Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Statewide Network Established to Support Florida’s Fatherhood Initiative

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the launch of a statewide community network and the Father First website as part of Florida’s fatherhood initiative. The Father First initiative includes educational programs, mentorship programs and one-on-one support to encourage responsible and involved fatherhood in Florida.

“As a father of three, I am proud of our state for supporting measures that highlight the importance of fatherhood and the nuclear family,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “With a fatherhood crisis in our nation, Florida’s Father First initiative will support families and ensure that more children in our state have a father figure present in their lives. It is imperative that fathers understand the important role they play in their children’s lives.”

As part of this initiative, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has established a network of 30 community organizations to provide services to empower fathers to embrace their unique roles in their children’s lives. Father First is a place for dads and future dads to find resources, encouragement and connection needed to be better every day. More information about the initiative can be found online at Through historic legislation signed in 2022, the Florida Legislature appropriated over $68.9 million to support responsible fatherhood.

“We are so grateful for the Governor’s leadership in the launch of Father First, a program that will strengthen families through responsible parenting,” said DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris. “We know that when fathers are involved in their children’s lives, there are undeniable benefits, and with the help of our partners throughout the state, fathers will have dedicated resources to help them be the father their children deserve. The DeSantis administration remains focused on supporting families, building resiliency and encouraging fathers to choose to be a father first.”

“Thanks to the leadership and dedication of Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis, Florida’s fathers will have more tools and resources than ever before through the Father First initiative,” said Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Secretary Eric Hall. “I am also excited about the mentorship opportunities that will be available for the youth we serve at DJJ and the positive impact these role models can have in offering different perspectives and added support as these young men work to change the trajectory of their future.”

“The fatherlessness crisis threatens our nation,” said former Florida Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls. “The research definitively shows that the absence of a committed and loving father dramatically impairs a child’s chance of succeeding in life. Today Florida is saying that fathers matter, and we are making unprecedented investments in dads and male mentors. I’m incredibly proud that our state has become the national leader in this vital fight for our children’s future.”

“We are excited and proud to officially launch Florida’s Responsible Fatherhood Initiative,” said Mark Merrill, President and CEO of Family First. “For over 30 years we have been strengthening families and helping fathers, specifically through the All Pro Dad program, so we know how important a role a father can serve in the lives of his children. Today marks the beginning of what we believe will have a lasting statewide impact for generations to come.”

Three grant opportunities were created to promote fatherhood and mentoring in the state by funding community-based nonprofits that work to address the comprehensive needs of fathers, provide evidence-based education programs to fathers and provide mentorship programs for at-risk male students. The first-round awards were posted on July 28, 2023. Additional rounds of grant applications are expected to open in the fall of 2023. More information on the fatherhood grants can be found on the Father First website.

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