According to 2011 U. S. Census data, one in three children live apart from their fathers and the problem is most acute in the African American community. Nearly two in three African American children live in father-absent homes.
The widespread absence of fathers from the lives of their children is by far the most socially consequential and costly problem. The cumulative costs of father absence directly associated with criminal justice, remedial education, family courts and numerous family services account for a huge portion of city budgets, resulting in dramatically higher taxes, urban flight and other problems.
In response to these challenges, Mayor Barrett requested the National Fatherhood Initiative to host a two-day training in Milwaukee with community leaders. Due to the success of this initial training session, Mayor Barrett and community leaders decided to convene an annual summit on fatherhood in Milwaukee. The inaugural Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative Conference was held in October 2006, with more than 1,200 men attending.
Since its founding in 2006, the annual MFI summit is the largest gathering of men in the state, drawing an average of 1,000 participants each year.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of many partners, the MFI has connected more than 8,000 men to education, employment, child support, driver’s license recovery, men’s health services and more. It has helped thousands of fathers to reduce more than $6 million in child support interest owed to the State of Wisconsin and restore driving privileges while encouraging positive father involvement.
The MFI has given thousands of men the tools they need to become better dads with thriving children. Mayor Barrett strongly believes father involvement not only helps children and families, but strengthens the entire city.