Bush nominee, Wade Horn, could hurt poor women and children
June 13, 2001
Single mothers in poverty and their children should beware: The Bush administration may make their lives more difficult.
That's if Wade Horn has anything to do with it.
President Bush has nominated Wade Horn as assistant secretary for family support in the Department of Health and Human Services.
He would have authority over welfare policy, Head Start, subsidized job training for parents, child care and child support, and he is inclined to take money away from single-parent households.
Horn, who is president of the National Fatherhood Initiative and founder of the "fatherhood movement," wrote a column called "Fatherly Advice" for the Washington Times and also wrote a position paper in 1997 for the conservative Hudson Institute.
In his writings and in interviews, Horn said that the government should aggressively promote marriage as an ideal, especially for low-income families. By all indications, he will try to turn these ideas into policy by denying benefits to those not belonging to traditional families.
This could pressure women to stay with abusive men in order to receive financial assistance for themselves and their children. Horn opposes no-fault divorce and advocates mandatory reconciliation efforts and mandatory pre-divorce counseling. He proposes that custody determinations be replaced by co-parenting plans and that welfare benefits for single-mother families be conditioned on the mother's cooperation with visitation orders. All of these proposed policies could increase the risk of domestic violence.
By punishing single-parent families, Horn would, in fact, be punishing women and children. Eighty percent of single-parent households are headed by women. They work hard to make ends meet. But instead of offering support to these women, Horn proposes to withhold benefits from children to teach wayward fathers a lesson. He is willing to sacrifice their lives and their futures to make his political point about virtue.
Today, when one of every six children lives in poverty, Horn's attitudes do nothing but pass moral judgment on nontraditional families. For families where both parents live in the home but are not married, Horn proposes denying them any welfare benefits at all.
He particularly targets single mothers. He has characterized their daughters as having "a tendency toward early and promiscuous sexual activity," and their sons as exhibiting "an obsessive need to prove their masculinity." In response to the Columbine High School shootings, Horn linked single mothering to such notorious acts of violence. But the assailants were not the sons of single mothers. They were raised in two-parent households -- like the ones Horn describes as ideal.
More than half of today's children will spend at least part of their childhood in a single-parent family. Death, divorce, abandonment and separation are all common realities. In 1998, 12 million families -- almost a third of all families with children -- had only one parent in the home. These parents are not immoral, and the children are not criminals.
Yet Horn would punish single-parent households by denying them assistance from the very programs they need.
During the campaign, Bush trumpeted the call to "leave no child behind." If he is to make good on that promise, he would do well to leave Horn's nomination behind.
Tim Casey is senior staff attorney at NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.