Failing Our Fathers: Confronting the Crisis of Economically Vulnerable Nonresident Fathers, by Ronald Mincy, Monique Jethwani, & Serena Klempin, Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN: 978-0-19-937114-3, 2015, 186 pages, $29.95.
This book provides an in-depth look at the vulnerabilities that many fathers face in raising their children. A solid emphasis is placed on the policies that can help fathers become better providers and nurturers for their children. The authors take the time to present the stories of non-resident fathers through the fathers’ eyes. They asked fathers about their work, family, personal history, and the relationships they have with the mothers of their children. The impact of each chapter is emphasized by presenting the profile of one of the fathers who best illustrates the themes of that chapter.
The multi-method approach taken by the authors allows the quantitative data to be developed with a new richness of the voices and stories of the fathers being interviewed. The focus on non-resident fathers allows the reader to dive into the complex life of a non-resident father who may be struggling to move beyond the labels, stereotypes, and misconceptions that they may be facing every day.
The authors’ organization of the book is well constructed and easy for the reader to understand. The authors begin by setting the stage of understanding the dynamics of employment from the economic slowdown to the desire to work and provide for one’s children. The transition is made into the next chapter, which explores child support and the corresponding policies that go along with it. The authors then transition into the roles, challenges, and reforms that have an impact on these non-resident fathers, ending each of these chapters with a voice of a father who carries the theme of that chapter. Each chapter provides social workers with an outline for assisting students and clinicians to gain a better understanding of the impact of social policy by hearing the voices of these fathers.
The book provides useful, practical information on non-resident fathers that can facilitate a critical analysis of the issues presented surrounding these fathers. In doing qualitative research with fathers myself, I agree with the value placed on the interviews these authors have conducted. I can see this book being used in multiple social work courses as a reading to stimulate critical thought around many different topic areas.
Reviewed by Terry M. Keller, ABD, MSW/MBA, ACSW, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Lourdes University, Sylvania, OH.