practices such as parental leave, flex-time, and telecommuting. Public officials should speak out about violence in our culture and should press the entertainment media to adopt self-policing codes aimed at protecting children.
Goals for 2010
Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC4 on Aug 1, 2000
- Cut the rate of out-of-wedlock births in half.
- Recruit a million mentors for disadvantaged children without two parents.
- Provide affordable after-school programs at every public school.
- Make every workplace “family-friendly.”
- Promote policies that help parents shield their children from violence and sex in entertainment products.
Encourage fathers' participation in child-raising.
Vilsack adopted the National Governors Association position paper:
The IssueGrowing evidence suggests that children from families in which fathers do not contribute their time and support endure a number of risk factors. Children with absent fathers are more likely to drop out of school, become teenage parents, develop drug or alcohol problems, or become involved in violent criminal behavior. Congress and the administration have recently proposed a number of federal programs to support state and local fatherhood initiatives.
NGA’s Position Governors believe that government at all levels can and should take immediate action to help reduce the number of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and encourage active participation by fathers of all ages in raising their children. Governors have played a leadership role at both the national and state level in developing and implementing comprehensive strategies to strengthen the role of fathers in their childrens’ lives. While many Governors are using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other federal program funds to support state-specific fatherhood initiatives, additional investment in fatherhood would broaden the population of fathers that can be served. Governors believe that there should be support of and coordination between existing programs and any new federal funding stream designated for fatherhood initiatives and that these new initiatives should not be funded at the expense of another vital human service program.
Source: National Governors Association "Issues / Positions" 01-NGA12 on Sep 7, 2001
Federal funds & state involvement in fatherhood initiatives.
Vilsack adopted the National Governors Association policy:
The nation’s Governors recognize that governments at all levels can and should take immediate action including:
- providing additional education and information about the importance of fathers participating in raising their children;
- establishing a nongovernmental national clearinghouse to collect and disseminate information regarding responsible fatherhood;
- expanding efforts to prevent unintended and out-of-wedlock teen pregnancies;
- providing children with appropriate adult male role models, such as mentors, in the absence of a caring father;
- ensuring that young men are given opportunities to feel successful and valued, which will lead to the development of self-confidence and preparation for fatherhood;
- encouraging the involvement of the community, including the religious community, civic community, business community, and mentors in addressing the importance of father involvement;
- developing strategies that include both parents in activities focused on their children, such as training service providers and educators to include both parents in their service delivery;
- working with private employers and the education community to provide education and job training opportunities to unemployed, underemployed, and low-skilled fathers; and
- paternity establishment and child support enforcement efforts.
Any new federal funding stream designated for fatherhood initiatives should:
Source: NGA policy HR-28. Fatherhood Policy 01-NGA6 on Aug 15, 2001
- support programs in states, at the discretion of each Governor, that encourage appropriate involvement of both parents in the life of a child, with priority given to programs that specifically address the issue of fatherhood;
- be coordinated with existing fatherhood programs, as well as with other federal funds that can be used for fatherhood initiatives, such as TANF; and
- not be funded at the expense of another vital human service program.
Page last updated: Jul 13, 2021