The
Fatherhood

Coalition

Ten fathers honored by state as role models

Fathers' devotion saluted

By Timothy J. Connolly, Telegram & Gazette Boston Bureau


Wednesday, June 14, 2000

BOSTON--When Thomas McGrath received the poem from his twin daughters, he did what any proud parent would do -- he stuck it on the refrigerator door.

         It was a sweet, eight-line poem written from the hearts of Samantha and Elizabeth McGrath, 8-year-old second-graders at Seven Hills Charter School in Worcester. What Mr. McGrath, of Oxford, did not know was that the poem was entered in the fatherhood recognition contest run by the state Department of Revenue.

         “We came home from school one day and mom said she wanted to talk to us,” Elizabeth said. “We sat on the steps and we thought we were in trouble. And then she said we won the contest. We screamed.”


“There is something very wrong when government bean-counters define fatherhood,” said John Flaherty, co-chairman of the coalition. “How can a government agency that puts fathers in jail and drives them to suicide be an authority on fatherhood?

         Mr. McGrath and his two poets were the center of attention at a Statehouse ceremony yesterday as the DOR presented its fourth annual series of Fatherhood Awards. He was among 10 divorced fathers who were honored for paying child support and staying active in raising their children.

         “Tom has not missed a payment or been late with a payment in four years,” said Francine Spagnola, of Worcester, the girls' mother.

         Gov. Paul Cellucci, chairman of the Governor's Commission on Responsible Fatherhood and Family Support, said he was glad to have walked into the ceremony with Samantha and Elizabeth.

        “This is the flip side of the arrests you see of deadbeat dads,” Mr. Cellucci said. “These fathers are not just meeting their financial obligations, they are actively involved in the lives of their children.”      


Responsible fathers resist government extortion that undermines their ability to parent their children,” he said.

While Mr. Cellucci and other state officials were lauding the efforts of divorced fathers, the Fatherhood Coalition protested the awards.

         “There is something very wrong when government bean-counters define fatherhood,” said John Flaherty, co-chairman of the coalition. “How can a government agency that puts fathers in jail and drives them to suicide be an authority on fatherhood?

         “Responsible fathers resist government extortion that undermines their ability to parent their children,” he said.

         The coalition has held Father's Day protests for six years.

         Mr. McGrath, who works four days on, four days off at the Norton Company in Worcester, is responsible for his daughters three or four days a week. He often drives them to and from school.

DOR Commissioner Fred Laskey told the audience that studies show that children who grow up with a father's influence are less likely to get into trouble with the law and they are more likely to hold jobs as young adults.

         “The fathers we honor today not only pay their child support faithfully, they are true partners in the care of their children,” Mr. Laskey said.

         “Fatherhood is the greatest responsibility and something I take very seriously,” said Mr. McGrath in his formal remarks. “You must embrace each moment with your children because they grow up fast.”

         Mr. McGrath said it seemed like yesterday that they were born, each weighing under 3 pounds. “Now they're both 60 pounds and perfect little ladies,” he said.

         Mr. McGrath, who was accompanied by his wife, Deborah A. McGrath, said he knows it will not be long before his daughters will be wanting to hang out at the mall with their friends, borrow his car and go to the prom.

         Samantha and Elizabeth read their poem twice for the crowd of more than 50 people in the Great Hall. Standing at the governor's podium, the tops of their heads barely visible to the crowd, they stood on tiptoes to read into the downturned microphone:

         “Always there never late,
         That's right our DAD is Great!
         Cooking, Cleaning, Playing ball,
         We have the best dad of all,
         Early to bed and early to rise,
         Always ready to compromise,
         My Dad always WINS,
         He has the best set of TWINS.”


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