Doing the Best I Can, Edin and Nelson: A Realistic look at Fatherhood in PA and NJ

I am blessed to be working in the field of maternal and child health.  When I was younger I dreamed of becoming a Doctor.  I could have been more focused on the goal of entering medical school but my family resources and my lack of confidence dictated an entry into another field.  Infant mortality is a serious problem in the United States.  The United States has a lower ranking than any of the other 27 wealthy countries in the world.  We have leading health care institutions that receive millions in federal funding.  We have a hard time moving the needle on maternal and child health.

I am focusing on two counties in New Jersey as I carry out my work.  Atlantic County and Camden County rank very low in terms of quality of life, poor health behaviors, access to primary care physicians and debilitating social and economic factors.  The city I grew up in, Philadelphia, continues to be affected by the large number if its citizens living in poverty.  The lack of economic leverage of low income residents leads to the lack of choices in education and employment.  During my career in affordable housing, I helped implement HUD Section 3 regulations to employ low income residents of project areas.  In spite of these efforts, economic inequality continues to grow in our country.

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I began to read this book because Fatherhood initiatives are a big part of the Healthy Start initiative.  In Camden County, almost 40% of children are being raised in single parent homes.  I had my own issues with my father growing up but at lease he was there.  In this work of non-fiction the authors have taken time to interview numerous men on the concept of Fatherhood and the circumstances that led to them becoming fathers.  I was not amazed by how quickly some relationships led to the conception of a child.  If I lived in a utopia I would have been shocked.  Some guys met women and they were pregnant within weeks.  There were rare instances of commitment before children became part of a relationship.

The lack of stable employment did not deter many women from having children for these men.  Many dabbled in drug use and met men on rebound relationships.  Many of the men were excited to learn that they were going to become fathers.  The lack of insurance or family planning were small impediments in the scheme of things.  The men were from Grays Ferry, the Mantua area, Kensington and many other low income areas in Philadelphia.  I know their stories of drinking and engaging in other unhealthy activities.  I am becoming familiar with some of the neighborhoods in South Jersey and many of the same urban ills are replicated over her.  As I study Atlantic County, I realize that in spite of the growth and decline of casinos, violence and sexually transmitted infections are on the rise.

I did learn a lot from my father in terms of providing for my family.  I try hard to maintain food in the refrigerator.  Many of the fathers in the book realized the cost of fatherhood only after the euphoria of expectant fatherhood was over.  I feel sorry for the children that grow up in these broken homes.  Family court and the Department of Human Services are overwhelmed with trying to provide places for children that currently languish in the foster care system.  As I patiently finish this book I will focus on the overall public health issues that are now facing a majority of the population that I now serve.  I would caution any prospective fathers and mothers to calculate the immense commitment that it takes to raise a child before procreating.  Read this book if you get a chance.


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