SINGLE-father homes on the rise

Friday, May 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The number of single men raising children increased dramatically in the past decade as American families and courts grew more willing to accept the idea that sometimes the best place for kids is with Dad.

The 2000 Census found:

_Out of the country's total 105.5 million households, 2 percent, or 2.2 million, comprised fathers raising children without a mother living there.

_The number of single-father households rose 62 percent in 10 years.

Single fathers say the numbers help undermine a long-standing perception that single dads tend to abandon their kids or at least not to take care of them as well as single moms, said Vince Regan, an Internet consultant from Grand Rapids, Mich., raising five kids on his own.

``In time, it goes a long way to helping society think that single fathers do help their kids and want to be part of their lives,'' he said.

Thomas Coleman, executive director of the American Association for Single People, attributed the rise in single dads to a variety of reasons that include more judges' readiness to award custody to fathers in divorce cases and more women's decisions to choose jobs over family life.

The 62 percent increase in single-father households far outpaced other living arrangements. The number of households in which both parents raise the children increased by 6 percent, and single-mother homes were up by 25 percent.

Single father-headed households remain only a small percentage. Married couples with children make up 24 percent of all households _ whether family or nonfamily. They were 39 percent of all homes in 1970. Single-mother homes comprised 7 percent of all households in 2000, up from 5 percent over 30 years ago.

Looked at another way, single-father homes made up 3 percent of the country's 71 million family households in 2000. Family households are those in which one or more people are related to the householder.

Single fathers ``need help just as much as single mothers,'' said Darryl Pure, a psychologist from Chicago who has had sole custody of his three children for four years, but they have a harder time asking.

``There's often a fear among single fathers that if the mother steps in, she'll regain custody; so single, custodial fathers don't go after child support as much as single mothers do, and I know a lot of fathers that are really impoverished,'' Pure said.

The Census Bureau counts single fathers in a category that could allow other adults, such as the child's grandparents, to be present, but bureau analysts and advocates said research shows that most of the men in the category are raising children alone.

The bureau released basic figures for 21 states and the District of Columbia this week on topics ranging from age to home ownership. Other states are scheduled to be released later this month.

According to 2000 Census data being released Friday, some of the biggest increases in single-father households occurred in Southern and Western states: up 126 percent in Nevada, and 68 percent in Virginia.