Court Radio: Talking About Father’s Rights on Father’s Day, 7 a.m. Sunday
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on June 16th, 2012
Helping men become better fathers to their children is the goal of Philadelphia’s Daddy UniverseCity program, which also aims to help dads know their legal rights when it comes to their offspring.
Joel Austin, the president and founder of the six-year-old non-profit organization, will be the featured guest on “Court Radio” at 7 a.m. this Sunday with MyPhillyLawyer managing partner Dean Weitzman and his co-host David Rapoport. The trio will talk about father’s rights and how men can learn more about successfully raising their children.
Court Radio is broadcast live at 7 a.m. every Sunday morning on Philadelphia’s WRNB 100.3 FM, with a simulcast on Magic 95.9 FM in Baltimore. You can also listen live on the Internet at WRNB 100.3 or on Magic 95.9 via streaming audio.
“There are barriers to being a good father,” Austin says. “There’s no magic wand that instantly makes you a father. Plus, there are legal barriers and relationship barriers and laws that unexpectedly hurt us as fathers.”
One recent proposed law in Pennsylvania would make take some pressure off non-custodial fathers who are behind in their child support payments due to job layoffs or other unexpected life crises according to Austin. Currently if a non-custodial dad is paying on a schedule but is ultimately behind in his child support then it show up negatively in their credit report, hurting you if you seek loans, jobs or property leases.
That’s unfair, he says, because the report shows those dads in total arrears, even when they are making regular payments following a life crisis. “The proposed new law would note on your credit report that you are in arrears, but would also say that you are paying it back on time, which is less of a negative impact on your credit report. It would show that you are making an effort to pay what you owe.”
There’s also a new amendment in effect to the state’s custody laws that says the gender of a parent is no longer permitted to be used in deciding which parent should have custody of children, Austin says. The problem is that the new rule is not well known so far, he added.
Austin began Daddy UniverseCity because he thought that there was no existing source for parenting education for men. “My motivation for this was that I found out by having my sons that I was pretty much the only one in the house who didn’t know how to take care of a kid,” he said. “I kind of needed a manual.”
Now the father of a daughter and three sons, ages 12 to 19, several years ago Austin took his then-four-year-old son to a class to learn about being a big brother to a new sibling. “When I went with him, I felt at that point that I really didn’t have any knowledge about taking care of babies or a child, even though I had several children. I feel that until you’re educated about it, you’re just kind of winging it.”
As a teenager, Austin worked in a fast food restaurant. “I got more training about how to make French fries and burgers than I did when I had my kids,” he says. “They told me what color the fries should be when they were done and how to replace the grease. But when I had children, all I got was a pat on the back and was told that we had a boy.”
To prepare for this kind of work with his organization, Austin was certified as a professional parenting trainer and consultant with the National Fatherhood Initiative, a national group that also advocates for fathers. Daddy UniverseCity uses the curriculum of the National Fatherhood Institute in its programs for dads.
The goal of Daddy UniverseCity is “to heal the world one father and child at a time,” according to the group’s Web site. “Our plan is to use all available resources to create a one-stop site for fatherhood. By helping them understand the importance their role has on the future of children throughout the world. We can bring them closer to their families through educating them on pregnancy, maternity, child bearing, and quality time which will help produce a strong minded, loved, and whole child.”
“Being a father means, walking in the park hand in hand, teaching a child how to fish, watching their eyes light up when a train goes by,” the group states. “These are the things that make us, that complete us. But the road is uneven, and sometimes unfair, we will be that safe passage.”
Daddy UniverseCity hold free, weekly Father’s Club classes all year at the YMCA in West Philadelphia, Austin says. About 15-20 fathers attend each week to discuss problems and talk about child development.
The group also hosts a free annual National Fatherhood Festival at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which is being held today, June 16, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Some 400 to 600 people will attend the event, which is being held for the seventh year in a row. Following the Festival, the group will hold its Tri-State Daddy-Daughter Fundraiser Dance at the convention center to help raise money for the group’s programs.
For more information about Daddy UniverseCity, contact Austin at [email protected] or at the group’s office phone, 610 579-3237 (DADS).
So be sure to tune in for Court Radio at 7 a.m. Sunday to talk about father’s rights with co-hosts Dean Weitzman and David Rapoport and their special guest, Joel Austin. And remember to call in with your own questions and comments.
And Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there in our listening audience.
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